Negative thoughts are like quicksand. They drag us down. The harder we fight them, the stronger they pull.
Imagine you disagree with your boss. You get mad and slam a door. Then it's over. If you're like many others, your brain doesn't like to sit quietly in the aftermath of a fight, so it starts thrashing, sucking us downward in quicksand: Will I get fired? Can I find another job? Will I have to move? Will I end up in Mom's basement? The more upset and anxious we get, the more recovery eludes us.
Here's that tree branch to help you get out: tolerate the negative feeling, and focus on the present versus the imagined future. A few minutes of tolerating negative feelings for what they are, of sitting with them and allowing them to just "be," allows them to be processed and move on. Complicating them by frantic creation of hypothetical, worst-case worries sinks us too deep to get out. One inch deep in upset about work hours -- you can tread carefully and get out. Five feet down with visions of unemployment checks, you better pray for a passerby with a strong rope.
Try this: take a deep breath and visualize the words "I feel upset" floating out to sea to where you can't see them anymore. Do this for 2-3 minutes. If your brain starts to sink deeper with other negative thoughts, calmly bring it back to the image of those words floating over the horizon. Continue breathing slowly and deeply. Stay in the present.
Next, soothe yourself for feeling rotten- as you would comfort a young child. Tell yourself how yucky it feels to feel devalued at work; how sorry you feel for yourself ; how you know it will turn out okay and that you can deal with it. Be compassionate and loving with yourself. Keep breathing deeply.
Uncomplicated by a million other worries, we can cope with whatever's threatening to pull us down, our family, our work, anything. Accepting and sitting quietly with negative thoughts--resisting the urge to thrash and make it worse -- keeps us from sinking, reduces stress, and enables us to resolve situations for what they are.
Is your brain sucking you under? Book an appointment today and get out of the quicksand. Rescue rope provided.
Debbie Granick is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Therapist in Raleigh providing both counseling and medication to reduce anxiety and depression and improve mental health. She is available to speak about wellness to groups of all sizes.