woman working on laptop by open window

 

 

When it came to work, my internal dialogue was brokenThere wasn’t a project where I wasn’t secondguessing myself and wondering if I was ever doing anything right. Whether it was an upcoming presentation, a disagreement with a coworker, or a pressing deadline, the anxiety and rumination would often take over, leaving me constantly on edge. 

I struggled to control my feelings. I felt tension in my shoulders every time I opened my laptop. But I was far from alone. American Psychology Association’s annual Stress in America survey has consistently found that work is cited as a significant source of stress by a majority of Americans.” A majority.  

For a time, I thought these feelings would take over and paralyze me for the rest of my career, holding me back and limiting my potential for advancement. That was until I discovered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a way to challenge my negative thoughts. 

The American Physiological Association describes CBT as a treatment that usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns.  

These strategies might include: 

  • Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality. 
  • Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others. 
  • Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations. 
  • Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence is one’s own abilities. 

Rather than letting my thoughts run away from me in an endless cycle of negativity, I began using these three techniques from the Sanvello appBasic Thought Records, Thinking Traps, and Reframing. 

How I used thought reframing to help 

I was struggling with a large content strategy plan that I had to present to an important client. My anxiety was at its peak, and I was sure I was going to fall flat on my face. When I felt myself retreating into my usual cave of despair, I knew I needed to try something new.  

I took a breath and logged onto my Sanvello app. I clicked on the Basic Thought Record and followed the prompts. 

BASIC THOUGHT RECORD
Step 1: The Event 

Describe the event that triggered the emotional experience. Note the circumstances of what happened, trying to be objective. 

My Answer:  

I have a big presentation. 

Step 2: Your Thoughts 

Identify any thoughts that went through your mind. These could be your interpretations about the situation or what it might mean to you. 

My Answer: 

I’m going to mess up. I’m going to look like a fool in front of my colleagues and the client. 

Step 3: Your Feelings 

What emotions did you experience? How did you feel? How intense were those emotions? 

My Answer: 

Anxious and worried. Scared and on edge. 

 

Doing this thought exercise gave me some perspective on my situation, but I still felt anxious, so I took my exploration a step further by analyzing my Thinking Traps. 

THINKING TRAP 

Step 1: The Thought 

Identify any thoughts that went through your mind. These could be your interpretations about the situation or what it might mean to you. 

My Answer: 

I know I’m going to fail at this presentation and I’m worried I’ll get fired or taken off the project. I’m a loser. 

 

Step 2: The Thinking Trap 

Look for any thinking traps or distortions. 

My Answer: 

Catastrophizing: I was falling into the trap of thinking that if something goes wrong, it will be a disaster and I won’t be able to recover from it. 

Black and White ThinkingI was viewing my situation in all-or-nothing terms. 

Negative FilteringI was only seeing the negative and discounting any positive outcomes. 

Labeling and Judging: I was calling myself a loser. 

Fortune Telling: I was predicting with certainty that I was going to fail. 

 

Step 3: The Pattern 

Try to reflect on yourself and your past and note if this is something you have done more than once. 

My Answer: 

I tend to make assumptions about my performance that aren’t based on past experiences or results.

Now I could see my basic thought patterns and all the thinking traps I was falling into, but I needed a final piece of the puzzle to truly put everything into context. I turned to the idea of Reframing.

THOUGHT REFRAMING 

Step 1: Your Thoughts 

Identify any thoughts that went through your mind.  

My Answer: 

I’m a loser. I’m going to mess everything up and make a fool of myself. 

 

Step 2: The Thinking Trap 

Look for any thinking traps or distortions.  

My Answer: 

Using my previous exercise, I was able to answer this very quickly. I was Catastrophizing among other traps. 

 

Step 3: Reframe 

Think about alternative ways to interpret the situation. Can you soften extreme language? Try to take a step back and think about what advice you would give someone else in your position. 

My Answer: 

I’m trying the best that I can. I am prepared and I know the subject inside and out. If I make a mistake, I will recover. I also have my colleagues to support me. I know this client well and understand their needs. 

 

The Thought Reframing exercise gave me a sense of comfort. It allowed me to reflect on all the negative self-talk that I had been pummeling myself with. Most importantly, it put the reality of my situation into stark focus.  

Using Sanvello and these CBT techniques, I put a big stop sign in front of my constant rumination. I no longer fear the everyday work challenges that arisefrom the conference room to my cubicle and throughout my life. Now, even when anxiety starts to percolate, I know have the tools to power through.  

Editor’s Note: There’s still a lot of stigma when it comes to sharing your mental health journey. The Sanvello member behind this piece has asked to remain anonymous, and we respect their decision to do so. We appreciate our members sharing their stories in whatever ways they feel comfortable.