Do you ever find that your inner voice is being less than supportive? Cautionary thoughts that help us avoid real dangers can be a good thing. But, if they too frequently intrude during everyday moments, these thinking patterns can sometimes negatively affect our mood and our performance at work.
Repetitive negative or irrational thinking processes can contribute to stress and anxiety in the workplace because employees’ thoughts are closely tied to their moods. Some common irrational thinking patterns include:
All-or-nothing thinking – only seeing things as either good or bad instead of seeing things as a mix of both.
Should statements – thoughts that include the words should, ought, or must.
Blame – unfairly blaming yourself or others for problems or fears.
Labeling – attaching negative labels like crazy, worthless or stupid to yourself or others.
Cognitive Restructuring (CR) is a useful way to help employees move past these types of irrational thoughts and minimize their impact on mood and productivity. CR is a method to identify, challenge and change unwanted or negative thoughts.
Consider sharing these steps with employees to help them counter pessimistic or habitually negative thoughts:
- Notice Your Thoughts: Let your mood be the trigger here – if you are feeling low or angry, take some time to trace that feeling back to the thought that caused it. It can be helpful to write these thoughts down. Now, examine that thought and look for any of the common irrational thought patterns mentioned above.
- Challenge Your Negative Thoughts: After identifying these thoughts, try disputing them. Take a piece of paper and fold it in half. At the top of the left side write Irrational Thoughts at the top of the right side, write Realistic Thoughts. On the left side, write a negative thought that you recently experienced, such as; I always mess things up. Think about some ways that you can dispute this idea. For instance; Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is that I learn from mine. What can I learn from this?
- Change Your Thoughts: As you practice writing and challenging negative thoughts and become more comfortable with the process, try mentally identifying and challenging these thoughts in real-time. Rather than writing the thought down when it arises, take a deep breath, recognize the thought and then mentally counter it.
Learning to restructure irrational and unhelpful thoughts can be an effective technique for reducing stress and anxiety. By encouraging employees to practice these steps regularly, you can help foster a healthier and more positive workplace.