Redirecting Negative Thinking – 10 Questions to Challenge Your Inner Negative Nancy

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY!!! The fight of the year! Negative Nancy vs Logical Linda!!!

You’ve been there, we’ve all been there, faced with a situation that truly could go any which way yet our brain immediately imagines the worst and off we go into the depths of despair. Now, how often has this situation ended up in that worst case scenario you imagined then brooded on for hours, maybe even days? Very rarely.

I know I’m guilty of letting my internal Negative Nancy take the wheel while Logical Linda and Positive Paula are pushed to the backseat (sometimes even locked in the trunk, that Nancy can be wicked). These negative thought patterns usually happen when a supervisor asks to speak with me (always at a LATER time. . . why???) or my partner is constantly texting someone else while we’re together one afternoon (it HAS to be another woman, it simply can’t be that they’re coordinating something with their family), or even when someone just compliments my new hair color (do they REALLY like it black, did they HATE it brown, or what are they really after here?). My Negative Nancy’s current internal monologue: I won’t be able to find another job, I’m under-qualified for the jobs I really want, over-qualified for the ones that I can get just to pay my mortgage, I won’t be able to “sell” myself as a valuable employee, SWEET BABY MOSES I WILL BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER!!!

It’s toxic. It’s pointless. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest.

Let’s not dwell on that though (you shush it, Nancy, I’m busy channeling the good vibes right now), let’s get to work changing our mindset so we can deal with these thoughts productively. The next time you find yourself spiraling into a negative thought pattern try asking yourself these 10 questions to redirect your inner Negative Nancy and let logic (maybe even positivity!) have a go at the wheel.

 

10 Questions to Challenge Your Inner Negative Nancy

1. What am I saying to myself?

How am I evaluating the current situation? What story am I telling myself? Am I seeing it from all sides?

2.What unhelpful behaviors am I engaging in?

Recognize the actual behaviors. Are you doubting yourself, expressing low self esteem, worrying, acting differently in your personal relationships as a result of these thoughts?

3. What is the evidence FOR my evaluation?

Be sure to consider if the evidence is an actual fact, or opinion? If you’re making this a written exercise draw out two columns, one for the FOR and one for the AGAINST. Only include facts if you can. If you’re like me, however, I feel better after writing EVERYTHING out so be sure if you write out opinions you clearly mark them as such. You might even end up with a nice visual of 10 opinions in this column to 2 facts. . .

4. What is the evidence AGAINST my evaluation?

Just like your “Evidence For” column, be sure differentiate between facts and opinions. Don’t favor your Negative Nancy just because she’s your loudest voice right now, try to give Logical Linda some room to talk.

5. How much do I believe my evaluation of the situation (0-100%)?

Spend some time and really think about this one and assign a hard number. If you think you’re getting fired, what is the exact percentage of that likelihood? How did you come up with it? Do you think your beau is being unfaithful? Is that 75% likely or 95% likely? What makes the 20 point difference? Write it out in a sentence. If writing out “I am 95% certain that my partner is cheating” seems like a ridiculous thing to do, perhaps you aren’t 95% certain that thought is valid.

World Blood Donor Day 2017

6. How is it helpful for me to think this way?

What is your current thought process gaining you? Where is it getting you? How is it helping the situation?

7. How else could I view the situation? What other perspectives are there?

Think of all the different ways that you could interpret what’s going on. The boss wants to talk this afternoon. . . Maybe you’re getting a raise, you’re getting fired, the company is merging, you’re being given the opportunity to move up, the boss just wants to check in with you, you’re being given more responsibilities, the boss is leaving the company, you’re being reprimanded for never making more coffee, you’re hard work is being acknowledged. . . The list could go on. Whatever your situation, I’m guessing your list could be infinitely creative as well. Think about it and let your mind wander to possibilities on all sides of the + / – scale.

