I talked in my last post about cognitive distortions, or thinking errors, particularly the concepts of catastrophizing and ‘should’ thoughts. In this post I wanted to look more at the tools I help people develop to challenge these unhelpful thoughts – thinking skills.
Thinking skills are the positive counterpoint to cognitive distortions. They are techniques designed to help you debunk the unhelpful voice within and develop your own statements to help you cope with stress. Here are some key approaches I would suggest you try to implement for yourself:
Next time you make a mistake or something goes wrong, rather than beating yourself up about it, imagine your best friend was in your situation. What would you say to them? Would you blame them for the position they find themselves in or would you comfort and encourage them? Try and treat yourself with the same compassion you have for your loved ones.
Rather than thinking purely in extremes, look for the middle ground in your responses to situations. At the same time, always make sure you apply context to the circumstances before you. Perhaps you tried something out and it didn’t work this time. Instead of leaping to the extreme conclusion that nothing you attempt ever goes right, it’s important to remember previous successes, which are a valid part of the story, and allow yourself a balanced view of the outcome. Rather than writing out positive evidence in favour of a single, negative extreme, try to ensure you apply rational perspective to the circumstances.
Try and avoid ‘global ratings’. For instance, if you’ve ever described yourself as ‘a failure’, revisit this idea and revise it. There may have been a situation in which you felt that way, but this does not render you, as a person, a failure. Look at specific instances individually rather than using them as the basis for sweeping generalisations about yourself or others.
Look for evidence
How impartial is it possible to be about a situation to which you’ve had an emotional response? It may be that your own assessment of something that has happened is flawed, based in emotional bias. Asking for feedback from others and taking the evidence or impression of an event into account will help balance any inaccurate assumptions you have made for yourself.
Broaden the picture
There are useful tools and strategies you can use to determine if you are really 100% responsible for a problem. Rather than leaping to the ‘It’s all my fault’ stage, try writing a list of all of the factors which have contributed to the current issue. Or, draw a pie chart and fill it by dividing up responsibility for the situation across each person or aspect involved. These methods will quickly illustrate that a single individual or factor can rarely be held accountable and are useful when you find yourself totally blaming either yourself, or someone else, for something.
All of these techniques can help you avoid or counter unhelpful cognitive distortions. Equipping yourself with these skills is a valuable contribution you can make to your health and wellbeing, both of which are especially crucial to nurture at this time. If you’d like to learn more about thinking skills and how to develop them, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07837993241.