While we can't always prevent things from happening, we do have control over how we choose to interpret and respond to stressors. We all have negative thoughts sometimes, and that's OK! It's when we're not consciously aware of these negative thoughts that they can really get in the way.
The first step is to pay attention to the underlying negative thoughts you're having, without judgment (that part is important!). Consider what you are saying to yourself about the situation, about others, and/or about yourself, as well as how your internal "dialogue" might be hurting rather than empowering you. Examples of negative thoughts and questions include:
- Why is this happening to me?
- This is too much; I can't handle this.
- What's wrong with them?
- I always do this; it's my fault.
The second step is to notice how the negative self-talk impacts your feelings and behaviors. For example, are you feeling sad, anxious or angry? How is the way you're feeling impacting what you're doing (or not doing)?
The third step is taking action:
Interrupt the negative thinking and counter it with positive self-talk, such as:
- What's possible here?
- What are my options?
- What do I have the power to change?
- I can handle the situation.
- I'm going to take a slow, deep breath and take things one step at a time.
Try using these statements or developing your own. The key is to find ways of re-framing your thoughts and questions that feel authentic and empowering. Then, practice, practice, practice! You will catch yourself engaged in negative self-talk sometimes, and that's OK—the goal is not to never have negative thoughts but to identify and interrupt them before they take over. The more you practice, the more habitual it will become. Before you know it, you'll be feeling better and more equipped to effectively manage whatever comes your way.