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Lately, I’ve been dealing with negative self talk.
I mean, okay, I always deal with negative self talk, let’s be real. But during quarantine time it’s been really overwhelming. To the point where I’m seriously starting to worry myself.
For example, I found myself *sobbing* uncontrollably on the way to our scenic mountain vacation. During that trip I also experienced some concerning SI the likes of which I only get when I’m severely depressed.
Even though we had ended up having a restful time, I felt absolutely flattened during and after the trip. (Check out pics of our trip, it really was fun even if I was mopey).
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new feeling. It’s been building and building over this past Spring.
I’ve woken up several mornings this month feeling disconnected, headachy, paranoid and low. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been pretty miserable for a while now.
Why am I Dealing With so Much Negative Self Talk?
To understand how I got this way we have to back up a little. It all started when my Mom and Dad…okay not THAT far!!
More like, March 2020. Yeah, that’s when the trouble really started.
Obviously there’s been an enormous amount of discord in the world since March. As an HSP empath, of course this has a huge effect on me. But that’s actually only part of it.
In March I also “lost” my job due to COVID-19. It was a serving job which paid well but was pretty brutal on me. When the restaurant laid everyone off at the end of March, I actually breathed a sigh of relief.
Well, that’s not entirely true because I couldn’t actually breathe at that point, at least not without coughing.
I was so sick with a respiratory illness I couldn’t have worked anyway. We think I might’ve had COVID but couldn’t take the test because there were none available at that time.
It took me a better part of a month and a half to recover.
The Negative Thoughts Creep In
By the time I felt good enough to do anything (early May), Florida was reopening its restaurant doors. I didn’t think it was responsible to go back to work after being so sick.
So I didn’t.
Instead I went on unemployment and started looking for a new job that aligned with my creative interests. I kept on writing this here blog which has really been what’s held me together.
Sounds great right? I mean, yes, it’s been nice to rest. But the negative thoughts and self talk have been damn near overwhelming.
I’ve felt guilty about not going back to work, feeling like I need to do something productive to support our little family. I’ve felt hopeless about my future job prospects. I’ve battled the new wave of body dysmorphia triggered by my quarantine eating habits.
Oh and there’s so much more. But you get the idea: emotionally, I feel like I’m being crushed by thousand pound weights. Not good.
Should Be’s and Negative Self Talk
“Tension is what you think you should be, relaxation is who you really are.”
At first, I didn’t think too deeply about this quote. I actually found it to use as a visual for a totally different blog post. But the more I started sharing it with others on FB, I realized it really spoke to my situation.
Over the last few months I’ve piled SO many “should be’s” onto my back that I can’t stand any more. Today, I wrote down all the things I’ve been telling myself and, I kid you not, the length of the list broke my own heart (Check it out below).
And what I’ve listed isn’t even all of them. There are at least ten more I can think of off the top of my head. I have so many should’s that are just crushing me and encouraging negative, nasty, overwhelming thoughts.
How I’m Dealing With Negative Self Talk
After I wrote down that list and had a little sad moment, I got to work. But instead of doing the work I expected myself to do (writing, engaging, putting in job applications) I tackled my negative thoughts.
How did I do that? With a tried and true Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Technique: Reframing. I took all those negative thoughts and countered them with a more rational thought.
“I should be healthier” became “I’m currently cultivating the most healthy mindset I’ve ever had in my life,” which is super true.
“I should be looking harder for work” became “I’m figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life which takes intention, time, and lots of thought”
“I should be less controlling” became “I’ve come a long way in recognizing and correcting my controlling behavior. I have a lot to learn but I get better every day.”
And so on! If you’re dealing with negative self talk, I highly encourage this exercise. I’ve made a free worksheet PDF for you to practice with:
How to Prevent Negative Self Talk
I’d love to say negative self talk goes away once you shine a light on it through CBT. But it’s not quite so easy. Dealing with negative self talk will be an eternal battle for me and so many others.
What you and I can do is prevent it from reaching the point of overwhelm! Here’s some handy tips on how to do that:
Write it down
Write your negative self talk out as often as you can. This can be pretty shocking, but in a good way. You’ll physically be able to see what you’ve piled on yourself, making it that much easier to deal with.
Get some perspective
It’s important to talk with others about what you’re experiencing. That’s because isolation makes it way too easy for us to lose perspective. Asking someone to look at your situation from the outside can be a real game changer.
Trade Positivity for Realism
We often want to counter the negative its opposite, which would be positivity. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that the opposite answer isn’t always the best.
You see, positivity is all well and good. But when you’re dealing with negative self-talk, over positive thoughts can set unreachable expectations which are just as bad for you.
So when you’re doing the Challenging Negative Self Talk exercise above, keep your counters realistic.
For example don’t replace “I’m the most hideous person who ever lived with “I’m the most beautiful person who ever lived.” Both are extremes which are equally reductive.
So it’s better emotionally to counter with something more realistic like “I’m a person with many beautiful qualities and also many flaws which come together to make me whole”
Negative self talk is insidious. Not only does it make you feel horrible, it often does its work in the dark without you realizing…until it’s too late.
So the moral of my story is to really pay attention to what you overload yourself with emotionally. Letting things go is a good skill to work on, especially in a time like this. (If you’re curious about how to do that, we have a must read Avatar The Last Air Bender Themed Guide on letting go of hard emotions here)
I’m not really sure where I’ll go from here emotionally. But I do feel a good deal less burdened now that I’ve challenged my negative self talk. It also helps me to write here on MSB, I’m so grateful I get the chance to do so! Thanks for listening!
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