Being stuck in a negative thought loop can take a toll on your mental health. It can cause you to lose sleep and may increase symptoms of anxiety and depression. Sometimes, the more you try to will yourself to stop thinking, the stronger the negative thoughts become. Stopping the negative thought loop may not be easy, but it can be done.
What Is A Negative Thought Loop
A negative thought loop occurs when you think about something troubling or distressing over and over again and you can’t let it go. It could be something you said or did that you deeply regret, or something that was said or done to you, or something future or past oriented. As you ruminate on what occurred, you feel the feelings related to it. This can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression when you can’t let go of the thoughts. Although some self-introspection is quite helpful and healthy, negative thought loops are not. This is because your brain can’t easily distinguish between what is actually happening and what you are telling it is happening. When you focus on repetitive negative thoughts, you begin to judge yourself negatively as well.
Why Try To Stop It
Since you are a thinking being, negative thoughts will occur. However, when you get stuck in a thought loop that you can’t get out of, distressing feelings can increase and your mental health can suffer. You can have trouble sleeping and become easily agitated. It can even begin to change your world view and sense of safety. When you are stuck in a negative thought loop, it can impact your sense of self. Instead of your thoughts being about what happened, it can turn into being about what is inherently wrong with you. How you are not good enough and what a horrible person you are. When this happens, the negative thought loop reinforces the negative self-beliefs which can lead to unwanted behaviors. However, there are some things you can try to stop the negative thought loop.
Write It Down
Write the thought loop down on paper. The act of forming letters engages the logical side of your brain. This helps get you out of the imaginative side of your brain where you can catastrophize a situation and make it much worse than the reality. Sometimes just writing it down is enough to stop the thought loop. If not, you can read over what you wrote and check it for accuracy. If it is not accurate, or if you can think of other ways to look at it, write those down as well. Writing down your negative thought loop can help you look at it more objectively.
Feel Your Feelings
In order to stop a negative thought loop, you will need to feel the feelings associated with the thought. While it is normal to want to avoid uncomfortable feelings, you can’t fully process them until you feel them. When you ignore the feelings that come up related to the thought loop, the thought loop can actually become stronger. There is nothing wrong with your feelings and you can feel anything you need to feel. You can set aside a set amount of time everyday where you spend 10 or 15 minutes feeling your feelings. This way you allow your feelings to be experienced so they can be processed. Once you process your feelings, your thought loop might stop.
Practice Thought Stopping Techniques
As you develop the habit of feeling the feelings related to your negative thought loop, you will want to practice thought stopping techniques if the thought loop continues, or comes up during other times of the day. This can be done in several different ways. You can engage in an activity that helps distract you from your thoughts. This can include exercising, reading a book, or doing crafts. You could repeat a mantra over and over again to help drown out your thoughts. A visualization technique such as picturing a stop sign and reminding yourself that you have to think of this tomorrow can also stop the negative thought loop. When you have a set time everyday to feel your feelings and focus on your thoughts, it can make it easier to use thought stopping techniques at other times.
Accept your thoughts for what they are. A thought is just a thought and you can have a thought without attaching to it or making it bigger than it needs to be. Allow your thoughts to be and practice self-soothing. Focus on your breathing while you let your thoughts come and go without judgment. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, take a bath, or find something you can do that helps distract you from your thoughts. Be gentle and kind with yourself and with your thoughts. Use the emotional freedom technique (EFT) to help you calm down and accept yourself, no matter what your thoughts are.
Reframe your thoughts to help you get out of the negative thought loop. To reframe your thoughts, check them for accuracy and consider other ways to think about it. If they are not very accurate and you are instead catastrophizing, change them to something more accurate. If they seem true, come up with another way to say it that is still accurate, but also kind. For example, instead of saying I made a mistake becuase I’m stupid, change it. Instead you could say something like I made a mistake because I overlooked something and I can look at things more carefully going forward. You can also observe your thoughts as if you are a third party and they are not about you and think of what you would say to this other person. Reframing your thoughts can help you accept the situation so you can let the thoughts go.
