From Petty to Powerful Thinking : Exploring Our Automatic Negative Thoughts

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Recently, I was asked to utilized Facebook Live to shared with an awesome of group women from MoMs who Raise.  This group was developed by psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Shadeiyah Edwards.  I was honored to be on this panelist of women during Happy Hour with Dr. Edwards.  The topic that I presented on was how our thoughts and feelings affect our interactions with ourselves and others.  At times, our interaction can be Petty and we know that they are Petty.  These harmful thoughts are a reflection of how we are feeling on the inside.  First, we addressed varies definitions of Petty Thinking.  Secondly, we explored the various Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS).  Lastly, we discussed ways to challenge negative thinking to decrease our petty thinking and move towards positive thinking.

We can all admit that we have been Petty in our thinking with others and also ourselves.  So let’s take a look a few different ways of how a person engaging in petty thinking is defined.

may participate in relatively worthless or unimportant (ex. petty cash is cash kept on hand for very small purchase).

may get caught up in a small details, becomes angry when someone accidentally steps on your foot.

may takes a small subject and blow it out of proportion.

may make something otherwise insignificant into something bigger to suit their own agenda.  

may feel justified in the act of keeping it real while others find it offensive, 100% honest, even if it means “keeping it real.”

Now that we have the different definitions of Petty, let’s connected with what The Board of Directors in mind that pushes out our Automatic Negative Thoughts when we engaged in Petty Rants.

  1. Fortune Telling – When we are anxious, we are predict some bad event as the outcome.  We might not be completing aware of what it is, but it invariably is there.  Examples includes, “my mind will go blank during my presentation,””I won’t pass the test,””I won’t pass my work evaluation,” ” I will never finish this book.”  Sometimes the fear is something specific (failing a test) and sometimes it is more vague. Other times, what we ar predicting is anxiety itself.  Predicting something already before the test or interview, such as I will blow it.  We over-estimate the likelihood that the bad event will happen.
  2. Catastrophic Thinking – This Automatic Negative Thoughts can be described as Fortune Telling on steroids.  We predict not only will the bad thing happen, but the outcome will awful and unbearable.  If my thoughts are, “if I don’t get a the job, I’m going to end up homeless” you may be engaging in catastrophic thinking.  Like fortune-telling, not only will the bad thing happen, but the consequence will be terrible.  We over-estimate the consequences of the bad event and under-estimate our ability to cope.  Minor setbacks, frustrations and mistakes are often seen as more awful than they really are.
  3. Mind Reading –  We assume that other people are having negative thoughts about us. At an event/party are thoughts are “these people don’t like me” or if you have a give a brief presentation  to co-worker (or event Facebook/Instagram Live), you think that your audience will be able to tell that I am anxious and make a fool of ourselves.  When we think this way, we turn every social event into a performance in which we must control the thoughts of other people ( which is impossible).  Without checking fact, we automatically think it negatively apply to us.
  4. All or Nothing –  Thinking in rigid black or white categories.  If we don’t score 100  on exam/test/presentation, we think we are a complete failure.  If someone doesn’t like something about us, we believe they dislike everything about us.  This thinking pushes us to practice perfection which is not healthy or realistic. All-or-nothing thinking is the tendency to judge things in extreme or “black or white” categories.  It is irrational because in reality things are never completely one way or the other.  You will always be afraid that if you dont achieve perfection (which is one extreme) you will be complete failure (which is the other extreme). Another example includes when eat one spoon of ice cream while changing your eating habit, so you decide to eat the whole gallon of ice cream.
  5. Overgeneralization – When we allow one or two events makes us believe that something is “always” or “never” true.  Common examples include, “nothing ever works our for me,” “I’m always messing up” or “I’m never going to succeed at this.” Overgeneralization pushing us to be negative discouraging and decreasing our self-esteem.  When we overgeneralize, we assume that because we had one bad experience in the past, we believe that we will have the same negative experience in the future even though there is no evidence for it.  If a bird craps on her car, we assume just our luck and that birds always crap on our my car.  Our assumptions raises our anxiety level whenever  they encounter a situation that has been negative, even just one experience in a past.  People who overgeneralize often use the word “always,” “never,” “no one,” “everyone,” “all” or “none.”
  6. Mental Filtering – We focus on the most negative aspect of a situation and fail to notice what might be most positive or as least neutral.  For example, you receive a number of positive responses on your presentation, but all you can focus on is the one critical response.   You focus on undesirable trait and lose sight of positive qualities. If you have free time, you focus on how bored you are and don’t look for positive things to do. When stuck in heavy traffic, you focus on how awful it is versus thinking about what a blessing it is to have a car, with air or heat, power window, gas, leather seats etc or the fact you don’t have to take the bus. We have to shift from the glass half empty to glass half full approach.
  7. Shoulds are S#&*s – When we think this way, we are requiring the world, other people and even ourselves to live up to our expectations. It is a willingness to accept what it. I am angry at you because you “Should” have remembered my birthday. I feel guilty and inadequate because I “should” be making more money. “should’ thoughts about other provoke anger and “should” thoughts towards other provoke guilt.  We have to practice reframing ourselves from using shoulds to motive ourselves and incorporate “want to” statement to help us achieve our goals.
  8. Labeling/Judgement – We apply negative labels towards ourselves. The list is endless such as lazy, stupid, rude, insensitive, overly sensitive and so on. In reality, labels are not accurate because no one is always lazy, stupid, rude etc. When we label ourselves, we feel guilt or inadequate. When we label others, we feel angry.
  9. Discounting the positives – We minimalized the significance of our accomplishments, successes and blessings. Somehow, they just “don’t count.”

