– [Ryan] Welcome to Redeem the Commute, Stress and Anxiety Course. I’m Ryan, your host. I hope that you enjoy the course today, and get a chance to think about or discuss the question, at the end with others. Just as a general reminder, the course includes general tips, and you should absolutely see a medical professional to understand your specific situation. Course is offered by Dr. Kate Witheridge, and here she is now.
– [Kate] So, the reason why I bring this up, is how we’re gonna actually structure, what I’m gonna be talking about today. So, this actually comes form cognitive behavioral therapy in theory. Which focuses on sort of shifting thoughts and behaviors. But the general idea of it is to look at, okay those sort of core emotions or moods that we experience. Because it’s really hard to change emotions directly, we have to think about what else can we change, that might change the way we feel. So how can we reduce stress? How can we reduce anxiety? Supplies to other emotion, so depression, anger. If I can’t just tell myself to stop feeling anxious. I don’t know about you, but if anybody says to me, oh stop worrying, I’m like, “Oh, uh , okay, yeah, don’t worry anymore, right”. Stop being annoying, oh right. So we have to think about what can we change right. We know there’s an interaction between the way we think about things, the way we behave in situations, and our physical sensations. So what I thought I would do for this workshop, or this kind of talk, is to talk about strategies for all of those things. And I’ll end, if I have time, a little bit about what can we do with emotions. Although we can’t really target that directly. That’s what we’re gonna talk about. So how are we gonna change the way we think right? So, I always say it’s not this. If I just say nice things to myself like, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone people like me.” That I’m magically gonna feel better right. So I think we often hear about the power of positive thinking. If I just have a nice mantra. That I repeat it in the mirror. I’ll magically feel better right. Does this work? No. Why do we think it doesn’t work? Why wouldn’t I be like, “Here’s how you manage stress. Just say nice things to yourself”? Yeah, not very often. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, denial.
– [Audiece] If you don’t have a very positive personality
– Yeah, yeah cause its not very authentic. Sometimes it sounds nice, that’s not believable. Yeah.
– [Female Audience Member]The more you try to grab hold of your thoughts, might be the more negative thoughts. So they’re the ones that are always gonna be on mind now. Do to yourself in the morning. They’ve got to take hold.
– [Kate] Exactly, right so its not believable. The other thing that I often, and we’ll talk about this on the next slide, is that sometimes our thoughts, can be true. So Sophie I’m gonna pick on you, but if you know it’s like what if this kettle of boiling water spills on me and you’re like I’ve had a bad experience where that is actually a possibility. What if people don’t like me. It’s like I had a moment where somebody said Kate you’re kind of annoying. So, we have to understand that sometimes our thoughts, might actually be true And if we like rainbows and sunshine, kittens and tuxedos, we’re like but that’s also inaccurate on the other side. So, what we do is to say, alright I need to actually think about challenging my thoughts. So we do this through thought records. So the idea of a thought record is that we actually want to look at addressing our negative thoughts, but we want to have balanced thoughts. So I think the important thing about this, and I have a whole workshop about this, is that you don’t want to be like positive thinking. We want to think about how do I find a middle ground. So the goal is not to think positively, but to challenge the belief that our thought is 100% true, 100% of the time. Or 100% guaranteed to happen. So the reason why this is important, is cause we often in anxiety, look at things and assume things are high probability. It’s guaranteed that if I try and talk to this person, I’m gonna do something embarrassing. It’s guaranteed that if I leave my house, I’m gonna have a panic attack. It’s guaranteed that the reason why this person is not responding to my phone calls, is because something bad has happened to them. So we want to try and reduce that mental probability. And create balanced thoughts, based on the facts in the situation, rather than the way we actually feel about it. So I’m passing around thought records. And what I will say about this, often people look at this, and it looks overwhelming. It’s like, I work with students, right so like, “You’re about to make me do homework. This looks horrible.” But I promise it’s not terrible. And there’s actually reason why we recommend doing this as a strategy, but also writing down your thoughts. So this is not on my slides. But, one thing is that because our thoughts go so fast if we can actually write down our thoughts we can actually slow down our thought process. When we get anxious, our thoughts start racing, and even as we’re writing it down, it forces us to say, like what am I thinking right now The second reason why it’s helpful, often that little bit of emotional distance, cause that I’m writing it down, helps us see like, maybe that thoughts not really accurate. Like I can see where maybe it started with an observation. Like today is Thursday, I have a presentation at 7. Maybe drifted into I’m not fully prepared. People aren’t going to like me. They’re gonna think my jokes are dumb. The other thing is that when we get to the end of this, is that we want to find balanced