When you practice gratitude you look for the good and the way things went well, instead of focusing on the negative. The more you practice this the easier it becomes for your brain to search for the good. Thinking about what you are grateful for can help you feel better about things. Keep a gratitude journal and notice all of the things you are thankful for. If you get stuck in a negative thought loop, your thoughts will more naturally shift to the good things when you make gratitude a daily practice.
When you find yourself stuck in a negative thought loop, you can try the above tips. If you continue to struggle with negative thought loops that are impacting your emotional well-being, therapy can help. With practice, you can learn to stop your negative thought loops so they do not take over your life.
With everything going on in the world today, many people are struggling with anxiety. Some of the coping skills used successfully in the past to help you calm down can be more challenging these days. Because of this, you may need to find other tools you can use to help you relax. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an easy to learn skill that you can use to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Read on to learn more about EFT.
What Is EFT
EFT, also known as tapping or psychological acupressure, is a technique used to help calm the central nervous system and release uncomfortable emotions. EFT relies on Eastern Medicine and the use of acupressure points commonly used in acupuncture. By using your fingertips to tap on these acupressure points, also known as meridian points, symptoms of anxiety and feelings of panic can significantly decrease. According to the developer of EFT, Gary Craig, using affirmations while tapping on meridian points can help you release distressing or unwanted feelings.
How Does EFT Work
EFT is based on the brain body connection and the energy system related to the meridian points used in acupuncture. Although it is not known exactly how it works, EFT is thought to balance and restore the energy system and release negative emotions that become stuck and block the flow of energy. Once the blockage is released, through tapping on the meridian points, energy can flow freely again. EFT helps calm down the overactive central nervous system by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system which enables you to rest and relax. The affirmations used in EFT accepts your current uncomfortable feeling while allowing you to move towards a more comfortable emotional state.
What Does EFT Help
EFT has been widely studied and found to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress. There is some evidence suggesting EFT can be used to decrease symptoms of PTSD as well. EFT may also be effective in reducing pain and helping those struggling with addiction. It can be used to help decrease symptoms of depression and insomnia. It can also be used to help improve athletic performance. While it is not known exactly how EFT works, its efficacy is well documented.
The EFT Procedure
The EFT procedure is very easy to learn and practice as a form of self-help. It is especially effective in working with feelings of anxiety. To practice EFT on your own, you will want to use a statement that acknowledges what the issue is along with acceptance and how else you could feel. You will then need to identify the meridian points that you will use your fingers to tap on. After tapping, you can assess your level of distress to see if it has decreased. Repeat the procedure as needed.
Notice what is going on for you and what you would like to address or alter. Form a statement that acknowledges the issue and then state how you could feel with acceptance. For instance, you can say something like, even though I am anxious, I know I can be calm, or Even though I experience anxiety, I accept myself completely. You say your statement out loud as you begin tapping.
Next, use your index and middle fingers to tap on your meridian points 5 to 7 times on each point. The first meridian point is located on the start of your eyebrow above your nose. The next point is on the outer side of the eye below the eyebrows. Under the eyes is the next point. Then under the nose. This is followed by the one on the space between your lower lip and chin. The next point is 2 inches down from your collarbone and is often tender when you get the right spot. You will find the next point under your arm about 4 inches down. The top of your head in the middle is the next spot. Tap lightly on these points and say your statement out loud. Complete this sequence a few times, or until you notice a decrease in your level of distress.
EFT is an effective tool to use to help decrease symptoms of anxiety. If you continue to struggle with symptoms of anxiety that is having a negative impact on your emotional well-being, therapy can help. The next time you are feeling anxious, give EFT a try.
Most people have heard of autism in children and the behavioral and social challenges related to it. However, autism can also be diagnosed in adults. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder that includes those with severe symptoms that are unable to care for themselves. It also includes those who are high-functioning and have few noticeable symptoms. High-functioning autism can still have a negative impact on your relationships and emotional well-being. If you are an adult that thinks you might have autism, help is available.
