Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Calm, Cool, and Collected for Holiday Time?

Here's a piece of a 2010 post that might help you deal with NST and resulting stress in the week or so ahead.  Right now is the time to find a calming, realistic mantra: "I'm letting the stress go for now." "One step at a time. I'll make it work." "I can do it." "One week (or one day) and this will all be over." "I will be fine and I will be happy." Then just say it over and over to yourself like a robot. It's not positive thinking. It's not negative thinking. It's coping thinking. If you don't feel stressed at all, more power to you. You've already figured out how to hang loose, let it go, take it easy, avoid perfectionism, be in the moment, and enjoy this time of year.

• Cognitive Restructuring — A Classic Way to Change Your Inner Monologue

Cognitive restructuring is a psychological term which means to change, alter, (restructure) what we are saying to ourselves (= our thoughts =cognitions) It's the classic way to eliminate negative self-talk.

From Albert Ellis's book, A Guide to Rational Living ( 3rd edition, 1975)) to today's bestselling books by David Burns (Feeling Good 1999),  the topic of changing what you say to yourself (when it's not working to bring about a desired result) has always been a good idea.
Cognitive restructuring had been kidnapped by the positive thinking crowd along the way, but now even Martin Seligman, the "father" of positive psychology is backing away from the positive overhype as shown in his brand new book, Flourish. Not-negative is different than positive.

I used to refer to the restructured product of a negative thought  as a neutral statement but now I think of it as a realistic statement.

Here are the steps:

1. Notice your inner self-talk.
2. Discriminate between negative self-talk and useful self-instructions.
3. If it's useless negative self-talk, quickly check out alternative ways of thinking to eliminate the negative self-talk:

     • realistic thinking — "I handled that situation poorly. Fortunately I learned something from it."
     • coping statements — "Next time, if in doubt — don't."
     • substitution to divert attention — count by odd numbers to 1000, recite the Gettysburg address
     • see a big STOP sign in your mind to remind you to stop the NST
     • imagine that the NST is a concrete object that you blow up, drown, erase or turn into steam in your mind

Try some of this stuff out and see what works for you.
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