One of the topics that often comes up in my therapy is that I dwell too much on circumstances that are beyond my control. Either I am constantly reminding myself of all my previous failures or thinking about all the lost opportunities and plunging in the pool of regret and shame. Or I am incessantly thinking of what will happen in the future, how will it happen, will it even happen or not..?
And I’m often advised to focus on the present. To ground myself.
It is easier to say I will try but when I actually set about tackling my thoughts, it is exhausting work. I’m learning to work on it slowly…
Stop the first thought
When the first thought arises, my therapist has asked me to shut the door on it. Because when I invite the first thought in, it in turn invites two more thoughts in, those two thoughts invite some more thoughts and then as she says, “it’s a boat full of thoughts.”
Acknowledge the thought and put it aside
Sometimes when I’m in a distracted state of mind, it gets late to bolt the door. The thought butts in like an unwelcome and annoying relative and starts jabbering in one corner of my mind. To it, I then say, “Yeah, maybe you are right. Maybe I do feel that. But right now, as you can see, I am doing something else, so can we please talk later?”
Distract the thought
If the thought gets too loud and doesn’t subside, I change my physical surroundings. I get up from what I was doing and walk into another room, if I see someone, I hail them and start talking to them. If there’s no one around, there’s always Netflix!
Assess the thought
If the thought gets too stubborn, I decide to dissect it. And there are two sub steps while doing so:
1) Think rationally as opposed to emotionally: Handle your thoughts like you handle your finances. Weigh out the pros and cons. The positive and negative feeling that the thought is trying to stir. And instead of responding emotionally to the situation, respond rationally.
2) See the situation as is – not more, not less: Look at the facts of the situation available to you. Is your brain trying to read too much between the lines or imaging something that’s not on the table? Then, you should prune that thought out. Or say, your brain is trying to form a conclusion without all the facts, like mine does, then I say, “Wait, we do not yet know that completely. Maybe we should think about it, after we know for sure.” No getting too over-enthusiastic over a prospect or no dwelling too deeply on low news.