5 Ways To Deal With Negative Thinking

negative thoughts

My Story

When I was accepted into CRNA school, I was ecstatic but I also knew it was going to be a huge undertaking. It would require so many things falling into place, and just one thing could derail it. But I was determined to figure it out.

Gaining acceptance required me to move 1000 miles away to Maine along with my family and dog. So we had to find a place to stay well in advance, research schools for the girls and plan how we were going to move all our belongings from SC to Maine. 

I remember flying up to Maine with my kids the day after my son graduated high school. Keep in mind my program started a couple of weeks before my kids finished school. So I had to fly back home for his graduation. Anyway, my husband and our dog, Max, would drive the U-Haul up over the course of a few days. I felt like we had a solid plan.

Me and the kids stayed in a hotel for a few days since our apartment wasn’t ready yet. I felt like the worst mom ever. I truly believed I was selfish for going after my dreams. After a couple of days our apartment was ready but my husband left later than expected therefore we had no belongings. We could no longer afford to stay in the hotel, so I made the decision to move into an empty apartment. I remember going into survival mode. It was just me, the kids, and a foreign city. 

We went to the local store and bought four of everything- air mattresses, plates, cups, towels, etc. I also bought a cheap set of pots and pans and a few groceries. I later came back and bought a little TV so the kids would have something to watch while I was in class. We all piled into the living room where we would be for about 6 days. Again, I felt like the worst parent ever.

Then months later I apologized to my son, 18 years old at the time and headed to Liberty University, and expressed to him how sorry I was about that situation. He looked confused and asked what I was sorry for. He would go on to say “mom that was so much fun, we spent time with each other, played UNO and I got into watching General Hospital”. Wow! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For months this negative thinking had brought me to question my true purpose- to be a CRNA.

What is negative thinking?

Negative thinking is a pattern of thinking the worst possible outcome instead of focusing on the positives. It is human nature to experience negative thoughts, but when these thoughts become repetitive they can lead to a great deal of stress, depression, and anxiety. Eventually you begin to experience past regret, feel unworthy, along with an exacerbation of sadness.

Have you ever struggled with negative thinking or distorted thinking? If so, here are 5 ways to deal with them.

Recognize thought distortions

The first step in overcoming negative thoughts is to first recognize them. The next time you experience a bad thought, pause and recognize it for what it is. Leave it be and focus on the present task at hand. If that doesn’t work start recalling or reminding yourself of everything you have accomplished thus far.

Ask probing questions

Now is the time to stand up for yourself and your mental health. Yes, challenge these negative thoughts by asking yourself a few questions.

  • Do these feelings make sense?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • Could you have done anything different?
  • Have I jumped to conclusions?

When you find yourself spiraling into a state of negative thinking, ask yourself these hard questions to get to the root cause so you can move on. Each question should lead you to look at your situation and emotions more objectively.

Focus on your strengths

People who focus on things in which they are good at or enjoy doing have reported significantly less stress. They tend to be happier, report decreased depression and overall good mental health. In my case, I should have focused on my inner strength which allowed me to figure things out during a difficult situation. Instead of focusing on the negative, dig deep and recognize you possess way more strengths. 

Read: Managing Stress During Your CRNA Journey And Beyond

Stop jumping to conclusions

The next time you rush to judgement, or in my case presume what others think, remember this a common form of negative thinking. Which is basically mindreading. You’ve determined that you know what others feel or think about you even if they never said it to you. 

We are all guilty of jumping to conclusions at times. I know I have been guilty of this. But this can cause problems in relationships and can also be harmful to your own mental health. Instead of thinking the worst, allow yourself to see the whole picture and not jump to the worst outcome. Which leads me to the next tip. 

Share your feelings with others

Prior to talking to my son about what I had been feeling, I was certain my kids hated me and I was a terrible parent. You’ll never know what others think unless you ask them. This falls in line with having clear evidence. It also feels good to get things off your chest. Why torture yourself in negative thinking, instead have an honest and healthy conversation.

Putting it together

There is no one more critical of you than yourself. For whatever reason we tend to focus on that one negative thing or the things that have gone wrong. But I challenge you to think about all the things you did great or which went as planned. Ditch those negative thoughts and continue on with your journey!

Also, pay attention to subtle life lessons- you will learn so much about yourself on your CRNA journey. Realize you have the drive and inner strength to accomplish your goals. And the best part is your kids and others are watching it all through their lens. What you are accomplishing is huge and they will either thank you or follow your lead one day. 

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