What Is ASD
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that mainly impacts speech, behavior, and social skills. ASD is a spectrum disorder that includes those with extreme speech delays and impairment in social functioning. As well as those who are high-functioning and only experience minimal difficulty in their social lives. Most people show signs of ASD by the age of two. Either by delayed development, or developing normally but then losing skills. Some were not diagnosed as children due to the wide range of ASD symptoms and poor screening. Instead, those with symptoms that were not diagnosed as a child are being diagnosed with ASD as an adult.
Symptoms Of ASD In Adults
ASD is a spectrum disorder that has a wide range of behaviors associated with it. While children who experience symptoms that interfere with their ability to function normally are likely to be diagnosed early. Those who experience milder symptoms and are highly intelligent, but lack appropriate social skills may not be diagnosed then. They usually meet the criteria for what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome. These people may not receive a diagnosis until they are an adult and they struggle in their close relationships. Symptoms in adults with ASD include, repetitive behaviors, following a strict routine, and being uncomfortable with change. Having either too much or too little eye contact is common. It also includes social difficulties, sensory issues, and struggles with empathy, body language, and social cues. People with ASD often experience an exaggerated emotional response.
Impact Of ASD
ASD can impact all aspects of life. While education and work are somewhat affected, relationships are often a big struggle for those with ASD. Developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships can be very difficult when you have ASD. Because of sensory issues, certain environments can be overwhelming for someone with ASD. It can be difficult to socialize and you may turn to drugs or alcohol to make things more comfortable. It is also possible to give up all together and instead ignore others and turn to solitary activities. Once in a committed relationship, it can be hard to understand social cues, body language, and indirect communication. This can cause a lot of problems in your ability to connect with your partner. You could struggle to make friends. It might be difficult to respond appropriately to a loved one’s distress, which can have a negative impact on your relationships.
Diagnosing ASD In Adults
A diagnosis of ASD in adulthood can be a relief, or quite a shock. You may initially seek out a diagnosis at the urging of someone you are close to. Getting a diagnosis of ASD as an adult can be challenging. Even though it may not be easy, receiving a diagnosis of ASD can be useful. It can open up services that can help you better manage some of the symptoms of ASD. Especially those symptoms that are interfering with your ability to function effectively. Although there is no established criteria for diagnosing ASD in adults, an autism center is a good place to start. They may be able to provide you with the resources you need to get a diagnosis. Developmental pediatricians, psychologists, child psychiatrists, or pediatric neurologists that diagnose ASD in children might work with adults as well.
Help For ASD In Adults
Once you receive a diagnosis of ASD, there are some services you could qualify for that might be helpful. Support groups for adults with ASD can enable you to connect with others that understand. They can share tips that they find helpful that could be beneficial to you as well. Treatment for adults with ASD is a little different from treatment for children with ASD. The focus is more on learning strategies for areas of struggle. Since anxiety can be an issue for adults with ASD, individual therapy can help with this. Couples counseling and family therapy can help strengthen your relationships and allow you to work through any trouble spots. Learning about ASD and how it could impact your life and relationships can help you gain new insight. You can also learn new ways to manage your symptoms.
If you believe you might fit the criteria for an ASD diagnosis, you should talk to your doctor or therapist. Receiving a diagnosis might be difficult, but it can also get you the help you need. Proper help can give you the tools to strengthen your relationships and improve your mental health and emotional well-being.
Being exposed to the trauma of others can take a toll on your mental health. It is hard to witness the traumatic experiences of someone else without being impacted. When you are continuously exposed to another’s suffering, you could develop secondary traumatic stress (STS).
