I suppose it’s only natural when working with people, working on their own unhelpful thinking that you start to become aware of how your own thinking can hijack things; and send you off course!
You’d think that after 54 years I’d have it sorted, wouldn’t you? Sadly, that’ll be a ‘No’ on that one!!! Being at the mercy of my run away, negative automatic thoughts is still very much a work in progress….as I think it is for a lot of us!!!
That said, I’m much more aware of when my thinking is unhelpful. My worrying is part of me & my history, and I know at times my busy head can prompt me to ‘worry about the day that never comes.’ It’s a level of worrying that’s triggered when I feel unsure about myself; when I notice a feeling of inadequacy or when I’m feeling judged or criticised. The irony is, it’s often me who’s judging me!! Oh, the irony!
I know I’m not alone in this….we’re all susceptible to the negative influence that our excessive negative thinking can have. Changing our thoughts about something can have a profound and lasting impact on how we feel that’s for sure.
One of the few times in my life when I felt that, for the most part, I was able to manage the sometimes incessant stream of negative thoughts, was when I was undergoing chemo and radio therapy for breast cancer a few years ago. This probably sounds a little weird, but overall this was a time in my life when I probably felt at my strongest mentally. Don’t get me wrong there were definite doubts, worries and dark/gloomy thoughts….but somehow they didn’t often ‘flood the system’ as it were!!
For the 6 months that I was having treatment, my focus was on totally REFRAMING my thinking about my situation and the cancer that was being treated. There’s a neat little process that I used for this, with the help of my journal; which I think pretty much kept me sane and got me through the whole thing;
- What are the negative thoughts about my situation?What’s going through my mind? What negative, automatic thoughts that are emerging?
At the time what preoccupied me was the worry that after all the treatment the cancer would come back. What if it comes back? What if I have to do all of this again?
- How do I feel?What are the emotions I’m experiencing? What am I feeling? How intense are the feelings? What sensations do I notice in my body? Where am I feeling the emotions?
Even as I write this, 5 years later, I can feel the stomach churning fear that sat alongside the worry that I had about the cancer coming back. The feeling is definitely a 10/10 sense of pure fear and dread. It was also a feeling of helplessness, and anxiety about something that felt that I could do nothing about.
- For each of the negative thoughts in (1.);
- What facts support my unhelpful thoughts?
- What evidence do I have to counter my unhelpful thoughts?
So here’s where the reframing starts;
- There are definitely some ‘facts’ that support my negative thoughts;
- There are NO guarantees that treatment will be successful
- Some people do die of breast cancer
- My cancer is aggressive and the situation is serious.
However, there are also some other facts that counter my negative thinking;
- I am getting the best treatment there is – it’s the gold standard
- Many people survive breast cancer; and each year that passes, my chances get better
- We caught the cancer in time, and they are doing everything that we can
- What would be a more realistic, balanced perspective?
Here’s what I came up with after much discussion and soul searching at the time;
- I KNOW it’s a s@*!t situation – and it will mean I miss out on a lot for the next 6 months
- It’s 6 months out of my life – there’s a much bigger picture here
- There’s a lot of things that I can’t control, and I can let those things be
- I KNOW there are some things I can control, and I am doing what I can
- I KNOW it’s not helpful for me to focus on the ‘what if’s’
- I KNOW I am in good/safe hands
There’s a danger in writing things this way, that it seems like a simple 4 easy steps to changing your thinking. That’s absolutely not what I’m trying to say here at all. I spent a lot of time talking, processing and expressing what I was thinking and how I was feeling – which really helped me to shift my perspective! I was lucky that I had brilliant support around me; for those times when it was hard to see things clearly or in a balanced way.
If you’re noticing how your own thought patterns aren’t helpful, or that like me you worry excessively about things, please feel free to give this a go for yourself. I’ve got a template that you can use. If you want a copy drop me a message.
Alternatively, if you’d like some personal, one to one support so you can make those changes in your thinking, please get in touch!!
From one worrier to another…I’d love to help!!