    Yes, I won the tennis match, but my opponent had a bad day.

    Yes, I was accepted into many colleges, but I didn’t get into the best ones.

    Yes, I got the promotions, but there wasn’t much competition.

                                                 Yes, I did good, but it wasnt good enough.  

  10. Emotional Reasoning – We believe that our emotions are an accurate reflection of reality. In the middle of a panic attack, I feel like “I’m going crazy” or “I have to get out of here” I feel like a loser, I must be one. I feel rejected, therefore I have must have been rejected. Since I feel guilty, I have must have don’t something wrong. I’m terrified about going on planes, therefore they must be dangerous.
  11. Personalization and Blame – Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that is not entirely under your control.  When a woman received a not that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, :this shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be of help to her child.  When another woman’s spouse beat her, she told herself, “If only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization lead to guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.  Some people do the opposite.  They blame other people or their circumstances for their circumstance for their problems, and they over look ways that they might be contributing to the problem.  “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.”  Blame usually doesn’t work very well because other people will resent being scapegoat and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap.  It’s like the game of the hot potatoes – no wants to get stuck with it.

In efforts to start moving from Petty to Positive or at neutral thinking we have to start working on changing our thoughts. If you found yourself identifying with the 11 Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) discussed above, practice developing neutral response and work your way to replacing your neutral responses with Positive responses.  If you are looking for a jump-start, try reciting these affirmation daily to practice positive thoughts.

“When I chose positive attitude and positive thoughts I create positive experiences”

“I keep my power by taking responsibility for actions”

“I will focus on all my the good in my life”

“I will achieve my goals by beginning with my thoughts”

“Making positive decision will bring positive outcomes” 

“I can choose my thoughts, feelings and actions that come from my authentic self”

“My value doesn’t change when I compare myself to others” 

Next time you find yourself falling into a Petty Rant, ask yourself these two questions: Will this matter 5 minutes from now? Will this matter 5 years from now?  And if you want to take a step further when before you start a rant, Get to the real issues? Consider if it is really bothering you? Utilize a softer approach or become neutral in your response. Lastly, be patient with yourself and watch your thoughts transform from Petty to Positive.

Powerfully Thinking,

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

Sources: The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns (1989), Anxiety: Treatment that really workd Dr. Stan Hibbs (2013)

 

Mindfully Respond to Criticism in 8 Steps

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The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.                                                                                                    -Norman Vincent Peale

Criticism can be defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.  However, no matter how you define it, it can be a tough pill to swallow.  In addition to criticism being a tough pill to swallow, it can be hard not to react instantly, deny everything, blame someone else, counter attack or storm off.  In some cases, you lose control and unable to listen objectively.

This blog will give 8 steps to utilize mindfulness to respond to criticism:

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying. Resist the urge to interrupt or defend yourself or do anything that will get in the way of really listening. At that moment, your purpose to understand what the other person is saying and what he or she is criticizing you about.
  2. Reflect and Clarify.  Before you respond to the accusation, check what is is you think the other person is accusing you and what you are feeling.  For example, “you are saying that I’ve not done what I promised I would do? or “So you are embarrassed about what I did to Sherry?”  Take time to recognize the feelings of the critic and you to the set the space for a better understanding.
  3. Respond.  Once you cleared what the criticism is and why the other person is criticizing you, take a moment (insert breathing here)!  Then think about how you feel and how you are going to respond. Learn to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or reacting. You may fully agree, partial agree and refute what was being said to you.  Give clear examples of what position you stand on and provide clear evidence supporting your point of view. If you can’t respond immediately, make an appointment to see the individual, set up a phone interview or email them.
  4. When you can’t respond.  If you have received criticism and you haven’t had an opportunity to respond to the other person (such as they hung up the phone, shared the criticism from someone else).  Do not replay the criticism over and over in your mind,  the more time spent on dwelling on what someone dais, the less time you have to do something constructive with it.  Write you feeling down, when your feelings are written down you will be able to observe your thoughts.
  5. Do not counter attack. Stay in the present.  Do not defend yourself by bringing up offenses the other person may have been committed in the past.  Focus solely on the other person’s grievance.
  6. Agree to disagree. If you can resolve the situation, all well and good.  But if not, learn where to draw a line and agree to disagree.
  7. Look for seeds of truth in the criticism .  Criticism opens you up to new perspective and new ideas that you may not have considered before.  It’s not easy to take an honest look at yourself and your weakness.  Practice how to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or reacting.  You might disagree with the other person, but there is something to learned from the situation.
  8. It is time to get in Perspective.  Does it really matter? Does it matter that your pattern thinks that you loaded the dishwasher all “wrong.”  The reality of it is, we can’t please all the people all the time.  It can be liberating to let people think whatever they want, they are going to think whatever they want anyway. Accept it, Let it go!!!!

