#stayhomestayhopeful - Put Your Thoughts On Trial
April 07, 2020
By Erin Dos Reis, LCSW, Primary Therapist
THIS IS GOING TO LAST FOREVER.
That type of thinking is easy to get sucked into right now. Even the line at the grocery store feels long these days. We all think that way sometimes. But for those of us who already struggle with mood episodes, and have thoughts such as, “I am never going to get better," this type of thinking is very familiar. Cognitive distortions are something that we all experience.
Some of the most common cognitive distortions is fortune telling and catastrophizing.
Fortune Telling is when we try to predict the future and believe our predictions as if they are true.
Catastrophizing is a way of thinking that assumes things are worse than they are or will have a far worse outcome than is realistic.
These distorted thoughts are just that: inaccurate patterns of thinking. As difficult as it may be, we need to be mindful of our way of thinking throughout the day.
One common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) technique is called “putting thoughts on trial.” When we use this technique, we evaluate the evidence for and the evidence against the thought. We pretend that we are bringing the thought to a judge, and we need to show the judge evidence based on facts and not on feelings.
Finding evidence against a thought can be difficult on your own, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you feel like you have evaluated all of the evidence, see what the verdict is.
Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on challenging negative thoughts, especially if you are dealing with depression and/or anxiety. Right now we are being told to be “socially distant” but remember isolation is a symptom of depression and not the best thing for your mental wellness. So being “socially distant” doesn’t mean we can’t be alone together. Call your friends, video chat, or download an app that lets you watch Netflix with your friends.
If your anxiety is so high that you find it difficult to focus on challenging a thought, use grounding techniques to bring you to a more centered place to help calm down.
One grounding technique that is easy to remember is box breathing.
- Inhale for four seconds
- Hold for four seconds
- Exhale for four seconds
- Hold for four seconds
- Repeat as needed
After you finish this breathing technique, try to challenge the thought again. If you are still having trouble, try another grounding technique. “Social distancing” doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. Go for a walk and get some sunshine. It is amazing how twenty minutes of sunshine can help ground you and improve your mood.
Let me be the first to say, challenging your thoughts can be exhausting, so don’t be shocked if you are completely wiped out while doing this, but it’s worth the effort. Only when we are able to recognize when thoughts are distorted is when we can actually begin to challenge them.
The important thing to remember when it comes to the current situation is that you are not alone. You are not the only one experiencing these thoughts. Keep going until the distress passes, because it will pass.
It will not last forever. Nothing does.
Learn More about Practicing CBT, DBT & Mindfulness