Self-talk can be a great thing. It can build you up or calm you down when you need it. It can be very awkward at first, but once the skill is learned at set, it can come in handy. I wrote a while back about My Med Journey, and in there at the end I mentioned I’d be doing a follow up on self-care. I did a post on my blog about how I self-care, and this is sort of a “follow-up” on both of these.
Today, I’m going to discuss how I self-talk and tips & tricks for self-talk. First: how would I define self-talk? I believe in CBT/DBT this is talked about a lot. You have to change the tone of the voice inside your head in order to produce better outcome. For me usually it’s the anxiety voice. The “what-if” voice. The voice that tries to lure me back into a pit of anxiety attacks and depression. But slowly & surely, I’ve been teaching the voice to do less of “what if” and more of positive speaking. Here’s some of what I think are important factors in self-talk and a few of my own self-talk habits (I will say, most of these are surrounded around my anxiety attacks, so I mention anxiety a lot):
- Identify any causal factors for why you might feel the way you do – sometimes there might be a “legitimate” cause (I say this fully understanding that all anxiety is legitimate to those of us suffering- I only mean to say one an outside person might understand). If you’re feeling anxious because you have a meeting with your boss, or a big presentation, or any other event that could cause the “average person” a bit of the anxious feeling. I feel like this is the most important thing to do, to be honest.
- Acknowledge factors that are not within your control – I find this to be an important “step 2.” Sometimes there are just things around us that while they might cause anxiety/depression and various other things, sometimes these events are simply out of our control. But it is important to acknowledge that while yes, this can cause x-feeling, there is nothing you can do to change that; be it at that moment or at all.
- Consider factors you can control – as there can be factors we cannot control, there are ones we can. I tend to go down a little “check-off list” with this topic. Of these factors I can control, is it one I can control now or later? Is there anything I can do immediately to resolve what I am feeling? What “precautions” can I take to help control or prevent the anxiety (or other feeling)? Lastly a mental, sometimes physical to-do list of what I can/need to do in the moment.
- Acknowledge your feelings – I know it is said a lot in the mental health community, but it is okay to not be okay. Sometimes we are going to have good and bad days. We are allowed to feel how we feel, and I believe it is very important to acknowledge that.
- Mental distractions – these are important to find. In the mental health Facebook pages I am part of, the people who run it do various “distraction posts” every week. Things like “Name 3 things you are grateful for” or “Post your cutest pet picture.” Posts of that nature. But when we are alone, we need to find a way to create our own distractions. I read online a post that is numbered 5 to 1, and it’s something similar to 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, etc. I also like “random facts” lists. When I had to go for an MRI, my mom came with me to help control my anxiety and one of the things we started doing were x-number of facts about y. She would give me a random subject and I had to tell her 3-5 things I knew about each. I also like doing various math problems in my head. For example when I’m in a store (especially the dollar store because the math is easier), I like to try to keep a running total of what I am buying and see if I can mentally calculate what my total will be. Hi, I’m an undercover math geek 😉
- “Pretend conversations”/imaginary scenarios – this one can get dangerous if you play with it to much/in the wrong way. My biggest example of this was when I planned/hosted my high school’s 10 year reunion, I knew that as much as I love to avoid it, I’d be thrust into the spot light at least once. People knew I’d put it together, so naturally people wanted to thank/congratulate me. I had a million pretend conversations in my head, all the various conversations I’d be likely to have so that I had a mental response ready for if/when they actually occurred. Sometimes, with control, this skill can be used to great advantage.
- Reminder that you are okay – I do this FREQUENTLY whenever I have anxiety. Anywhere from the store to driving to social situations. I can almost guarantee that at least once I’ve told myself “you’re okay, you’re fine” and I remind myself exactly what I have to do, then I can go back to whatever I was doing before. For example, my coworkers have monthly gatherings, and I’ve gone to two. The drive over is usually a constant stream in my head of reminding myself it’ll be okay, it’s only for an hour (or however long), and then I will go home, get in my comfy clothes, and watch Grey’s Anatomy.
- Music/lyrics/songs – this is a little more personal to my taste, but if you are music oriented, one of my favorite “self-talk” tricks is to go through my favorite songs (or whatever is stuck in my head at the time) and think through all the lyrics of the song. If you play music, maybe it’d be chords vs lyrics?
I’m sure there are more tips/tricks/techniques that one could use, here is just some of my advice and what I do. What are your favorite self-talk tips? Do you follow any of what I do? What do you do differently?
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