8. What advice would I give to a friend in the same situation?

This one is my favorite. I am constantly giving people advice, even when they don’t ask for it. So if my best friend came to me and said she thought her husband was cheating because he was texting a lot, or spending time away, I know a MILLION potential reasons why that might be because I know them both and I know her husband’s a good guy and she’s likely having a moment of doubt for an underlying reason. Now, if I was doubting my partner, wouldn’t it be easy to do the same after thinking like that? It’s easy to see the positive paths in other peoples’ lives when ours can be cloudy. Practice getting outside of your own head for a minute then reflect that back on your own thoughts.

9. What are healthier thoughts/behaviors I can respond with?

Be honest. Call yourself out on the negative thought patterns and then “treat yo self” by replacing those with healthier thought patterns. If you’ve been acting out because of perceived slights against you, think about how you can rectify that and move on with healthier behaviors. If the situation is with someone you’re close with, talk to them and bring them in to the solution stage for helpful input if you’re comfortable with it.

10. A healthier evaluation of the situation is:

And now we bring it full circle. Considering the previous 9 questions, what is a healthier thought pattern to follow in this situation? What is the most probable reality of the situation and how best should you react to it? Even if the “most probably reality” is a perceived negative one, like a massive company-wide lay off that’s been looming for months, the best reaction is probably not to fret over it for weeks and lose focus at work. Think and respond with a healthy dose of logic and positivity – if you’re facing a potential lay off you can clean up your resume, keep up the good work on the clock (having those references is important!), save up some money, and/or consider possible new career moves. Don’t just spend your time worrying, drinking, showing up late to work, neglecting to prepare for the worst case scenario – that will bite you in the butt.

Asking yourself these 10 questions when under the duress of a stressful situation can seem like a big ask, but if you practice and have patience with yourself you’ll find it gets easier and you can eventually learn to replace your instinctively negative thought patterns with more constructive ones. I’m not saying Positive Paula is going to take over and make you some giant ball of sunshine or anything, I’m just saying that training yourself to take the time to reflect is an invaluable skill that will save your (and probably your loved ones’) sanity!

 

*The infographic has my new (and not even remotely developed) website listed instead of this one. Jessiedoeslife will move into a more personal blog and Offbeat Endeavors will be my new foray into coaching! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Farewell, 2017, you were. . . you just were. (part II)

wishing you a very

Where did I leave off? Ahh yes. . . August. . . (part I)

August. . .
Nothing terribly exciting happened in August. I kept up with physical and mental health therapy. Thanks to the mental health therapy I was better able to navigate the hiccups of early relationships – or at least, the hiccups I seem to have (seem to create, maybe?). Therapy has given me a lot of room to think in my head – in the good way. I’ve always thought too much but now therapy has helped me pause and challenge those thought patterns. Though I just recently realized I could use some more work with negative thought patterns. . . I should look into that when I get health insurance again.

September. . .
September was more of the same with a work trip thrown in. We had corporate training where I expressed my fair share of common sense and equality-promoting ideas which didn’t seem to jive well. I had gotten to the point of being fed up with the injustices I was seeing across the company and couldn’t really bite my tongue any more.

October. . .
One of my fellowship fellows somehow managed to get a comped ticket to a local women’s conference and the caliber of the speakers was PHENOMENAL. It was an energizing experience and helped boost me back up to previous levels of excitement about my creative goals. I had been wavering since the end of the fellowship in June and being surrounded by these women was SO GOOD. The boo and I threw a Halloween party at my house! We had to postpone it from one weekend to another, which I think threw people off, so attendance was kind of low (only one of his friends showed up, and only a handful of mine) but we decorated the house TO THE NINES. It was SO GOOD. I’m super excited for next year’s party! Also, the boo said “I love you” – yay to that! We took a composting class together and though I haven’t set it all up yet, I’m excited to eventually get a little garden out back.

November. . .
Turkey day!!!! I hosted Thanksgiving at my house for the first time. The boo, my ma, and my brother all spent the day together. It was quite nice. I went to the boo’s Thanksgiving as well, his family did it on the weekend after. So I got to meet his family! It was fun, I like them.

