How to say “no” to negative self-talk

We all talk to ourselves, we have that little voice in our minds that tells us that we’re doing well, or that maybe we shouldn’t do something. Our self talk is important, it can help us regulate ourselves, and help us make decisions, it can also motivate us like a little cheerleader in our brains. However, our self-talk can be negative, too, and when the talking because negative and unhelpful, then problems start to arise. We become demotivated, disinterested, negative in things that we do.

So how to change those negative phrases into positive ones?

  1. This may sound repetitive – but practice mindfulness. Mindfulness may feel like it’s the practice of emptying our minds, it’s actually the practice of disciplining our minds. The goal isn’t to not have thoughts, but to learn how to let thoughts go – so that later on, we can let go of those thoughts that don’t serve us.
  2. Acknowledge what the negative talk is saying – This may sound counterintuitive. You’re telling me to change the negative self talk I have to acknowledge it first? Yes. The thought is there for a reason, so look at it, and then change it into a more motivating phrase. For example, the phrase “I’m so lazy I never give my homework on time” can be changed to “I tend to not prioritise my school work because I find it boring at times, but I can make the decision to focus more in that area”.
  3. Use your name – Instead of saying “I’m so bad at homework” say, “Maria, sometimes you get wrong answers, but sometimes you get right ones too. Let’s see how we can get more right ones”.
  4. Be your own cheerleader – create a motivating mantra, like “I can do it”, or “I’m awesome!” and repeat it to yourself over and over. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

Why should you psychologically distance?

No matter how positively you view the world, and how easy it is for you to shake off negative thoughts and emotions, it can still be tough sometimes to maintain a positive outlook and fight off those intrusive thoughts. Maybe you got some difficult news, and you’re still processing it, or maybe your boss upset you with his comments about your work – which you did as diligently as you could. Or maybe you have that voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough, and that any success you have is because others haven’t noticed yet how worthless you are.

But how do you stop these negative and unhelpful messages you tell yourself? Psychological distancing.

According to Ethan Kross, psychological distancing is the ability to reflect objectively on our circumstances, usually by taking a step back. This means looking at the issue from an outside perspective – such as from a friend’s perspective.

Self-talk which is repetitive does not get us very far – especially if we’re just ruminating on the same thing over and over, there’s a limit how advanced that conversation in your head can get. However, when speaking with others about the issue, and allowing them to formulate an opinion, means that we can hear what an outsider thinks about our situation or issue.

According to Dr Kross, this is how we stop obsessively thinking about something. We ruminate generally because we want to solve the issue, and the harder it is to solve, the more we ruminate. And the more we ruminate, the more our personal feelings get in the way, delaying any decisions even more. By speaking with others, and thus reaching a conclusion about the issue from these outside perspectives, means that the rumination can stop.

Now that you know you need to talk to someone, who do you talk to?

According to Dr Kross the best conversations have two parts to them: the first is the venting (or expressing) of emotions, but then the second part is the other person pushing you or encouraging you to broaden your perspective. So find the people who you feel safe with, who can push you to look at the issue from different angles, even if that angle is reflecting on why your boss was upset at you that day, and what you could have done better in your work task.

Goodnight… Sleep well…?

Sleep is an essential part of our lives. If we don’t sleep well, or we don’t get enough sleep, we can feel cranky, moody, or even start experiencing brain fog. There’s a lot of research about the negative effects of lack of sleep.

For some people, falling asleep and staying asleep, is even harder – these include people with ADHD, for example.

But what to do if you want to improve your sleep amount or sleep quality? This is where sleep hygiene comes into play.

  1. Try to avoid staying in bed if you’re not going to be sleeping. As much as possible keep the bed associated with sleeping. This means don’t eat in bed, and don’t just lie in bed watching things.
  2. If you have a routine of sleeping at 10pm during the weekdays and waking up at 6am, don’t change this routine because it’s a weekend. Your body doesn’t look at days the way we were brought up to – which means that your body doesn’t know when it’s a weekday or when it’s the weekend. Messing up the routine for the weekend will make the start of your work week a much harder one, at least sleep-wise.
  3. Don’t eat food or drink alcohol in the two hours before you sleep. Your body needs to digest, and in the case of alcohol, your body has a lot more work to do there, so making it do this while you sleep will give you a less restful night, and can even make hangovers worse the next morning.
  4. Use a blue-light filter on your screens, and make sure it’s on during the evening. This will allow your brain to start adapting to night time (and to help your brain be aware that it’s soon time to sleep).
  5. Make sure you are hydrated before you sleep.
  6. Try not to oversleep, and don’t take longer naps during the day, powernaps (15mns) are more than enough if you need to recharge.
  7. Some people may sleep better with soft soothing music in the background, while others need to be in total silence.

