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Change your unhelpful thoughts and feelings

Christine Courbasson, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

Dr. Christine Courbasson, a registered psychologist, is Director of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectic Behavioural Therapy, and Humanistic Therapy Centre in Toronto. Over her career, she developed cognitive behavioural treatments for substance use, eating disorders and social anxiety. Dr. Courbasson also developed residential, day treatment and outpatient services, and she participated in cognitive behavioural interventions for coping with cancer. She has held various positions at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, been Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and Adjunct Faculty at universities and professional schools in North America and Europe. She has given worldwide workshops for professionals, authored numerous scientific articles and book chapters, lectured on many topics, and appeared on television and radio.

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You might find it helpful to think about what you say to yourself about the job and evaluate how it might contribute to your stress – your self-talk. Sometimes we get into the habit of interpreting ambiguous information in a negative way, which can make us feel even more stressed. It is important to develop an accurate view of your work situation – a balanced view – rather than one that exaggerates the negative or overlooks the positive aspects of the situations associated with work. Through cognitive restructuring, you can learn to identify what leads to negative self-talk, anxiety, depression and other disturbing sensations, thoughts, and emotions. In this section, we will show you how to restructure unhelpful thoughts into more helpful ones.

First, take yourself off “speed dial”. You may find that you automatically react to certain situations. Try taking the time to recognize the thoughts associated with the negative feelings. Then pause and practice relevant coping strategies so you do not react automatically but instead choose your reaction and respond more constructively to the situation. You may want to take a few deep breaths when you feel strong emotions and focus on your breath for a moment to ground yourself instead of feeling taken away by your strong emotions.

Then, find the thoughts behind the feelings and sensations by “checking in” with yourself. If you are feeling something, pause for a moment and try to label it.  Ask yourself what you are thinking as well as what you are feeling. You may find that some of these thoughts are neither realistic nor helpful. Even if some of your thoughts are realistic, thinking about them over and over again may be unhelpful to you.1

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How to overcome unhelpful thought patterns