As a therapist, one of my goals while working with a client is to aid in the development of coping skills. This may include journaling, deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, physical activity, and/or the fostering of spirituality. Anyone can learn an array of coping skills and apply them in an effort to improve their lives, but if someone is driven by a strong negative outlook, this may interfere with their ability to make progress. One of my clients recently expressed that she believed her anxiety was bigger than her. If you trust that the issue that brought you into therapy is more powerful than you, it may seem impossible to make progress. However, it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

First, you must identify what your core belief is. Is it positive, or is it negative? Do you find yourself identifying with self-limiting concepts? i.e. I am not worthy. I am not important. I don’t matter. I can’t trust my judgment. Begin identifying how your beliefs interfere with your functioning. Pay attention to the narrator in your mind and listen to what they are telling you. Often times, we are so used to listening that we do not recognize exactly what it is we are listening to. There is a direct link between your thoughts and your feelings, so if you are feeling distressed, it’s a good idea to tune into what your tape is playing. It is also important to remember—thoughts are not facts. If you think something, that does not mean that it is true. We are not our thoughts.

Once you are able to hear some of the negative messages replaying in your mind, you can start challenging those thoughts. If you believe that you are not good enough, what is the evidence to support the opposite (e.g. You are good enough.)? Consider the positive feedback your boss gave you at work or the compliment you received from your partner about a meal you cooked. It is easy to focus on the negative and what is going wrong, but it takes focus and practice to shift this mindset.

In the evenings, write down three things that you are grateful for that occurred during the day. Gratitude is an excellent way to combat negative thoughts. The negative beliefs that we have adapted throughout our lives steal our joy and hold us back from our true potential—however, they are not a death sentence. An old dog can learn new tricks; they just have to be taught.

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