Greetings! I’m not sure exactly how to introduce myself here, but my name is Megan, and I am a friend of Erica’s. She asked me if I’d write something “related to mental health” for this month as a guest post, and I agreed because mental health is such an important topic, especially in my life. When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression, and an anxiety diagnosis was added on during my adulthood. I’m very open about my mental health history, which (I suspect) is probably why Erica was comfortable asking me to pick a topic to write about.
As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, one of the things I struggle with the most is fighting against negative thoughts. Some of these thoughts are specific ideas I go back to time and again when I am feeling down about myself, and some are intrusive thoughts that will pop up in my head when I am dealing with a particularly difficult situation. Either way, both types of negative thoughts start a spiral where my mood just drops down significantly. Once that happens, it can be hard to lift myself back up again.
My family occasionally sees a family counselor to work on creating a healthy dynamic at home, and during a recent session we spoke about some ways to combat these types of thoughts. I was actually a bit reluctant to talk about it at first. It seems like for years I’ve been inundated with “think positive” messages from all over, from the media, to my friends, to my doctors. And all it seemed to do was put pressure on me. I even developed a new recurrent negative thought of maybe I’m just a negative, toxic person because I couldn’t stop negative thoughts from popping up.
Before our family counselor began sharing any exercises with us though, she emphasized to us that it’s important we know negative thoughts are perfectly normal. Hearing this was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders! I’d been berating myself for so long for having so many negative thoughts, but maybe I could let go of some of that judgment towards myself.
One of the ways she showed us how to combat negative thoughts is to 1) acknowledge the thought, and 2) immediately replace it with something that we know to be true and good. I’ll give some examples below:
“I hate my life!” —–> “I don’t hate my life. I’m struggling with this situation, but I know what to do and I will get through this.”
“I’m so dumb.” —–> “I’m not dumb. I feel a little silly for the mistake I made, but I’m capable of so many things and I’ll continue to do my best.”
Sometimes therapy exercises can feel a little awkward, but she had us come up with some typical thoughts that pop up, and we practiced rewriting those. And then we gauged how we felt after reading each sentence, both the negative and then the changed one.
For me, now that I’ve had some time to practice this in my real life for several weeks, I’ve found changing my thoughts to be an empowering experience. Negative thoughts may come, but they don’t have to control me. If you find that you struggle with this type of thinking, I encourage you to perhaps try this exercise for yourself and see if you feel the same way.
Thanks for reading my small contribution to Erica’s blog! And a big thanks to Erica for asking me to share.
Megan is a military spouse and stay-at-home parent to her two daughters, Heidi and Thea. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Wright State University (Go Raiders!). She has lived in Abilene, TX for the last 4.5 years, and she enjoys traveling across the world to get new stamps in her passport with her family. She is also an extrovert at heart and loves coffee dates, window shopping, and game nights with friends.