thoughts. So if we can actually look at the facts of the situation, and create a balanced thought. The next time that thought or a similar thought pops up, I already have that written down. If we try an do this in our head, it’s really hard. I don’t know if anybody has ever tried to think balanced and rational thoughts when they’re feeling really anxious or depressed or angry. When they call this thought, and it’s just like, “I can think of every reason why my thought is true. Why this person clearly hates me, why they’re not responding. I must have done something wrong.” Rather than like, “Well, they do have a phone that dies frequently” or “They do work downtown, and cell reception is always dodgy in Bay streets, so maybe they’re not responding ’cause they can’t text me back.” So what I thought I’d do for the next few slides, is talk about how do we do this practically. I recognize that this is sort of the short, condensed version of how do we change all our thoughts in seven minutes. So, don’t feel like, if you’re kind of like, “What is she talking about. I don’t know if I can do this.” There’s great resources and they are on the lovely handouts over there. That are not lock hard. SO if you have more questions about that, feel free to follow up with me. Or there’s other resources that will help you with it. So, the first two columns is situation and mood. So situation is just where are these thoughts occurring. So the general idea is, what’s the context? Or what sort of a triggering situation. So I’m using sort of our case example, to illustrate this. So the situation is that I left a message for my friend or loved one, three hours ago. They haven’t responded, and the context is that they usually actually respond pretty quickly. So this is kind of out of the norm for them. And then I’m gonna look at, how am I feel in this moment? So, you can list as many emotions as you want. And we have rating just ’cause we want to look and say how intense is that emotion, so subjective number. We like to have numbers in reading as a psychologist. Like is it getting better, is it getting worse? You know does it add up to 10? So in this case, I arbitrarily chose some numbers. So I would say, I’m feeling anxious, and I rate that as 80 out of 100. That’s pretty intense. I’m also experiencing fear as 60 out of 100. Still kind of a moderate range, and a little bit angry. One thing I’ll say about this, is that if it starts turning into a sentence, it’s a thought. So it seems pretty straight forward, but we like to use things like, “I feel like my friend is ignoring me.” That’s like, okay my thought is my friend is ignoring me. Is the emotion anger that I think they’re ignoring me? Is it sadness? Is it worry? Is it anxiety? So any questions about those two columns? Does that make sense to people? Clear as mud? Alright. So the next column is thoughts. So I think of this as stream of consciousness. There’s probably more thoughts than the ones I listed here, but for PowerPoint visuals, I did not list all of them. It might start with an observation. Like my friend hasn’t responded to my phone calls or my message. You’re like alright. But usually what happens, at some point shifts into predictions, or interpretations or something else. Where I can actually start looking and saying, “There’s a thought that’s really bothering me.” So they haven’t responded to my message, that’s an observation. What if something bad has happened to them? Then it starts turning into, they were in a car accident. I won’t be able to cope without them. Like I’ve already assumed something’s bad happened to them. And what we want to do out of the list of thoughts, is choose which one is actually most distressing? So I might say that my prediction is they were in a car accident. On your thought record it says, what is the hot thought? That’s just what that is. What’s the thought that I think is most distressing? It’s not that they haven’t responded to my message, it’s the interpretation that they didn’t respond, because they’ve been in a car accident. So the next column is Cognitive Distortions. Which is just a fancy way of saying that there is themes to our negative thinking. So these are not all of them, but the general idea is to say “What could be going on?” So, the idea of catastrophizing is one thought leads to another thought, and they get progressively worse. Then before I know, it something horrible has happened. When I talk to students, it always starts with like today is Tuesday. I have exams next week, I’m gonna fail my exam. I’m gonna fail this course. I’m gonna fail this school. And somehow I’m now living in my parents basement or a cardboard box and have no friends. And you’re like, “How did I get there?” So sort of worse case scenarios. Jumping conclusions is kind of looking at our crystal ball. Guaranteed something bad has happened. And then kind of the what if thinking. The reason why it can be helpful to look at this, is just to say like, “What could be going on here?” What do I notice in terms of themes? Another one I think is quite common, is what we call black or white. Either it’s good or it’s bad. Either their fine or something horrible happened to them. There’s nothing in between. So I believe, Maybe I should check to make sure it is on your thought record. And, maybe not, sorry I forgot to put it on there. So there is a list, if you want the list, I can email it to you later. Or you can look it up online, there’s all kind of cognitive distortion lists. But its just a way of looking at themes, and to start noticing things. So what we really want to figure out with negative thoughts is how do I begin to challenge this thought. So we call it evidence gathering. Which