December. . .
And now to today, the last day of December. I have to admit, I have a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth about December. Glass is half full: I’m travelling with the boo for New Years, currently beside a fireplace (because it’s freezing here and we’ve got Florida blood) and writing on my blog because I want to actually do something for myself this upcoming year as a potential career. I did 3 mind mapping sessions with facebook friends (so two I don’t really know at all, one I do know pretty well) to help them identify and plan out goals for the new year. It was a lot of fun – in a challenging and rewarding way. I gave them all homework and will be following up in two weeks. I’ve been painting a lot more and am working on another website to cater to selling to corporate clients (you can check out my attempt at a stop gap measure here!). Glass is half empty: I was “laid off” from the company and job I had been with for just a month shy of 5 years so I’m existing off of my paltry savings (remember when I bought a house 7 months ago, that was a lot of money down) and a meager “reemployment” contribution from the government. I interviewed with a dream job and am waiting to find out if I made it to round two of interviews. I’m applying left and right to other jobs – both potentially dream jobs and the “holy crap I have to pay a mortgage so I’ll take whatever I can get” jobs. This went down on the 8th so it’s been a shit-tastically tainted Christmas (thanks, bossman) but I’m hoping the new year will wash away bad vibes and I can start accumulating the good ones again. Fingers crossed!!! I’m terrified of not having health insurance, I’m trying to get over being mad about the “lay off”, I’m working on keeping my stress levels low about being unemployed, but I’m very grateful for my tribe – my family, friends, and boo – they’re all cheering me on and offering to help. I’m excited about the prospects of bigger and better things – even things like becoming a life coach or artist – OR BOTH!!! But that excitement is punctuated with moments of panic and depression – so, ya know, one day at a time.

2018 summary. . . bought a house, got a good boo, lost my job. Weeeeee!!!!!!!! Oh! I forgot that an old friend and I joined forces to challenge each other in losing weight – and we did really well for a while. I lost 15 pounds and looked and felt SO GOOD. But then, not so much. So I’m back up like 9 pounds but I know I can get to where I was before, and she does too, so yeah, we’re gonna be two more of those “New Years weight loss” people. But we did a trial run this last year!

If these wrap up posts sound a little robotic it’s likely because I feel a little robotic at the keyboard. I haven’t had the drive to write, to publish my feelings, in a very long time (obvs!) but part of having a blog and wanting to get better at writing is JUST WRITING – even when you think it’s crap or you’re dragging your feet to do it. If you read all of this, thank you for sticking with me. I’m hoping this year will bring more dynamic posts with life coaching and mental health posts meant to help the reader as much as they help me. I can’t tell you how good it felt when I got texts from the women I mind mapped with saying that I had helped them tremendously and was genuinely good at it (they’re my guinea pigs so I told them to give me honest feedback on how I do, the worksheets and homework I give them, and their experience overall). I love love love enabling, encouraging, and empowering others to be their best, happiest self.

I hope y’all have a great New Years Eve!!!!! 2018 should be. . . . (you fill in the blank with what YOU want it to be!). . . .

Farewell, 2017, you were. . . you just were. (part I)

Dear 2017. . .

Where do I even start with you?

You brought us number 45 which has been a dark circus of epic proportions.

wishing you a very

January. . .
I started mental health therapy because I wanted to try to start dating again and I had some baggage I needed to work through. I was also doing physical therapy after months of chiropractic care for a car accident in 2016 wasn’t helping. Physical therapy helped throughout the year but holy crap my back and neck will never be the same and realizing that SUCKS. I was looking to buy a house because my landlord sold my apartments at the end of 2016 and that woke me up then made me dream of owning my own place. I started the search – which was fun. . . at first. I went to the Women’s March in DC! It was a last minute opportunity so I hopped on a bus with a bunch of (admittedly predominantly white) women and sat for hours on end on a bus from Florida to the capitol to help tell the world to fuck off if they think we’re cool with a locker room talking pussy-grabber being the figure head of our country. It felt pretty good. I started a six month fellowship for young progressives – taking up one weekend of each month from January to June of 2017. Each weekend would teach me more about how to help change the world through leadership and policy change – while connecting me with my fellowship class (they are AMAZING people) and local leaders who have helped me SO MUCH this year. January was a weekend of opening up to 24 of my peers more than I’d opened up even to ex’s – within a 48 hour period. It was fantastic. It reignited my passion to launch an art studio/community space/creative incubator/store front for local creators. I saw Lala Land, which ok, yes, it’s like the most basic movie ever but I freaking love it. I admit it. I watched it a bunch (I had free movie coupons!) and now I own it on DVD. Judge away, you judgers!

