One of the (many) problems with self-isolation and everything closing is that we have way too much time to think! So we must take care of our thoughts during this time and begin to recognise when we may be slipping into unhelpful patterns.
This is not as easy as it sounds! Often it will be our feelings or behaviours that we become aware of first, so start by paying attention to how you are feeling and the things you are doing. Then reflect on what thoughts you are having to see how they might be contributing to your overall mood and wellbeing.
Listed below are some common ‘thinking errors’ which reflect patterns of thinking that we may fall into. These can cause and maintain low mood and anxiety:
Black & white thinking: this is 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
Catastrophic thinking: this is, as it sounds, thinking the worst or imagining a catastrophic outcome during seemingly everyday ‘normal’ experiences.
Mind-reading: this refers to thoughts where we predict 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’.
Filtering: this is when we see 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 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
I know how difficult it is to keep thoughts in check during periods of change such as this. Permit yourself to be human if you do find yourself falling into unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours. Just don’t 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 right now 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.
I offer Skype and telephone coaching – get in touch if you would like more information about how I can help you or your teams.