I now officially won’t get some of the presents to relatives in time because I didn’t make it to the post office last week. A good chunk of my Christmas cards are still sitting at my desk waiting for me to write in them, address them, and send them to their destination. Last night’s Winter Solstice Party had some snags, and I wasn’t the best hostess that I could have been. We didn’t wake up in time to make it to Sunday School or our daughter’s last practice before the Christmas play. I could really go on and on.
Is it ever that way with you? It is so easy to focus on the things that we don’t do “right”, “well”, or “perfectly” and that is where we dwell. Repeatedly thinking about the same situation over and over again is called ruminating. I describe ruminating to my clients like rocking in a rocking chair—you are doing a lot of work but you are going no where. It is neither helpful or healthy.
Letting go of those negative thoughts and disappointments is harder than you might think, though. You can’t just tell someone to “Let it go” and for them to do so. Letting go is an active process. In cognitive behavioral therapy, it is called “thought stopping”. Here are some ideas and tips to help:
- Like the cartoon Tom and Jerry, sometimes our thought process is like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. When the negative thoughts come up, try and focus on the positive, what the angel would tell you about the situation.
- Get a distraction. Often focusing on the negative is most easy to do when we have down time. This is why many people stay up worrying at night. Some people find music or ambient noise helpful. During the day, turn to one of your hobbies or favorite activities for a distraction.
- Tell yourself “STOP IT!”. By giving yourself a little pep talk and telling yourself that it isn’t helpful to dwell on the negative, you are more likely to turn your focus elsewhere.
- Ask yourself some questions. These are my favorites: “What would my future self tell me about this situation?” (Most always the answer is that it isn’t really that big of a deal). “What will it matter in a month, year?” “What can I learn from this experience?” “What was good about [fill in the blank]?” “What did I do well?” “What would my best friend tell me about this situation?” “What would my Higher Power tell me about this situation?”
- Journal. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow. ;)