I want to acknowledge the way we respond to criticism is dependent on various factors such as who giving it and why, but whatever or whoever has criticized you, there is a mindful way to handle it.   After implementing these 8 steps,  I would love to hear your feedback on the use of these steps.  Don’t forget to return for next week’s blog coving, How to Give Criticism?

Source: Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live in the Moment. By Gill Hasson

Balanced in Criticism and Praise, 

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

 

The beauty of creating boundaries 

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Why  are boundaries necessary?

  • For protection and personal security
  • To create order
  • To define ourselves clearly
  • To gain a clearer sense of ourselves in relation to others
  • To empower us to determine how we will be treated by others

Maintaining boundaries allows us to gain trust in ourselves to take care of ourselves. It results in a healthy sense of control and overall well-being. How do you plan on creating boundaries in your life today?

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

I declare today to be STRESS FREE, join me

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There is so much to be stressed about, but there’s so many other things I rather fill my mind with today.  I understand that stress is a normal response to a state of unbalance.  Signs that I look for when my stress is unbalanced are in the areas of cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral.  Our brains may react by experiencing increased forgetfulness, poor concentration, increased worrying, poor judgement and seeing only the negative.  The emotional aspect of stress may present with moodiness,  feelings of being overwhelmed, isolation, difficult to relax and increased irritability.   Physical signs of stress may include aches & pains, nausea, easily catches colds, decreased sex drive and increased heart rate.  Behavioral signs may appear in the form of less/more eating, too much/too little sleep, isolation, neglecting responsibilities and using alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to relax.   These various symptoms if not addressed can lead to increased mental health concerns as the majority of these symptoms parallel with depression and anxiety.  In efforts to increase mental wellness and prevent further stress, make an active effort to reduce stress today to improve overall mental health.   These are the ten things I chose to use today to support my mission towards eliminating stress:

  1. I will participate in some form of meditation or relaxation (4-square breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization and/or stretching)
  2. I will eat balanced meal (at least 5 servings of fruits, veggies and 8 glasses of water)
  3. I review how I typically think about stress.  Explore my “what ifs”? catastrophic thoughts? discounting the positives?
  4. I will take a break when I need one (I will leave the office for lunch).
  5. I will manage my time by planning my day so that it doesn’t run me.
  6. I will take about my troubles with close friend and end the conversation with a positive story.
  7. I will live a balanced life today.  After work, I will make time for my hobby, me-time, a social event or watch a movie with the family.
  8. I will develop a realistic goal and break it up into smaller realistic goals and then break them up into even smaller realistic goals.
  9. I will evaluate possible future stress and identify what can I do to reduce it.
  10. I will ask for help.  I will get in touch with my therapist if I’m having difficulties getting through my STRESS-FREE day.

Feel Free to use these ten ways to have a STRESS FREE day.  Note: Please do not feel disappointed if your day is not completely stress-free by using these tips, if you reduced one of your signs or decreased your symptoms of stress, you have made strides.  Let’s Celebrate our progress!!!

Balancing the Stress,

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

 

Use Procrastination to your Advantage

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procrastination2Everyone can point out the cons in procrastinating, but what about the pros? Are there any pros in procrastinating? Is there a successful way to procrastinate? I know we can all relate on some level where our procrastination has gone wrong resulting in receiving a failing grade, getting late fees tagged on to your bill or not making a deadline at work causing disruption in productivity. This article will discuss two types procrastination, unsuccessful and successful aspect of it.

One of the disadvantages of procrastination is that it is known as the thief of time. When we engage in temporary distractions to avoid a task(s), we often set ourselves up for increased stress and raised anxiety levels. Also, having less time to complete the task properly or to your best ability. You may even risk not completing the work at all. Let’s explore some reasons why people procrastinate:

1.Fear of failure. People avoid starting projects due to fear of the completed project. Your need to finish the project is overpowered by your concern of what others may think, disappointing others or believing you are incapable. Work toward combating your fear by visualizing yourself completing the project and being satisfied with its outcome.

