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Challenging unhelpful thoughts

Dr. Ashley Legate, Psychologist with the Child and Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital

It’s really normal to have unhelpful thoughts when we’re in a really stressful situation, like the one we’re all currently in.

Label your thoughts

One way to manage would be to label your thoughts.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. You could label your thoughts as “unhelpful”, or that they are “thoughts and not facts” – things like that.

Get curious

A second way would be to get curious about your thoughts.

For example, if you’re having the thought, “I can’t handle this,” you might ask some curious questions like, “Are there situations similar to this one where I’ve actually been able to handle it and manage it?” or “Are there moments during this stressful time that I actually have been able to cope or manage and I’ve kind of forgotten about them or haven’t noticed?”

Swipe them away

A third way would be to “unstick” those unhelpful thoughts.

We can do this by picturing our thoughts as ads coming up on our phone or our computer and picturing ourselves swiping them away. We can turn our unhelpful thoughts into silly voices and voice changing apps, or we can turn them into silly songs.

Practice self-compassion

The fourth and final way of managing difficult thoughts would be through something called self-compassion.

Through self-compassion, we would take a thought such as, “Others have it much worse than me. I have no right to complain,” and treat ourselves like we would one of our nearest and dearest friends. So we would say to ourselves, “Even though other people are suffering, I have permission to suffer too. Things are really difficult right now.”

If any of those examples were helpful for you, please visit websites that explain cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, or self-compassion therapy.