This is our third post in the anxiety series by Mark de Teliga – one of L&L’s coaches and a practicing psychologist and psychotherapist.
In this series, Mark will provide you with direction, tips and tools to help get you through the silly season and even help your productivity at work too. Today we look at ways you could be sabotaging yourself with coping mechanisms.
Today’s topic is “All or nothing thoughts.”
You can train yourself to have less negative, less harsh thoughts (and consequently less anxiety) by challenging all or nothing thinking.
Here are two examples to show you how:
Excessively negative thought = I’ll never find a good partner.
The first step is to identify the excessively positive version of this thought. For example, “I’ll definitely find the perfect partner very soon.” Once you’ve done that, identify a more likely thought that falls in the middle of the extremes. For example, “Most people who want partners find them. I’m likely to find a good partner, but it might not be right now.” Or, “I’m likely to find a good partner, but I don’t know when it will happen.” It’s often a good idea to experiment with 2-3 “middle” thoughts and try to find one that seems believable to you.
Excessively harsh thought = I should always do everything perfectly.
Next, identify what an excessively lax version of this thought would be. For example, “I should never bother to do anything well. I should always just do the bare minimum.” Then, identify some thoughts that fall in the middle of these two extremes. For example, “Sometimes I prefer to strive for perfection, but sometimes doing less is a better option and doesn’t have any major negative consequences.” Or, “Often I prefer to do above the bare minimum but striving for absolute perfection isn’t usually necessarily.”
Notice that you can construct whatever thoughts you like. There aren’t specific right and wrong answers.
When you notice yourself feeling anxious, identify if an excessively negative or harsh thought is causing the anxiety. Most people find that identifying their problem thoughts and constructing new thoughts is a harder skill to learn than it appears at first glance. Just do your best. If you get stuck, leave your work unfinished and come back to it tomorrow. Sometimes coming back to the exercise with fresh eyes is all you need to get unstuck. If you have a therapist, this is the type of exercise you can do in session. If you’d like to do that, simply ask your therapist.
Mark de Teliga is a practicing Psychologist & Psychotherapist as well as a mentor for Legends & Leaders in the Agency/Account Management module. Introduction by Adrianne Nixon, Founder of Legends & Leaders.