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All too often, I hear complaints of “I can’t do that”, “nothing will help me”, or “they will never understand”. Our minds bombard us with these messages of insufficiency and negativity. It’s not uncommon though, and it’s easy to fall into this trap of having a negative mindset toward our situation and our lives in general. Isn’t it true though that the way we speak to ourselves has a great influence on our outcomes? I’ve seen it firsthand with some of the clients that I’ve worked with. In my experience, we are certainly more likely to fall short when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something. If I truly believe that this won’t work out, then I’m almost setting myself up for that exact outcome, because I already introduced the idea of “failing” into my mind.

What would happen if we try to tweak that internal voice inside ourselves? Is it possible to start viewing our situation as hopeful vs. hopeless? The answer is YES! It’s not always easy, and like anything, it won’t happen overnight. However, with time and practice, we can alter our dialogue within ourselves to embrace a more positive attitude. In my professional opinion, a positive mindset is a great place to begin! It helps us to break the pattern of automatic reactions, and creates the opportunity for alternative outcomes to occur. It also allows us to both remember and utilize our strengths, which are often forgotten as we cope with mental health.

So how do we start to change this? What I encourage in my work with clients is to begin challenging the part of ourselves that automatically spits out negative thoughts and reactions to the events around us. For example, imagine you are struggling with anxiety in regards to crowds and social events. Typically, when you are exposed to this environment, your mind already repeats thoughts such as “this is going to be awful, I know I will feel this anxiety again and I’ll panic and I’ll never make it through this night”. We are used to jumping to these worst-case scenario thoughts, which only adds to our feelings of anxiety. Instead, let’s prepare for an upcoming event by saying “I’ve been through a situation like this before and I made it out OK. I can make it out of this one too. It is just my anxiety, I will be OK and the moment will pass”. Looking at it this way, we are removing any preconceived judgments about the situation, and we are practicing mindfulness by staying in the moment and viewing the experience with fresh eyes.

Here are some other positive coping statements that can help empower you to work through a challenging situation. We use a “coping thoughts” worksheet in our Adolescent IOP to help teens cope through distressing experiences. Some of the following examples are taken from this worksheet.

 

  • Stop and breathe, I can do this.
  • This feels bad but the moment will pass./li>
  • I’ve done this before and I can do it again./li>
  • My mind is not always my friend./li>
  • Right now I’m not in any danger. Right now I am safe./li>
  • Thoughts are just thoughts, they are not necessarily true or factual./li>
  • This won’t last forever./li>
  • I can be anxious/angry/sad and still deal with this./li>
  • It’s OK to feel this way, it’s a normal reaction.

I encourage you to find something that works for you, or to even create your own positive coping thought that you can say to yourself in preparation for challenging situations. I’ve even noticed that clients who embrace this mindset at the start of each day experience less anxiety in general. Write these thoughts on post-it notes, put it on your mirror, or in your car, or by your nightstand to remind yourself that you are strong and absolutely capable of working through emotions and distress. It can be helpful to talk out loud to yourself to really ensure that the message sticks with you. As always, therapy can help you to implement these changes and work through other symptoms that you might be experiencing.

Positive Self-Talk/ Coping Thoughts Worksheet. Carol Vivyan (2011). www.getselfhelp.co.uk

Kimberly Vitolo, MS, LMFT
Adolescent IOP Co-Facilitator

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The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.