What Is Secondary Traumatic Stress
Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) refers to the emotional duress that results from being exposed to a traumatic event indirectly. The exposure can include hearing about the event from someone directly involved. It can also happen by seeing video of a trauma in the media. STS is also known as vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue and can occur in first responders and those in the helping profession. However, STS can occur in anyone indirectly exposed to repeated traumatic events and human or animal suffering. It is more likely to occur if you closely relate to the trauma and the potential impact it could have on you as an individual. Symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often occur. There can be a belief that the world is no longer safe. This can impact your ability to feel empathy and compassion and can lead to both physical and mental exhaustion.
Causes Of STS
STS is commonly caused by repeated secondary exposure to trauma. Those who work directly with traumatized children and abuse victims and are hear their stories can develop STS. It can also occur in people that work with abused or injured animals. Likewise, it can develop in anyone that works with evidence related to violent crimes. Watching news footage of natural disasters and school shootings can lead to STS. While PTSD can develop as a response to direct experiences with racism and discrimination, STS can occur from witnessing someone else going through it. This can be especially true for African Americans who watch or witness acts of aggression, violent treatment, and murders of Black Americans. STS can also trigger memories of your own personal traumatic experiences.
Symptoms Of STS
If you are experiencing STS, you may notice a number of behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms. You could experience sleep disturbances and chronic exhaustion. Feelings of apathy, numbness, and hopelessness can develop. An exaggerated startle reflex can occur. In addition, you can become hypervigilant. You may feel overwhelmed and withdraw from others both physically and emotionally. Anxiety can increase and you can experience feelings of guilt. You can experience an increase in physical symptoms such as aches and pains and stomach upset. Although you may go through the motions, there can be a loss of faith. You could also begin to believe that the world is unsafe. If you are having symptoms related to STS, there are things you can do to help.
If you are experiencing symptoms of STS, it is important that you get appropriate support. Share your experiences and feelings with friends and family members that you trust. If you are in a helping profession and experience symptoms of STS, seek supervision. Counseling can help if your STS is having a negative impact on your functioning. If you experience STS, you will probably want to isolate. However, spending time with others and talking about your experiences can help improve symptoms of STS so it doesn’t have a negative effect on your well-being.
In addition to seeking support, you also want to practice self-care if you are experiencing STS. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, and exercising. Learn coping skills that decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Focus on your breathing, allow yourself to feel your feelings, and keep a journal. Spend time each day doing things that you enjoy. Practice mindfulness and think about the things you are grateful for. Make time in your day for joy and relaxation.
If at all possible, limit your exposure to the trauma of others. This can mean avoiding movies, books, podcasts, and videos that depict human and animal suffering. It can also include taking frequent breaks at work and varying your activities. Limiting the amount of time you spend on social media and watching the news can also be beneficial if you are experiencing symptoms of STS. When you limit your exposure to traumatic events, your sense of safety can improve.
Advocating for social change can help improve symptoms of STS. Support the causes that you believe in. Speak up for those that have no voice or are marginalized in our society. Instead of focusing only on the suffering, shift your focus to how you can make a difference. Lobby for the positive changes that you want to see. Working towards systemic change can help you feel more empowered and can help improve symptoms of STS.
If you are experiencing symptoms of STS and it is having a negative impact on your emotional well-being, let someone know. There is support available if you need help managing your STS. Understanding STS and how it might impact you can encourage you to take important steps to protect your mental health.
If you are a highly sensitive person (HSP), others may have said you are too emotional, too dramatic, or too thin-skinned. Maybe you’ve been told to stop taking things so personally and to stop being so sensitive. You might feel like there is something wrong with you and that you are different from everyone else. However, sensitivity is not a bad thing, and neither is being an HSP. In fact, the world would be a rather sad place without the natural empathy and compassion HSPs provide. Below are some things that you might identify with if you are a highly sensitive person.
