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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Distorted Thinking Increases Stress and Anxiety

10 cognitive distortions that make things worse for us.

published by Toni Bernhard J.D.

Of course, before you can counter distorted thinking, you have to become aware that you’re engaging in it. To this end, it might be beneficial to make a list of the ten distortions and then look it over every few days. Or, you could write down some of your stressful and anxious thoughts and then look to see which of the ten distortions they fall under

#1 All-or-Nothing Thinking
When you’re caught up in this cognitive distortion, if you fall short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. There’s no middle ground. An example: “Because I was in too much pain to do anything other than the dishes today, the house is a total mess.” (If you’re not struggling with your health, you could substitute “too busy” for “in too much pain.”)

To counter this cognitive distortion, start with a dose of self-compassion for the difficulty you’re encountering—in my example, the amount of pain you’re in. This is a circumstance of your life that simply makes it impossible for you to do everything you’d like to do. No blame!

Then turn the thought around by focusing on what you did get done: “Given how much pain I was in today, it’s amazing that I managed to get the dishes done!”

#2 Overgeneralizing

#3 Mentally Filtering Your Experience

#4 Disqualifying the Positive

#5 Jumping to Conclusions

#6 Catastrophizing (also known as Magnifying)

When you’re catastrophizing, you magnify the importance of something that’s happening or something that didn’t go the way you wanted it to. It’s as if you’re looking at the experience through binoculars, which blows it all out of proportion. An example. If my symptoms flare one day, instead of waiting to see if they subside by the morning, I magnify the experience and convince myself that this is my “new normal.” This can be the source of much stress and unhappiness.

I’d be surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t done this at some point, and it need not have been health-related. We can make ourselves miserable by magnifying our disappointments and frustrations. For example, I’ve been teaching myself the craft of Tunisian Crochet. One day a few months ago, when I didn’t do the second row correctly, this thought popped into my mind: “That’s it. You’ll never learn Tunisian Crochet.” Catastrophizing!

To counter the tendency to catastrophize, put your experience into perspective. I’m fortunate that I was able to do this fairly quickly with my Tunisian Crochet experience. I stopped the distorted thinking by saying to myself: “How silly! All I did was get one row wrong. Try again.” Now, Tunisian Crochet is easy for me; I’ve even made several scarves

#7 Relying on Emotional Reasoning

#8 Using “Should” Statements

#9 Labeling Yourself and Others

#10 Personalization

~read the full details of the other distortions below~


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