Have you ever felt like navigating thoughts, feelings, and reactions to situations is like navigating through an active minefield? One wrong move, and the bomb explodes with the “what if’s” or “I should be’s.” Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and many mental health difficulties can lead to negative thought patterns. These things can leave us asking, “How do I turn my brain off?!” Even as a therapist, I know what falling into negative thoughts feel like, and how hard it can be to wander and try to diffuse thoughts as they come up. Let’s look at some ways to counter negative thought patterns as they come up!
Challenge the thought. One what if can easily lead to another…and another…and another! Take time to notice when the thoughts are starting, and challenge them. Actively tell your brain, “STOP!” After you have challenged the thought, re-frame it to something that is more helpful, more healthy, and more realistic. A great example of a time to use this is when we are communicating with others – in this case over a text message . “They didn’t respond to me, what if I am bothering them?” STOP! “They didn’t respond – they probably had something pop up unexpectedly. I’ll try to reach out later.”
A great app available to help children and adolescents learn and practice this is called TF-CBT Triangle of Life! This is an interactive game that will help them to learn what a more helpful and healthy thought is!
Schedule time to worry later. I know this one seems silly, but stay with me. Many times when worries come up, they are really inconsequential situations that we look back on and ask ourselves, “Why was I worried about that?” This is a great opportunity to write down the worries you are having, and take the time to revisit them later to see whether they need space and time. Ask yourself as you go through your list, “Is this worth it?”
Say it out loud. Take time to find support. Call a friend, talk into a mirror, give it back to the universe. Take the negative thought and practice the art of release and letting go. As you say it, use guided meditation to imagine you are letting the worry leave your body. Here is a great option that is only five minutes.
For children and teenagers – there is an app called Worrydolls that is helpful for giving the worry to a doll on their device. This could also be a great way for parents to gain insight as to what their child is worrying about!
Acknowledge, breathe, refocus.What is it like to use distraction? Check out this amazing video from CARE Counseling clinician Erin Appel, MA, LPCC.
Worry, anxiety, and negative thoughts are natural – it is our job to learn what they look like so we can acknowledge them and not get caught in the traps! We all have our hard days, but the for now does not have to turn into forever. Feel like you could use a little extra help? Call CARE Counseling to schedule today at 612-223-8898, and visit our clinicians page to find a therapist that you think might be right for you!
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