How you think about something impacts your feelings and your behaviours.
When we feel stressed out, angry, or fearful, it’s hard to look at the situation realistically and see all of the options we have. (Remember: we all have control of our own actions and reactions, no matter what’s going on in the world. We can call do something about this pandemic.)
People often overestimate the negative parts—their own feelings, their own abilities to manage a difficult situation, or the situation itself—and underestimate positive parts—their own abilities to care for themselves and loved ones, their support networks, and opportunities.
How does the thought “We’re never going to make it through this!” make you feel? It likely doesn’t feel good—and it isn’t even true.
Challenging negative, unhelpful thoughts can improve your mood, validate your ability to get through this, and help you see new options or opportunities to stay well.
Stop and notice thoughts that come up. How do they make you feel? Do your thoughts seem realistic if you look at the situation more objectively? How can you reframe the thought to make it more productive or hopeful? Can you find any positive aspects or think of new ways to approach the situation?
Here are a few examples:
- OLD THOUGHT: “I’m so mad that my event was cancelled! This sucks!”
- NEW THOUGHT: “I know this is the safer option for everyone. When it’s rescheduled, I’ll enjoy it more because I won’t have to worry about getting sick or spreading the illness.”
- OLD THOUGHT: “I hate spending so much time at home. This is so boring.”
- NEW THOUGHT: “I’m doing my part to keep my neighbours safe. It’s worth it because it keeps people healthy.”
- OLD THOUGHT: “I’m having a hard time getting used to my new schedule. This is so annoying.”
- NEW THOUGHT: “I’ll get used to this soon, just like I adapted the last time I had to change my schedule. Now that I’m home more, I’ll have more time to finish the projects I haven’t touched in months and I’m excited to see the end results.”
- OLD THOUGHT: “I’m really scared and I don’t know what to do. I feel so overwhelmed right now.”
- NEW THOUGHT: “It makes sense that I feel scared—people are getting sick and we don’t know when things will go back to normal. But there are a lot of things I can do to keep healthy, and I’m going to do some research so I can do my best. When I focus on the things I can do, everything feels more manageable.”
- OLD THOUGHT: “We’re going to be stuck inside forever. I’m already sick of this.”
- NEW THOUGHT: “I understand that it will take some time to manage COVID-19, and I trust that health care professionals and scientists are working as fast as they can. I know this will end eventually and life will go back to normal.”
The goal is not to ignore the bad or uncomfortable parts of the situation or deny that there’s a problem. Instead, this exercise can help you understand the situation more realistically and see the parts that you can control right now.