A lot of stress comes from thinking. Sometimes getting in your body and cutting off the process is the best option. Other times, it’s best to do a little thought-pruning. One way to do this is to track your thoughts, sifting out the thoughts you want to focus on from the thoughts that can go in the garbage bin. To do this enlist the help of the cognitive distortion categories below to help you discern the helpful thoughts from those that need a bit of revisioning. These include:

  • Polarization: black and white thinking
  • Overgeneralization: applying a conclusion to all circumstances
  • Catastrophizing: thinking the worst will happen
  • Personalization: taking things personally
  • Mind reading: assuming you know what others are thinking
  • Mental filtering: focusing on the negative
  • Discounting the positive: explaining away positives as a fluke or luck
  • “Should” statements: shaming or scolding yourself for your actions
  • Emotional reasoning: believing your emotions are truth
  • Labelling: reducing yourself or others to categories, like “dumb” or “silly”

When you notice yourself engaging in one of these cognitive distortions simply rewrite the script that looks like the following:

  1. Isolating the unhelpful thought.
  2. Noting the emotion that went along with it.
  3. Identifying which distortion is at play.
  4. Rewriting or restating the thought in a more balanced, objective way.
  5. Noting the emotion that arises from the revised thought.

It’s best to start this practice by writing it all down. It’s a lot to keep in your head. Once you practice for a while, it gets easier to go through the steps in your head.