10 Tools to Help You Combat Your Negative Thinking: Especially Coronavirus Fears Now:
There is a lot of fear regarding the unknown today, with the Coronavirus issue right now. People are scared and experiencing many changes and losses. As healers, we are doing our part to help, even virtually. There may be many things that we can’t control now but you can monitor your thoughts and learn more about how they affect you. Your negative thinking can adversely affect your physiology, immune system and mood. Some therapists say that normally people have 50,000 negative thoughts a day. Can you imagine how this is magnified now? So, this article is intended to give you 10 tools to practice to shift your thinking from fear into love. This is one of the best gifts you can give yourself right now because you are thinking 24/7.
1- Use Active Imagination:
The psychoanalyst Carl Jung described active imagination as a technique that translated your unconscious into images and separate entities. This could be done through automatic writing and could lead to wholeness. I work with clients by having them call this negative voice that scares them, ‘The Gremlin.’ They can dialogue with it by challenging fearful thoughts. Here’s an example:
Gremlin: What if you’re the only one alone during this Coronavirus crisis? Maybe you’re a loser.
Adult Self: I am very loved and loveable and there are a lot of single people alone right now because this is a unique situation that has isolated everyone. It won’t be forever and this has nothing to do with my worth.
Gremlin: Yes, but you will be stuck home without contact.
Adult Self: This is difficult but right now I can still go out, I can Facetime and I can talk to friends and this situation will pass eventually, it won’t be forever. Instead of dwelling in fear, I need to remind myself I am not alone and to remind myself that humanity is experiencing this together. I can try to do things that make me happy each day because that is what I can control.
That is a sample dialogue but you can dialogue with the fears your gremlin is feeding you.
2- Distinguish between Past, Present, and Future:
Most of the time our biggest fears are in the past or in the future. The past is over and no one can tell us the future, yet. It’s hard enough to get through the day and be present sometimes! The great thing is, when you discern whether your fear is past, present or future, you have the ability to drop more than two-thirds of your worries! Let me give you some examples:
‘In the Great Depression people had no money for a while, I wonder if this will be the same.’ (This thought is past and future based and you can’t control that so let it go)
‘People are staying home and working from home. I wonder if I could lose my job.’ (Future based and out of your control so you can focus on working now.)
‘I feel okay now but I wonder if I will get this virus since so many people have it.’ (Future based fear you can’t control. You can stay home as much as you can, wash hands etcetera in the present, one day at a time).
This simple tool is powerful but it’s easier said than done. If you practice these distinctions instead of indulging your Gremlin, it can help.
3- Be the Angel on Your Shoulder:
There is a Native American story about a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather said we had two wolves, one on either shoulder. One wolf was love and the other fear. The grandson asked which wolf won and the grandpa said, ‘Whichever you feed the most.’ In every moment we can choose the fearful voice or the loving one. When you realize this, you can shift energies and view the situation from a loving context. To hear more examples of how to do so, I have a 4-part series on this for free on my podcast, ‘The Love Psychologist.’
4- Drop It!
In cognitive therapy, this is called Thought Stopping. The Gremlin likes to feed us the same negative worries and thoughts again and again, often in the guise of trying to keep us safe. But we can recognize when this is not productive and helpful and tell ourselves to stop it. When you notice yourself boarding that same backward train to Fearville, get off. Decide to focus on something that serves you instead. With practice, you’ll get better at stopping yourself and changing the track.
5- Expand Your Limiting Beliefs:
Old automatic thoughts and beliefs can keep us trapped in the same patterns that don’t serve us. For example, perhaps you have a belief that spending time alone is bad. You associate alone time with loneliness. You can choose a different belief that may lead you to a different experience over time. Say you adopted a belief that, ‘You could turn this new founded alone time into a Staycation to rest, read and start that novel you wanted to write?’ Our thoughts affect our feelings and the resultant experience so be willing to choose ones that may serve you better.
6- Parent Your Wounded Child:
Even if you had a good childhood, most of us have a Wounded Child within. There may have been a time that your inner child was scared or sad etcetera and those feelings can get triggered when you are in a similar situation. You can recognize this and comfort that Wounded Child, assuring him or her that as an adult, you will take care of them. So for example, maybe your inner child was bullied and felt alone. Now that you are isolated as an adult temporarily similar old feelings are coming up. You can tell your inner child that you will still connect with loved ones by phone and you will be there for them and open to hearing any needs or concerns.
7- Look for the Facts, not the Story:
I tell my clients that, ‘There are the facts and then there’s the story around the facts. They are different.’ For example, maybe a guy they are dating didn’t call for two days. That is a fact. The story they make up is, ‘He changed his mind and is breaking up with me.’ As it relates to this Coronavirus, maybe the fact is, ‘700 people tested positive for the virus in NYC.’ The story they then make up is, ‘We are all going to die!’ This is exacerbated by news headlines that look for a hook to make you open it and they play on emotions to keep you reading. So try to look at the facts and make sure that your story is not making the situation worse than it needs to be.
8- Thoughts Lead to Feelings that Lead to Action:
Your thoughts lead to feelings that can lead to actions. If you think, ‘This is going to be going on for two years and I will never get out of it alive,’ that could easily lead to depression and panic and you may spend your days in bed crying and imagining your funeral. If you think, ‘This is no fun but since I can’t know how long it will be, I will make the most of each day,’ this will lead to more positive, hopeful feelings and your actions will lead you in a more proactive direction.
9- Positive Affirmations & Self-Talk:
We are talking to ourselves 24/7. We can talk to ourselves like an enemy or like a best friend. When you scare yourself unnecessarily, it’s not the best way to talk to yourself. You can practice self-soothing and be positive instead. Here are some examples:
‘I feel good today and can relax and enjoy relaxing.’
‘Although I’m nervous about the future, I am being really kind to myself in each moment.’
If you want to say affirmations, some could be:
‘I am safe and I am well.’
‘I am relaxed and grateful for all I have.’
This is probably true in the present moment and it sends good messages to your psyche and body.
10- Tricks of The Trade:
The Gremlin has certain cognitive patterns. Some of them include catastrophizing, personalization, black and white thinking, what-ifs and more. What are these and how can you recognize them?
Catastrophizing- You expect disaster to strike and magnify the issue. An example is thinking that since there are 200 deaths from Coronavirus that it will be the end of the world.
Personalization- You make things about you. An example is that you hear that someone who was 25 died of the virus so you are convinced since you are the same age that you’ll die too.
Black and White Thinking- You see things as all good or bad. Even though this Coronavirus scare is horrible, it is possible some good things could come of it, like people coming together to help and maybe advances in science with a vaccine and cure.
What-Ifs- You imagine all the worst things that could happen. It’s important to continue to see the good in life too or it can lead to severe depression and hopelessness.
So, there are 10 tools you can apply to shift from fear into love. I explore this in my free podcast, called The Love Psychologist, in a 4 episode series. If you are someone who wants to review it in-depth with more examples, you can buy it in paperback ($9.99) or on Kindle for just $2.99 to have it with you as you go through your day.
This is a really rough time but we will get through it. I hope this helps.
My Best in love,