2.Avoidance. Avoidance is a maladaptive coping mechanism that often shows up in the form of procrastination. If there’s a not so positive memory associated with a location or experience, avoiding completing that task in connection with the prior experience will likely surface. Avoidance serves to protect from psychological harm. An example includes avoiding interacting with a co-worker who you do not necessarily get along with although you both assigned to complete a project together that is due at the end of the week.

3. Lack of motivation. We may say, “I’m just not motivated” or “it is hard to get started.” Over the years, I have learned motivation kicks in once you start. In college, I lack the motivation to write papers. I would commit one hour in the library to grab journal articles, which create a spark to reading the research, thus motivating me to write a research paper on my findings.

4.Rewarding. The act of procrastinating can provide smaller rewards than larger rewards. We may delay completing a chore at home, only to know that our partner will complete the task later that week. Another example can include procrastinating meeting with your boss to avoid a serious conversation.

After exploring the time snatchers above, let see how to procrastinate successfully. People who successfully participate in procrastination are known to do four key things:

1) Embrace it. Some people perform better under pressure. They concentration better when the pressure is on. Those with ADHD are often successful in procrastination. However, there is often guilt due to not starting the project earlier even when there is a history of completing projects on time. It is suggested that you embrace your planned procrastination to produce your best work.

2) Be honest. When you are planning your procrastination, be honest about when you will start. Explore your past experiences of how effective you were with the minimal amount of time and adjust accordingly.

3) Schedule it. Yes, schedule your planned procrastination. Circle the date on your calendar and set an alarm on your smartphone. For successful procrastination to work, there has to be an opportunity of when you will complete the task.

4) Do it. Just do it!

To further explore the impact of how procrastination affects your life answer these questions: Think about a time you avoided a task and remembered your reasons for avoiding that task. What problems did this create for you? How did you feel? Now, think about a time you decided not to procrastinate. Why did you choose not to avoid this task? Described the positive things that happened because you completed this task. How did you feel? Which questions gave you a better feeling about yourself? What changes do you see yourself making? Use the tools in this article to help you avoid getting robbed from the best usage of your time, energy, and abilities whether you choose to reframe from procrastination or practice successful procrastination.

Reference:
Abel, J.L. (2014). Resistant, anxiety, worry and panic: 86 practical treatment strategies for clinicians. pp 147-154

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

Got Self-Esteem?

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Unknown-1It is not what happens to me but how I handle it that determines my well-being. A new year presents itself with new opportunities to create the best you. I have learned that having positive self-esteem is an active process, and it is your daily efforts that will make a difference in your life experiences. It can be hard to define what self-esteem means to you, but implementing these techniques assist with your walk with confidence. First, let’s explore these questions to get you thinking about your self-esteem and self-worth.

  1. Describe a time in your life where your self-esteem was high? What did that feel?
  2. Describe a time in your life when your self-esteem was low? What factors contributed to those feelings?
  3. Identify someone who had contributed to building your self-esteem?
  4. Do you compare yourself to others? How did comparing affect your self-esteem?
  5. What do your say to yourself that helps you remember how awesome you are?

Below are a few of my favorite ways to boost confidence levels:

  • Be a Goal Getter. “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you will land amongst the stars.” – Les Brown. Learn to be satisfied with your best work. Avoid comparing yourself to others which often leads to dissatisfaction, frustration and in most cases anger.
  • Focus on your accomplishments. “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.” Each day give yourself a smile for the hard work that you have done and progress towards goals.
  • Use positive mental imagery. Picture yourself having a successful day.
    Look on the inside not outside. Identify yourself by a sense of purpose versus identification by things you have. Your purpose will outlast material items.
  • Be Positive. Acknowledge that how you think affects how you feel. If you continue to feel negative, swap out those thoughts with realistic positive thoughts. Find something positive about each day.
  • Have an Attitude of Gratitude. Practice being grateful for what your have. Fill your cup with kindness, love, understanding, hope, peace and gratitude.
  • Develop a Self-care plan. Be kind to yourself. Believing that, you are worthy of taking of yourself. Take care of your health: Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.
  • Time to Turndown. Set aside time to relax and let go of stress. Utilize positive affirmation such as, “I am optimistic about life, I look forward to and enjoy new challenges.”
  • Give it up, turn it loose. People-pleasing, negative self-talk, self-doubt, criticizing yourself and others, fear of failure and complaining.
  • Seek Supports. Reach out to others who you share a common interest with, call an old friend back home, check on an elderly relative, join a local group or volunteer.
  • Put on your favorite Heels. Hold your head up high and walk with confidence.  “The higher the better. It more about an attitude. High heels empower women in a way.” – Christian Louboutin 

Shayla Peterson, LCSW