As daylight savings lurks on the horizon, many of us fall into negative thinking patterns, brought on by a change in the temperature, a lack of sunlight and a difference in routine as we all buckle up for winter. Stress is not only triggered by huge threatening events, but also by deadlines, interviews, noise, temperature and loneliness. These low level stressors lead to a lowering of capacity to deal with life on life’s terms, stopping you from focusing on your strengths, and driving you further into negative thinking.
How does the calendar affect negative thinking patterns?
One of the key triggers in both early recovery and negative thinking is the calendar. There are times in the calendar that we can all predict will trigger ourselves and our clients; birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, even sporting events like the World Cup. At times like these, especially those in which we invest heavily in as a group activity like Bank Holidays, it can be hard to adjust to a new structure, feeling unworthy and inviting negative thinking into our minds. The way forwards for some services to deal with the impact of these changes is that they take a leaf out of the war manuals, and ‘keep calm and carry on.’ This means they open up as usual, operate as usual, and sustain structure to make sure not everyone is affected by the negative thinking that a huge swath of unstructured time brings with it.
When we have a holiday in place, we plan what we want to do based on what we need from that moment off the hamster wheel, and indulge in whatever works for us. Despite this, free time can sometimes seem like a huge challenge. Adjusting to an evolving structure is a challenge, and so something as simple as the weekend can be a huge mountain to overcome. When we have the longest weekend of the year, Easter Bank Holiday, where everyone is wrapped up in indulging themselves with chocolate at the very least, this routine mindset can completely unravel all the security that a coherent structure can offer.
How can I avoid succumbing to negative thinking?
Stick to a routine
Time needs to be used up, if it is left in a huge empty void it can invite negative thinking, unhelpful actions and undermine some of the progress that you have achieved. When it comes to time in early recovery, don’t waste time – make a plan, stick to the plan, and make it a priority to find time for the things that bring you pleasure, and keep you fulfilled.
Recognise that you’re normal
There are times when we all feel a little overwhelmed, and we overthink and get wrapped up in unhelpful thoughts and negative thinking. At times like this, it’s so easy to make mountains out of molehills, focusing on our own destructive thoughts. It’s human nature to dwell on the negative and overlook the positive. One way you can get distance from these negative thinking patterns is to notice yourself noticing the thought, slowing the world down and letting you take back control. It’s important to remember that thinking negative thoughts is very normal – we have all struggled with feeling overwhelmed or preoccupied with all-consuming thoughts at one point or another.
Make regular exercise your mission
We are made to move; staying stationary creates stress, the stress of not doing what we need to do. Getting into the habit of regular exercise helps you banish negative thinking. However, don’t call it exercise. Whenever you call moving ‘exercise’, it becomes a tedious activity to be endured, bringing about another bout of negative thinking; you know, when you bought the Fitbit and would walk another hundred yards just to get your steps up. Instead, identify what form of moving it is you like to do, and make it part of your routine by scheduling it, incorporating friends or family to help you feel more motivated, or pairing it alongside another activity.
Be kind to yourself
Constantly being driven by negative thinking patterns drains your energy. Whenever you’re facing a challenge ahead, always plan a reward just beyond it,and it will allow you to focus on that instead of the challenge. If negative thinking is causing you to have a difficult day, plan in some quality time with family and friends, listen to music, or take yourself out for a nice lunch; whatever will help you look forward to moving forward and letting go of the discomfort. The most useful aspect of this simple tool is the way in which it helps you dispel negative thinking, downloading your head to make some space. By having a nice thing to look forward to and focus on, you will be able to gain perspective, develop an acceptance of your negative thinking patterns and replace them with thought patterns that will motivate you and help you move forward.
Negative thinking doesn’t have to send you spiralling. Here at Betterminds, we have a range of tools and techniques available to train your team to view client’s thoughts in a different light. Contact us to be kind to yourself and your service users.