is the idea of rather than going with feelings, we want to go with like, what are the facts, of the situation. So, I would say this is a little bit like a court case. You know if you’re on trial for something. So if they think I’m stealing Snickers Bars from 7-11. I’d want facts. Right, like what are the facts that say, yes Kate went to 7-11 and she stole Snickers Bars? And then I would hope that there were actually facts on the other side, that say maybe it’s not 100% true. That on my lunch hour, I went to 7-11, on College and Spadina, and I was stealing SnickersBars. So I like this, ‘casue when you think about court cases we need facts, feelings don’t count. You know, I” hope that no one on that jury or that judge is like, “Kate kind of looks hungry. We kinda feel like she did it, great.” But we so often do that when we think about our thoughts. I feel like my friends don’t like me. Any reason to believe that? No , I just kinda feel like it. So it’s really important when we think about facts. The facts are that in fact my friends are like you’re kind of a bummer to be around or you talk too much Kate. Or your jokes are dumb. I’d be like alright there’s some facts that say maybe my friends don’t like me. But then I would also look and say, are there any facts that say, maybe it’s actually not true. So once again we just wanna look at objective things. So in the case of this person not showing up, evidence for, which is always the yep the reason why my thought is true. Well they haven’t responded to my message. Kind of a fact of the situation. Another friend didn’t respond in the past, and they were in an accident. Right, so going back to the idea of maybe it’s how the past experience says, not responding to text messages, means something bad has happened to them. And the weather has been bad lately, equals more accidents on the road. I think yesterday they were like Twitter, like the Toronto Police Service were like, there have been you know, 10 accidents in the past hour right. So if you see that on Twitter, and you’re like, maybe that’s one of my friends. But then we want to look and say, are there any facts to say maybe it’s not 100% true that my friend has been in an accident? So well I do know there phone is old. And they did tell em a few weeks ago this was gonna be a really busy week. So all we want to do is look at facts and say alright maybe I can find a balanced way of interpreting this non-response to my text message. So that’s the final column of thought record. Which is how do I find a middle ground? So once again this is not about creating rainbows and sunshine. Positive like, nice things to say, but I don’t believe it. But what’s the middle ground. So the idea of balanced thoughts, is when we actually have evidence that does support our thought, to say like, “Yep I need to acknowledge that.” So in this case its possible that they could have been in an accident, cause there have been a bunch of accidents in the past 48 hours. But I also know that it’s a busy week, and their phone battery dies quickly. So it’s possible that they haven’t had time to respond or didn’t get my message, so maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow or I’ll send them another message. SO once again, it has to be balanced. One thing I’ll say about this, you want to make sure it’s believable. You see some people write really nice things and you’re like, “Yeah that sounds nice, I don’t believe it” You want to make sure it’s fact based and challenging what you’re actually worried about. So I could say, “Oh well I don’t think they hate me, you know like, but that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m afraid they got in a car accident.” So, the final column on thought record is just sort of checking in to make sure, after going through this process, has my mood shifted? Do I feel a little bit less anxious? Do I feel a little bit less angry? Do I feel less, you know, worried? And hopefully you do. One thing I’ll say about this, you don’t necessarily experience zero anxiety, zero worries or irritability, but just, “Yeah I’m feeling a little bit better.” The general idea of this process as a whole, is the more you do that, the more you practice it, the more you’re like, “Here’s what my worried thought is, and here’s what I say to myself.” They become linked. So , I always describe it as like the angel and devil on your shoulders, like from cartoons. Where the devil is really loud. Is telling you negative things about yourself, other people, predictions. And we want to get that angel side a little bit louder. To say, “Yeah, this over here, but this could be happening too.” And as we do that, we unlearn that negative thought. Kind of find a more balance thought, and then that negative thought doesn’t have the same emotional loading, and it tends to kind of go away. So that’s the a, how to change your thoughts in 10 minutes.
– [Host] Well thanks for joining us today as we explore changing the way we think. There was a worksheet that Kate mentioned, and I have attached it, in a pdf form, it be up and on our website. Hope you’ll get a chance to take a look at that, and complete that worksheet today. That’s your homework. The other thing I want to remind you of, is looking for a way to introduce some peaceful, calm, meditative time into your day, we do offer daily prayer as part of our offering here. Redeem the commute. It’s a great way, maybe in the lunch hour or on the evening commute to de-stress. Spend some time with God. Well have a great day, we’ll see you tomorrow.
Question: Complete the attached worksheet on worry at https://www.redeemthecommute.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Thought-Records.pdf