Food for Thought: Coping with everyday stresses

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Self talk is one of the ways that can make a difference.

Much of what you feel is caused by what you tell yourself, how you think, the ways in which you choose to interpret situations, and you personal point of view.

Many people, when they are young, develop the habit of filling themselves with negative thoughts about themselves and the circumstances of their lives.

In effect, people program themselves and their lives in a particular way. Self talk is the constant conversation we are having in our head.

Neuroscientists have estimated that we have at least 10,000 thoughts going through our brains each day. The interesting thing about these thoughts is that they all recorded in our neurons or brain cells never to be lost, never to be forgotten. If you stop and think about this, you begin to see why what we think and say to ourselves is so important.

Self talk is very much like a self fulfilling prophecy.

When your self talk is positive --- “things will work out”, “I know I can do the job” --- you are giving yourself permission to succeed, and chances are you will.

When you self talk is negative -- “Things never go right”, “I can’t handle this” -- you are giving up on yourself and chances are you won’t try to succeed.

Often your self talk reflects the values and behaviors you learned as a child, and the self esteem you now have as an adult.

Positive self talk is a way of countering the demeaning hateful things we tell ourselves.

It is complimenting ourselves when we have done our best, using our own personal progress (not somebody else’s) as a yardstick by which to measure our success.

For each negative message you tell yourself (“I am worthless”, “I can’t do anything right”) remind yourself of the things you do perfectly well.

That might be your talent for doing crossword puzzles, your organizational skills or your punctuality. Whatever your abilities use positive self talk to remind yourself daily that you are a special unique person.

Negative self talk can increase your distress, and make feelings of anxiety, anger, depression etc. much worse. Negative self talk just perpetuates fears and doubts. It is destructive to your mental and physical well being.

It can encourage you to behave in self destructive ways (“No one cares, so why shouldn’t I have another drink”).

Learn to listen to your self talk. Note what you are telling yourself.

For example next time you think “I can’t do this. It’s too difficult. I don’t know how to do this job”.

Rewrite your mental script in a positive way.

You could say to yourself, “Look at the challenge. This job regardless of the difficulty gives me the opportunity to learn new skills. I don’t have to do it perfectly.”

By practicing positive talk you will feel happier, more confident and able to handle life’s stresses.

— Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D, LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls.

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