Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to support anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
No doubt we can all relate to experiencing negative thoughts that are difficult to switch off.
I know this is true for myself and often results in being fixated on them whilst they swirl around in my mind. This leaves me feeling emotionally drained and, more often than not, sleep deprived as I struggle to switch off.
These pesky thoughts are known as Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) and will usually stem from an uncomfortable and/or distressing event.
The event provokes a range of negative emotions such as, but not limited to, anxiety, fear, or depression which are notoriously difficult to shut down.
However, ANTS can be disrupted through recognising and challenging them as they occur. This allows you to reframe your thinking style to shift it to a more positive focus.
Years ago I found this great resource on Challenging Negative Thoughts, it has been a blessing and I’ve adapted it to fit my needs.
So now by the time I’m asking myself the last question, I am no longer anxious and it allows me to re-evaluate & refocus opposed to fuelling & feeding my anxiety – which is driven by my irrational fears opposed to a reality based threat.
In this article, I thought we could explore this further together through an exercise outlined below whereby I’ve use my adapted questions from “Challenging Negative Thoughts Worksheet”
You can access original worksheet by clicking link which will take you to the Therapist Aid Website.
First step is identification.
The moment you are aware your mind is fixating or overthinking, jot that thought down as it will provide you a point of reference.
The next step is unpacking & challenging the thought to allow for a positive shit in thought process.
I thought we could with the following negative thought:
“I am going to fail miserably at my presentation, I’m useless & I’ll be shame in front of colleagues!”
I ask myself the following questions to determine if this is a rational or irrational thought:
What evidence do I have to support that this is likely to occur?
None. Other than I am feeling anxious about my presentation, which always happens!
I’ve not stuffed up any past presentations even when I’m feeling nervous at the time. Actually, I’ve managed to get through it and my colleagues haven’t mocked me or told me I did a bad job.
If I told a friend that, “I was going to fail miserably at my presentation, was useless & I’d be shame in front of my colleagues”, what advice would they give me?
Kym, you do this every time before you present & each time you nail it.
It’s just anxiety and that passes. You always rise to the challenge & your anxiety disappears. You are overthinking, you got this!
What advice would you give a friend, if they told you they were feeling this way?
I’d likely tell them, don’t be silly you are so skilled & everyone always raves about your presentations, its just a feeling, acknowledge it but then let it go.
Distract your mind beforehand, stop overthinking it or you will elevate your anxiety. Anxiety is just a feeling, it will pass and you will be fine.
We give others great advice, so it helps you realise that you hold this knowledge. This question just gets you to view the problem from another angle & allows you to then apply this advice to yourself.
Will this feeling matter to me in a week or a year from now?
No, so then why am I wasting my time feeding it!
This is a simple yet effective way to overcome negative automatic thoughts but know that at times some thoughts can be challenging to shift.
If this occurs please seek help, as a mental health professional is able to provide you with tools that will best suit your needs whilst assisting you to change your thinking style.
If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Kym Marsden
Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.