Regardless of COVID-19, we typically have over 50,000 thoughts a day running through our minds… really. Imagine if most of those had a negative tone. Not fun, right? In fact, negative thinking are exactly how depression, anxiety and anger become problems in our lives.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shut down of our normal lives, negative thinking has become rampant, leading to stress, depression, anxiety and anger. Depression lives off of negative thinking well before you start feeling depressed. First you think (negative thoughts) and then you feel (negative feelings). But we don’t notice or register that this process of negative self talk and thinking is even happening. Capturing these negative thoughts is really tough because they tend to be automatic in nature, happening outside our scope of awareness. The result is, first we experience the negative feeling without knowing the connection to the negative thoughts.
If this thinking process is left alone, negative self-talk and thinking becomes an unconscious part of how you think, becoming a negative thought pattern, operating unnoticed and unchecked, and becoming a self-reinforcing habitual pattern. In other words, negative thoughts result in negative moods resulting in more negative thoughts leading to more negative moods. And during COVID-19, this is a recipe for serious depression, anxiety and stress.
4 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking
Emotions are difficult to control, but with effort and a little practice, you can change the way you think. This can greatly reduce anxiety and help prevent depression from taking over during COVID-19.
- Know that the quality of your thinking and self-talk is changeable. YOU are in control.
- Keep track of your negative thoughts. This is critical and should not be overlooked. Begin to record your negative thoughts by actually writing them down. This will help collect information about your negative thinking patterns, and it also helps ‘gets you out of your head’. Writing this stuff down also reduces the power of negative self-talk. In particular, pay attention to the negative thoughts that start with the word “I”, such as “I’m such a loser”, “I should’ve done better…”, “I’ll never be able to do this…”. Record the thoughts in which you portray yourself as a victim, or have a sense of powerlessness, helplessness and hopelessness.
- Now, think about what situations seem to trigger those negative thoughts. Recording those situations in which your negative thinking takes over will help you learn more about how the process unfolds, what and how it all starts to happen. Figuring this out is also critical in getting a handle on the thoughts, and the resulting depression and anxiety.
- Lastly, start working on different ways of thinking. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, purposely create a more realistic and positive thought. Learning to do this is a skill worth learning. This will take a lot of practice, as you are trying to short-circuit a longstanding negative thinking pattern with something different. Even reminding yourself with the thought “Even though I’m thinking negatively, I’m trying to become more aware and change this habit”.
Taking intentional and deliberate note of your thoughts is vital in not only changing negative self-talk and thinking patterns, but also to improving your general mood.
WayPoint Counselling has experienced counsellors located in Greater Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna. All are available for online sessions via phone or video and some have large enough offices that physical distancing is easily possible in person. Through the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, you can get back on track and change your mood. We can help you find the right counsellor and offer a complimentary initial consultation, and individual, couples and family counselling services. Contact us if you want to learn more.
We at Waypoint wish everyone well during this difficult time.