Positive thinking, inspirational quotes
This is the time to find those inspirational quotes or memes and to put them in places you will see. Some helpful quotes to put in conspicuous places in your home. Colourful sticky notes are my favourite. Another strategy is to use a whiteboard marker and write out quotes or statements on your mirrors and windows.
You can find some of my favourite inspirational quotes here.
Working through the “What if” thoughts
Our thoughts can drive anxiety and stress. If we engage in “what if” thinking or catastrophic thinking (the worst case scenario), then we are more prone to being stuck with these thoughts on repeat and generating more and more anxiety.
Here are a couple of helpful strategies for catching these unhelpful thoughts, challenging them, and changing them to more helpful, realistic, and kind thoughts:
“What if” thinking is never helpful. This is like your brain getting stuck on a hamster wheel of questions that can never be answered. It is critical for you to recognize this. When you hear yourself say ‘What if’, tell yourself to STOP, then shift your focus of attention to another activity.
Another strategy is to limit the amount of time that you are engaging in these worried thoughts. The strategy that helps here is called CLEAR YOUR HEAD TIME. This involves setting one time per day for 15 to 30 minutes, to sit down with your computer or a notebook, and to write out all of the thoughts that are rolling around in your mind.
For example: Set a time of day (5:00pm), set a timer (15 minutes), and ask yourself, what am I worried about? and write all of it down. When the timer goes off, then stop. At other times of the day, remind yourself to save your worry time for the 5:00pm CLEAR YOUR HEAD TIME.
If there are thoughts that are problem-solving, then you can use the ACTION PLAN worksheet to work through what steps you can take to solve these worries.
Catastrophic thinking is unhelpful. If you are someone who focuses on the worst case scenario, chances are you are an EXPERT worrier. Your brain has a lot of experience catastrophizing, so you are good at it. The difficulty is that you are ignoring the rest of the possibilities for the same situation. It would be helpful to work through the other possibilities by asking yourself:
What is the best case scenario?
What is more likely to happen?
If the worst happens, how could I cope?
These are some of the best resources to help you avoid "What if?" and catastrophic thinking:
We are being asked to not touch our face, to wash our hands well, and to socially distance ourselves. All of these actions require us to be aware of our actions. This is the informal practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present and doing things with curiosity, awareness, and intention. We are being encouraged to wash our hands for 20 seconds and to do it thoroughly. Bringing our thoughts to the actions of hand washing is practicing mindfulness. We are being asked to not touch our face. On average, we touch our face 23 times per hour and this is something that we do frequently and on autopilot. By becoming more aware of touching our faces, we are engaging in an informal mindfulness practice.
Put together, being more present, engaged, and mindful are activities that that can strengthen our attention and increase our chances of remaining as healthy as possible.
Mindful meditation practice is like a super power. Studies reveal how mindfulness practices strengthen the connections in our brain that are the basis for resilience and well-being. Research has shown that 10 minutes of practice provides the health benefits and actually ‘rewires’ the brain away from the primitive monkey mind or reptilian mind that we all have. It helps to engage the attention network in our brain, so we can be more engaged in making decisions and taking action or not taking action (which is actually taking action).
Resources: Many companies are offering free resources. I would like to encourage you to try them, to see which ones are a good fit for you. Some people like a man’s voice or they prefer a woman’s voice. Others like to have music and nature sounds in the background and others prefer to have the sound of the voice only.
The app, Happify, has a short animated Youtube video describing what Mindfulness is. Link to video.
Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of mindful meditation, explains it in a short 5 minute video . Link to video.
This is a 10 minute guided meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn, an audio clip from his CD series. Link to video.
Coming to terms with feeling uncomfortable when meditating (4 minutes) with Jon Kabat Zinn . Link to video.
calm.com, Headspace, Insight timer