February. . .
I had the weirdest encounter with my neighbors across the way where I intervened on a boyfriend treating a girlfriend super shitty while she was having a panic attack. I ended up on the floor of their apartment with her, telling him what to do (and not do) and talking to her parents on the phone to get them to come over. So surreal. I also ended up at a surrealist art exhibit later that day so ya know, fitting. I started going to local activism events for Black Lives Matter and local Muslim mosques thanks to my fellowship fellows. I signed papers on a house that fell through – this would be a recurring thing.

March. . .
I grew impatient with the house buying because something would come up then quickly fall through. I had been doing well in therapy and then was waiting on a house to go through so I could start dating but then. . . I got bored one night and signed up on some apps and then started swiping and one thing led to another and I just kind of started dating. Dating on apps is kind of terrible. Thanks to my fellowship I was meeting more helpful connections in my community and getting even more traction with my studio plotting.

April. . .
I started closing on the house of my dreams in the neighborhood I wanted and within my price range!!!! Then it dragged on. . . and on. . . and closing dates changed. . . and changed. . . and changed. . . I packed and lived in a half-packed apartment unsure of where I’d be living from day to day. I started going on actual real life dates! With real life people! In fact, I went on like 4 dates in one week! With 4 different people!!! GO ME! I ended up going on a date that would lead to a relationship that I’m still in today (also, go me!). I attended a women’s conference in Florida with my ma – it was pretty alright.

May. . .
After I was supposed to close on the 5th on my very own 1925 bungalow version of Barbie’s dream house. . . that day came and went. . . AGAIN. It wouldn’t be until the 17th that I would sign my life away and get the keys to my FREAKING HOUSE. MY HOUSE. I LIVE IN A HOUSE NOW WHERE I PAY A MORTGAGE AND NOT RENT. I also pay every time the AC craps out, so ya know, there’s that. I continued going to therapy weekly. I was dating a couple guys when a moment of “you’re not a ‘fuck yes’, are you?” with the current boo ended in me saying “If I’m not a fuck yes for you, you’re a no for me” and that was over – for almost a week. Then he texted and we talked and I cut things off with the other guys and now, he and I are doing well! *swoon!* Oh, and in May there was a super fun company picnic that I had the super fun task of planning and running and I ended up crying and having to call the cops because the people who took over the pavilion I reserved at a park wouldn’t leave. SUPER FUN.

June. . .
I learned that the company I had been working for was merging our Florida operations in July. That was stressful news but I figured I had been there longer than the other admin staff in my office so I’d be ok. I turned 33! Apparently that’s your “Jesus year” – you know, when he did all of his miracles and helping people and stuff. I don’t know. I “graduated” my fellowship program! I didn’t FINISH my business plan but I put together a good presentation and felt pretty good about it. I still don’t technically have a plan but I’m a work in progress. I’m ok with that.

July. . .
The month started off with my housewarming party. It was actually a lot of fun – I had stressed a lot about it leading up (surprise!). I pressured myself to have everything ready – which it definitely was NOT. I got a lot done and it looked good – including a PILLOW FORT ROOM. No lie. I’m a 33 year homeowner with a pillow fort room. My fellowship fellows showed up en masse as well as my new boo, AND! My mom and my brother were there! It was a bit awkward at first to have all of my groups collide but it ended up perfectly alright. Phew! I got to attend a political campaign bootcamp – it was an intense weekend-long shebang and I survived.

 

And that wraps up the part I of my not-really-epic saga of 2017. I’m hoping 2018 brings more friendships, successes, the kind of failures I can learn from, love, learning, and GOOD TIMES. And yeah, a dash of world domination would be rad too.