Simple Self-Care for the Busy Person

Potentially one of the most-used buzzwords of the past few years has been “self-care”, and while it is necessary, it has reached a point where at the drop of the hat we recommend “self-care” to our friends, family, loved ones, and clients… but do we really take the time to think about what self-care really means and what it could be? 

The person who works two jobs to make ends meet may not necessarily have the time to go for a long walk every day – not without sacrificing something else, such as rest. So in this blog, I want to explore short, and simple, forms of self-care which may (or may not) resonate with you as something you can include in your daily life. 

  1. Drink water… a lot of it. You need to drink around 2L of water daily, more in summer, and more if you exercise or sweat a lot during the day. Keep a bottle of water next to you, and every 20-30mns drink some of it, even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty. 
  2. Allow yourself to watch that funny video, yes, you don’t have to feel guilty for taking some time out of your day for a funny video or some other form of “time-waster”. 
  3. Look at the stars sometimes. If you’re outside at night, take a second and look up. Working from home at night, consider moving to the roof for some fresh air and look up as well every few minutes. 
  4. Working from home? Consider moving your office to a cafe for one day. You’re not constrained to stay inside one room. If coffee shops aren’t an option, but you have free public wifi or a lot of 3g, then move your office outside anyway. 
  5. Make yourself a warm drink – be it coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or hot water and lemon, and spend a minute just holding the mug and smelling the drink. Take this time before returning to your hectic duties.

The bottom line is, self-care should not feel like a chore or something else to tick off our to-do list… it should be something that makes us feel more present in the moment, and like we’re not running from one task to another, chasing an invisible thing. So if none of the above list make sense for you, think about this: what makes me feel present? 

What is hoarding?

Hoarding is considered to be the collection of items that do not seem useful or necessary to the general population. These can be collection items (ex. Collecting keychains, stamps, mugs etc), and they can also be everyday items, like empty tubes of toilet paper, and used paper. 

The behaviour can start at any point, but generally, it starts in adolescence and goes on into adulthood. A person who hoards would generally struggle to change the behaviour, as they would feel positive feelings when receiving the new items (ex. When buying or being gifted a keychain), and they may feel guilt when throwing an item away (like throwing away used paper because either the paper has feelings, or because of the thought that that paper may be needed later on). 

The main issue related to hoarding is that the lack of hygiene-related to having so many items can cause significant physical and mental health issues later on.

 

What can I do if I am hoarding? Or if someone I know is? 

The main form of treatment for hoarding behaviour is psychotherapy. The therapist would explore with the individual what makes throwing away items so difficult, in order to get to the root of the issue. 

Making the Therapy Room Queer-Friendly

When we speak about equality, and discrimination, sometimes we can focus only on things such as physical or verbal violence towards a minority, slurs, or not giving an opportunity to a minority purely because they are a minority. These are all valid, however, there are other, more subtle, forms of discrimination, which while may not be meant, can be an added stressor in the life of someone who is queer, or on the LGBTQAI spectrum (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, intersex).

Some examples of these subtle stressors include situations where a gay couple may feel uncomfortable to show signs of affection — such as holding hands — because they are the only gay couple in the room, or because people have already been giving them some looks which made them feel uncomfortable. Imagine being in a cafeteria, and there’s a particular plate of food in front of you. You really enjoy this dish, but for some reason, everyone in the cafeteria keeps looking at you, taking note of your every movement. This will probably result in you feeling too uncomfortable to eat this dish, no matter how much you love it. This is similar to what a gay couple experiences when they are out in public — be it at a romantic restaurant, or whilst on holiday — and people keep on staring at them.

Another subtle stressor is when relatives and loved ones completely overlook one partner. Despite being accepting and non-homophobic, it can happen that relatives, friends or loved ones, could completely overlook the partner. For example, despite the couple living together for numerous years, only one of them gets invited to a wedding, and the other partner is referred to as the “plus one”. While this may seem trivial, such instances can make the other person feel invisible or invalidated.

