“Adapting to something new is always a challenge. But it’s also a great opportunity for resilience.”
-Dr. Eric Nestler, Neuroscientist Chair, HDRF Depression Task Force
Self-Perception and Self-Talk
In situations like the one we find ourselves in today, it is natural to be more anxious, stressed, or even depressed. One of the side effects of this can be a shift in how you think of yourself or talk to yourself from forgiving and context-driven, to harsh and declarative**. For example, instead of thinking “I didn’t do as much as I wanted today, but that’s okay, I can do more tomorrow” you may think “I failed today. I am angry at myself.”
Stress that reframes self-perception, though, has real effects, both in terms of mental health and physical health, so what can we do to get out of negative ruminating thought cycles? One suggestion is cognitive restructuring*.
What is Cognitive Restructuring?
One of the main techniques used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based system of therapy used for depression and related illnesses, is Cognitive Restructuring. This is the process of carefully considering and analyzing your thoughts, and framing them in a more nuanced and forgiving way. This often means breaking down and questioning the specifics of your thought patterns and shifting to more positive, grounded thinking. A common strategy for cognitive restructuring is writing out your thoughts to give them space to breathe and break down*.
Tips to Shift Your Thinking
A Psychology Today article by Alice Boyes suggests strategies to employ cognitive restructuring in your life. Here are a few for this strange time:
Notice distorted thinking
Check for truth
Treat yourself with compassion and kindness
Following these steps gives you the control over your thoughts you may need to stay focused and positive in a tumultuous time, which can make all the difference!
*Larsen, B. A., & Christenfeld, N. J. S. (2011). Cognitive distancing, cognitive restructuring, and cardiovascular recovery from stress. Biological Psychology, 86(2), 143-148. doi:http://dx.doi.org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.02.011
**Wells, A., & Matthews, G. (1996). Modelling cognition in emotional disorder: The S-REF model. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34(11-12), 881-888. doi:http://dx.doi.org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S0005-7967(96)00050-2