Imagine this scenario:
When you were younger (or maybe now), you went through a real tough breakup with your significant other of a long time. The breakup felt so overwhelming and hurtful that you find it difficult to be vulnerable and trusting of others now. You promised yourself then that you would not get another broken heart and have done everything in your power since to avoid it.
I shouldn’t show my emotions; I am too much; she’ll cheat on me; he will breakup with me eventually; nobody could love me.
These thoughts occur quickly, and without conscious control, such that they can degrade our mental well-being. We call these guys “ANTs” (Automatic Negative Thoughts).
Here are some different ways to help identify and stop ANTs from creeping in:
1. Look for patterns and emerging themes.
2. Pay attention to situations that may heighten a shift in emotion.
3. Write down and collect evidence (in your phone or pocket-book) for/against the ANTs.
4. Challenge the ANTs.
5. Ask questions:
- Is there another way to look at this?
- What could I do to cope if my thoughts are true?
- How could I change my understanding after looking at all the evidence?
5. Replace NTs with new rational thoughts:
- “I have a good sense of humor.”
- “I enjoy a challenge.”
- “I am respected by my peers.”
- “No matter what happens, I know I will make it.”
- “I feel really good today.”
Challenging the ANTs takes away their power and gives it back to you. Reach out for support, seek professional help if you can, work on accurate thinking (don’t confuse this with “positive thinking”), and crush these guys. You have the power to choose your thoughts. Believe in yourself and remember you are not alone.