By being aware that such stressors exist, which usually do not exist in heterosexual couple relationships, we can start to make our therapy rooms more of a safe space for these couples. To do this, we need to be conscious of our language, and of our own expectations of this couple. If a queer couple attends sessions, saying that they feel like they have become roommates and not partners, some therapists may suggest more PDA, to encourage the couple to feel the way they felt when they were just starting out their relationship. Instead, therapists should see if any particular stressors might have contributed to this feeling of being roommates.

Overthinking – the silent barrier to action

Overthinking is when we keep on ruminating on something, generally causing us to go round in loops in our own minds. This can make us:

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  • Miss out on opportunities – by remaining in our minds, we risk taking too long to finally make the necessary decisions, causing us to miss out on opportunities we may want. 
  • Stuck in a loop – overthinking causes us to keep going round and round on a topic or situation in our minds, generally speaking, after some time we will just be going round in loops, with no new or fresh content being inputted. For example, if you had a fight with a friend, and you’re debating whether or not you should apologise, after some time of thinking about your past relationship with this friend, as well as what happened to cause the fight, there’s no new content. This can make us feel like we’re stuck in a loop. 
  • Create friction with those around you – when we ruminate on things, we may end up causing arguments or issues with those around us, without even intending to. For example, if you’re annoyed that your partner doesn’t pick up their socks, constantly thinking about it will not help the relationship – especially if you finally tell your partner that it’s bothering you when you’re already angry about the situation. 
  • Anxious – ruminating, and overthinking, can make us constantly stuck in our heads, which stops us from living in the present moment. In turn, we may end up teaching ourselves that we should always question every little step or every little thing said to us. This, in turn, can make us anxious. 
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If you feel that you may be overthinking, either sometimes or all the time, remember to:

  • Let yourself make mistakes …and look for opportunities for that. When you become used to making mistakes, and taking those mistakes into your stride, the fear of making mistakes will no longer affect you. 
  • Connect with your body – take time to do mindfulness techniques or grounding techniques, remember to become aware of your body and what it feels like to be sitting in that chair, or to stand on your feet. This can help with anxious feelings.
  • identify when you’re overthinking and make an effort to connect with your body instead, or to connect with a friend, anything that can help distract you from those persistent thoughts.
  • own your decisions – This may sound very hard, but remember to tell yourself “I made this decision, and I believe in this moment, it’s the right one for me”. 

If this doesn’t help, consider speaking with a professional about your overthinking. Sometimes speaking things out with a non-judgemental professional can help put thoughts into perspective, and help us learn to stop ruminating and start acting. 

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What is Executive Dysfunction in ADHD?

Executive function skills enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and manage multiple tasks. And despite it not being included in the DSM to diagnose ADHD up to 90% of adults and children with ADHD struggle with executive dysfunction, which impairs goal-directed behaviour.

Individuals with executive dysfunction struggle to organise materials, set their schedules, stick with tasks, and even regulate emotions. A common occurrence for individuals with executive dysfunction is that they misplace papers, reports, and other school or work materials – despite how necessary those things may be. They may also lose or misplace personal items, such as phones, eyewear, keys, and so on.

We all have executive functioning, and we all have certain areas of EF which we struggle with… however, the difference is that people with ADHD struggle with more areas of EF than the general public.

EF is separated into 7 main areas of regulation:

  1. Self-Awareness: commanding self-directed attention
  2. Self-Restraint: inhibiting yourself from doing something which you probably should not be doing at that point (ex. playing games instead of doing homework)
  3. Non-Verbal Working Memory: holding things in your mind to guide behaviour
  4. Verbal Working Memory: retaining internal speech
  5. Emotional: using words and images along with self-awareness to alter how you feel about things, so for example – if your friend doesn’t message you right after work as she told you she would, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about you, maybe she got stuck in traffic.
  6. Self-Motivation: motivating yourself to do things when no outside consequences exist, like motivating yourself to finish your assignments so you can graduate. People with bad executive functioning skills need closer goals than a graduation which is months/years away.
  7. Planning and Problem Solving: finding new approaches and solutions. Nevertheless, people with ADHD are very creative, and have high skills in thinking outside the box.