“All Feelings Are Temporary”
And other ways to redirect negative thoughts.
When you’re stuck in a rut, those negative thoughts that tell you “You’re not good enough” or “It’s too late” come at 100 mph and it seems impossible to do anything about it. Sadly, I’m not here to tell you about an instant trick to stop these thoughts at once ‒ and these thoughts will most likely come back another time. But here are some techniques that you can practice to make these low moments more bearable and turn around faster.
Once you recognize you’re spiraling, take a moment. Focusing on the breath can be a good way to halt the onslaught of hypercriticism. By focusing on something purely physical as the warmth of the breath you exhale, you’re giving your head a little reprieve to think something new. You can do this anywhere, anytime and it can be as short as 30 seconds. But if you don’t like meditating, take a quick (socially distant) walk outside, distract yourself with a task, or slow down your thoughts by journaling.
With a clear head, try to imagine your thoughts as your friends or family. You wouldn’t want to see them talking to themselves the way you talk to yourself. By focusing on the thoughts, you may recognize them for what they are: overgeneralizations and exaggerations.
So temper your negative thoughts with reality. “They said I need to improve my presentation… But they also said I seemed prepared.” Recognizing reality also means focusing on your agency. “X has hurt me and I don’t know if I’ll get over it... But I have moved on, and I will keep moving on.” “I make the same mistake over and over again… But I’ll keep trying to be better.” “I’ve never done this before and I’ll fuck it up… But it’s at least a chance to try and learn.”
You have made it this far, overcoming negative thoughts plenty of times before. Remember, in order to grow, there are some growing pains. And just because it’s hard now, doesn’t mean it will last forever.