The Highly Sensitive Person
According to psychologist Elaine Aaron, HSPs make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population. Those that have the HSP innate trait process things more deeply and are very detail oriented and aware of their surroundings. If you identify as an HSP, you are more easily impacted by overstimulation. Crowds, loud sounds, strong smells, and chaotic environments can be very overwhelming. Although you may or may not be introverted, you may choose to avoid events or situations that are highly stimulating. You are probably very creative, and even innovative, and have strong empathy and compassion for others. Emotions are deeply felt, and can be shown easily as well. The HSP easily notices even the most subtle changes in others and their environment.
HSPs Brains Are Different
The brain of an HSP is different from those that are not highly sensitive according to research. Mirror neurons in the HSP are very active. These mirror neurons enable you to understand what someone is experiencing by observing them. When your mirror neurons are more active, you are able to feel more empathy and compassion for others. HSPs are also thought to respond differently to dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone released by the brain as a reward for doing certain things. HSPs are less driven by external rewards than non HSPs. If you are an HSP, you have a gene that enables you to respond strongly to your environment. This creates a more vivid emotional response to external stimuli. You really are able to experience things on a deeper level and your central nervous system is very active.
HSPs Notice The Details
HSPs are very attuned to their environment and very detail oriented. You notice everything and everyone around you. If a dangerous situation develops, you are already aware of the possible escape routes. Since you are so hyper-aware, crowds, loud noises, and a lot of activity or change can be overwhelming at times. You can also be very moved by art and the beauty you see all around you. Although it is unlikely that much gets by you, environmental changes can be draining and you may need to withdraw from stimulating situations to recharge.
HSPs Have A Lot Of Empathy And Compassion
As an HSP, you are not only attuned to your environment, but also to the people around you. This causes you to be able to sense the moods of others, especially those that you are very close to. Since you are aware of what others are feeling, you can respond to them on a deep, caring level. This helps you form strong emotional bonds with others. You are able to respond to others with empathy which helps you establish meaningful relationships. Although you are not one for superficial encounters, your compassion and understanding often extends to everyone and everything around you.
HSPs Feel Things Deeply
HSPs feel everything deeply. Since you are able to experience your feelings at a deep level, you may laugh or cry easily as well. Even if you hide your emotional reactions from others, the depth of feeling you possess is still evident. While there is nothing wrong with feeling your feelings so deeply, you need to spend time with them and process them as well. When you don’t give yourself time to process your feelings, you can forget the joy and struggle with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
HSPs Are People- Pleasers
If you are an HSP, you might be a people-pleaser. It is probably natural for you to take care of others and you may enjoy being a nurturer. Since you feel other people’s pain so strongly, you probably avoid hurting others. However, when you care for others at your own expense, it can be unhealthy. Criticism can have a major impact on you, so you might avoid criticizing others, even when it is needed. You could have problems speaking up for yourself and expressing your needs and setting boundaries. This can cause you to feel lonely and misunderstood in your relationships. Remember, taking care of yourself is necessary in order for you to really care for others.
HSPs Benefit From Alone Time
Alone time is very important for an HSP. While you probably enjoy being with others that you are close to, you also need to spend time alone to recharge. You need your own space where you can relax and unwind. Since you absorb so much from external stimulation, you benefit greatly from having a serene place you can retire to. Time spent alone enables you to decompress and process your emotions. This also gives your central nervous system a chance to calm down. You may benefit from meditation, exercise, and deep breathing.
HSPs Are Very Creative
HSPs are very creative. If you identify as an HSP, you probably enjoy some form of creative expression. You are more likely to be emotionally moved by art, music, or literature that you resonate with. Because you can perceive things so intensely, you are able to infuse your creations with emotion that often resonate with others. Even if your creative outlet consists of journaling for yourself only, it can be very helpful to you. Engaging in some form of creative activity can help you more fully process your feelings as well.
If you identify with some of the above, you might be a highly sensitive person. There is nothing wrong with being an HSP, and it is not something you can change or even need to change. However, if you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression that is having a negative impact on your emotional well-being, therapy can help. Gaining more insight into what it means to be an HSP can help you have more self-understanding and more self-compassion.