One of the (many) problems with the lockdowns we have experienced over the past year is that so many of our distractions and coping mechanisms have been removed and all of a sudden you may have found yourself with way too much time to think.
So it’s really important that you pay attention and take care of your thoughts during this time so you can recognise when you may be slipping into unhelpful patterns.
This is not as easy as it sounds!
Often it will be your feelings or behaviours that you become aware of first, which can act as a prompt for you to get curious about about what thoughts might be contributing or driving your overall mood and wellbeing.
Listed below are some common ‘thinking errors’, which reflect patterns of thinking that you may fall into. These can cause and maintain low mood and anxiety:
Black And White Thinking
Also known as ‘all or nothing’ thinking, whereby people tend to think in extremes. For example, a situation can either be amazing or awful; people can either be selfish or kind, etc
Thinking the worst or imagining a catastrophic outcome during seemingly everyday ‘normal’ experiences.
Predicting others’ responses or thoughts. For example, ‘I tripped up the step and everyone was looking was looking at me and thinking I was an idiot’.
Disqualifying The Positive
Dismissing or belittling positive achievements or experiences and not recognise our role in these. For example, ‘I only passed my driving test because the examiner felt sorry for me’, or ‘I was lucky to get that promotion’.
Seeing the world through a negative or anxious filter, e.g. we are unable to see the positive or good things that happen around us – our minds start to focus only on the negative events or news.
A Change Of Perspective
A useful metaphor is to think of your thoughts and emotions like clouds in the sky. If you look up at the sky right now what do the clouds look like? Now leave it a few hours and take another look. Does it look exactly the same?
Thoughts and emotions are not part of you, that pass over you like the clouds in the sky. Rather than trying to push these difficult thoughts and emotions away, if you can sit with them and accept them as they are, they will eventually pass over you. A good mantra to repeat to yourself is ‘This too shall pass’.
Our thoughts and feelings are not good or bad. They are not permanent and they aren’t who you are. You have a choice to focus on them in the same way you have a choice to look up at the clouds in the sky.
“Where your focus goes, energy flows”
– Tony Robbins
Permission To Be Human
Keeping yout thoughts in check during periods of change such as this is difficult. Permit yourself to be human if you do find yourself falling into unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours. Just try not to allow yourself to disappear too far down the rabbit hole because the deeper you go, the more difficult it is to climb back out.
Whilst we may be restricted in terms of the places we can go, how we interact with people and how we work, we still have the freedom to choose how we experience this situation. So here are my self-care tips for navigating these challenging times:
- Reduce the amount of time you spend watching the news, looking at social media, etc
- Find credible sources of information.
- Focus on what you know is 100% true
- Exercise increases endorphins (happy hormones) so try to find a way to get that into your new daily or weekly routine
- Try your best to eat healthy food, drink water and go to bed at a reasonable time
- Allow yourself some treats and fun time too!
- Get outside in nature and look up at the sky.
- Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t
- Pay attention to how you feel and your behaviours
- If you find yourself feeling low and getting into unhelpful patterns of behaviour reflect on what thoughts you are having. Do any of the ‘thinking errors’ above resonate with you?
- Remember ‘this too shall pass’
If you are struggling to keep your thoughts in check or finding your mood and behaviours are deteriorating, talking to a coach can help to alleviate loneliness, change your mood and perspective, and support you to build a more helpful daily routine.