Tips on How to Defeat Negative Thought Patterns When They Emerge

Sometimes motivation is lacking, you’re feeling out of sorts, your energy is low, and your focus is waning.

It’s not abnormal to go through these mental phases from time to time and it’s just as equally likely to climb out of these ruts with some regularity.

Typically, negative thought patterns surface in two kinds of scenarios:

Physical: You’re not sleeping enough. You’re spreading yourself too thin at work or in your personal life and you’re mentally exhausted. You’re exercising more than what could be considered healthy and productive. You can barely keep your eyes open.

Mental: You allow your thoughts to spiral and reel into dark places. Your self-doubt, uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, and impostor syndrome run wild. You lose focus and allow thoughts to run away with themselves and you lose any sense of self-esteem.

When I’m overly tired, overly worried, starting a new job, going through an interpersonal conflict, or I’m not sleeping enough, these two factors can often times work in tandem.

It’s important to to take a step back mentally, in times like these, and learn to filter out the noise.

As a clinical depression sufferer, I understand times like these more than I’d wish on my worst enemy. My most potent ally when I’m feeling this way is to try and not listen to my own thoughts.

The childish, negative, repeating, thoughts that swirl through my head about my incompetence, my faults, my failures, and even the existential pointlessness of human life all play ad nauseam. Anger, selfishness, pettiness, hatred are common symptoms.

Projecting these energies internally as well as on others, this is not the best version of me. This state of being is symptomatic of suffering. These feelings are understandable, but that doesn’t mean we have to give them power.

While these thoughts are weighing you down, though, letting them wash past you and focusing on your actual needs should be the goal.

Take care of yourself. Stop responding to emails and text messages. Take some time away from the computer. Hug a pet. Go for a walk. Remember that you have an innate right to your own sense of agency. Aside from bodily needs like air, water, and sustenance, you can comfort and care for your body and mind how you see fit.

Don’t believe in the person your panicked, fearful, desperate mind tells you that you are. This mind is an unreliable narrator and it’s speaking out of extreme discomfort and pain rather than truth. Your true self comes from what energizes you and brings you focus and fulfillment.

Notice these dark thoughts, though, and acknowledge them. Ignoring and stuffing emotions down deep doesn’t lead to happiness either. Give yourself the time to process and walk through these thoughts without judgment.

It can also help to talk to a third party about this. Don’t be too proud to reach out for help. Professional help, friends, spouses, coworkers, leaders in your community groups can all be tapped in times of need.

After you’ve taken care of the mental inventory, consider doing something physical or productive. Mow the lawn. Take a walk. Build something. Draw something. Write in a notebook. It feels good to cross things off of your to-do list and it can provide precious moments of distraction when your brain isn’t feeling just right.

Truly, it’s okay to feel like this sometimes. Depending on your situation, there are varying degrees of longevity and regularity of these thoughts, but don’t judge yourself for them. Instead, recognize them and take the steps to care for yourself in a way that allows the shortest runway of these phases.

It’s challenging to be self-aware both mentally and physically, but caring for yourself takes introspection, coping mechanisms, and personally-tailored self-care methods that make you feel safe and supported.