Restructuring Your Holidays (and Your Mind!)

While the holidays can certainly be stress-filled, it is often our thoughts that contribute most to our negative emotions.  This holiday, give yourself the gift of change and restructure your thought process to prevent depression and stress.

Avoid “Should” Thinking: This thinking causes one to act out of guilt and obligation which can Christmas1lead to depression, stress, and frustration.

“I should feel good and happy “or “I should give or receive the perfect gift” or “I should work out every day after the holidays”.

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking: This is thinking in terms of black or white or in extremes.

“I will probably eat too much at the holiday meal so there is no point in trying to eat healthy during the rest of my holiday break.”

Avoid “Specific to General” Thinking: This can lead to depression and anger.

“My mother will get drunk and Christmas will be ruined!”

Magnification (or Catastrophizing): This type of thinking exaggerates negative details of an event and overemphasizes your own imperfections and fears, making things into a much bigger deal than they actually are.

“No one loves me and I am never going to have a happy holiday!”

Negative thoughts (cognitions) such as the examples above produce physiological reactions in our body such as increased blood pressure and negative emotions such as anger.  These in turn may lead to regrettable behavior, stress, and depression. Our thoughts are connected to our feelings which are related to our behaviors.

Thoughts———-Feelings———-Behaviors

The Good News

We can control our thoughts.  We can restructure our thinking and change negative patterns. All of the therapists at Crossroads Counseling Center are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Your therapist will help you in a step-by-step process identify, evaluate, and replace your thoughts.  However, there are some things you can do on your own.

1. Calm Yourself

At the heat of the moment, focus on your breath, count in your head, and/or remove yourself from the situation that is upsetting you.  For long term, practice yoga, meditation and/or mindfulness.  All of these practices can help you to become more aware of your emotions and create more peace.

2. Challenge Your Thoughts:

Replacing your overly negative thoughts with more realistic statements can inspire you to take positive action, which is the key to creating the kind of life you want to live.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is this thought true and accurate?

Is this thought helpful in the long term or is it distressing?

What would you say to your best friend in this situation?

In what ways would your life change if you stopped believing in your negative thoughts?

3. Decastrophize:

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I survived this or something similar like this before?

What is the worst thing that could happen?  How likely is it that it will happen?

 4. Engage in problem solving (a therapist can be helpful with this exercise):

  1. Identify challenges
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Identify the best solution
  4. Practice the solution (role-play)
  5. Implement the solution
  6. Evaluate the solution

Identify your Core Values:

We tend to act out on our moods not our values.  If you become stressed or depressed this holiday season, remind yourself of your values of being a loving and caring person to help you behave from your values and not from your moods.

Crossroads Counseling Center Wishes You a Joyous Holiday Season!

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Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. 
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. 
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. 
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. 
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

— Chinese proverb

References:

Holland, Emily “Retrain Your Brain: How To Reverse Negative Thinking Patterns” 2018

https://chopra.com/articles/retrain-your-brain-how-to-reverse-negative-thinking-patterns

Mulder, Jennifer ”The Beginner’s Guide to Changing Negative Thoughts” 2018

https://thehealthsessions.com/changing-negative-thoughts/