Mind reading is a big one for anxiety, particularly social anxiety. We see someone with a scowl on their face and assume that scowl is because of us. Or the boss seems distracted during a presentation and we assume he’s bored. Someone doesn’t text us when expected and we assume they are uninterested.
This week, the world is giving us more reasons to be tense. It can be hard to take care of ourselves but so important to do so. So for times like these, it’s important to direct the mind from the part where emotional activation occurs, to the part that that allows us to calm ourselves. We’ll do this by focusing on a directed thought exercise will help us to relax.
This week, let’s get rid of another unhelpful cognitive distortion that can lead us into feeling depressed or anxious. This one is what’s called the mental filter. This is where you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened. It’s the mental equivalent of adding a drop of black ink to a glass of water. It will make all the water dark.
It seems like this pandemic has led to a constant need to adapt. First it was adapting to things closing down and now it's adapting to things opening back up. A very common mental reaction is that of catstrophizing. When the future is unknown, the brain fills in that...
To put it simply, on some of level, all of our problems come down to choosing contraction over expansion. Feeling bad is all about contracting, rather than expanding. The expanded state is what you feel when you are safe and joyful.
One might think the stepping back so many of us are experiencing in this quarantine could naturally promote mindfulness. But sometimes a house full of people with unstructured time can also mean more noise and stress. When we start feeling stressed, there’s a quick, simple mindfulness practice that may help. This is a mental exercise to decrease the reactivity we have throughout the day. This one can even be humorous, if you’d like.
The main issue my patients seemed to struggle with, this past week, was feeling unmotivated to do more with this time and then guilty about that. Besides the obvious benefits of forgiving ourselves for this time our nervous systems seem to need to adjust to this new reality, are there tools to feel less guilty, that could even lead to more motivation? Thankfully, there’s an enjoyable one, that really seems to help. I call it the Self Gratitude Exercise.
I am all about helping people through easy techniques to shift to greater mental and spiritual well-being. Thankfully, there are even easy techniques to help with nightmares, so that poor sleep doesn’t have to further the vicious cycle of anxiety.