How to Manage Negative Thoughts

At night, when things grow quiet, debilitating thoughts tend to crawl from the recesses of the mind, bringing an excellent day to an exhausting end.

Whenever this happens, I want to believe my brain is just trying to tell me something is wrong. But while in the storm, it’s hard to discern whether ‘what’s wrong’ is real or only made up of insecurities or some misguided pattern recognition.

Whichever the case, I discovered there is a way to turn the destructive thought process into something more productive, and it leaves me feeling leveled or better than I would have had I done nothing.

Identifying The Trigger

Sounds more straightforward than it is. Some days, the trigger could be a series of events or thoughts — this usually my case (maybe it’s the same for you).

Here is where I find ‘pausing’ is crucial. Pausing and giving a name to those negative emotions will set you on a healthier and more productive path.

Whether it is a shame, anger, disappointment, or deep sadness, try your best to label it. Once it’s labeled, it becomes something you can address.

Find the moments that contributed to that negative feeling. If it’s an event that triggered it, focus on that but only to define the bigger picture or ‘the problem.’

I would count my lucky stars every time my partner would let me use them as a soundboard to express and dissect those negative feelings. Now, I’m on my own; thus, writing my thoughts unfiltered and with a clear intention is incredibly useful.

The intention is ‘simple enough’: discover why I am having these feelings without denying myself the right to process them.

There are some basic, generic questions you can ask yourself.

  • Can I give this emotion a name? (frustrated, anxious, defeated, inadequate?)
  • How did my day go? Were there moments that irritated me? Moments where I had negative thoughts? If so, was there a ‘theme around those thoughts?
  • Are my negative thoughts focused on other people or me?
  • Are the negative thoughts around something I can fix?

When I find the trigger, no matter if it’s a real or an imaginary problem, I have a place to start working on getting back on track because I have identified the ‘root cause’ of my feelings.

Take Notes of The Problems

I recently noticed a pattern where I would feel great in the mornings, experienced a lack of focus during the day, and at night I had draining emotions of feeling unwanted.

I spent hours soaking my state of mind, crying, and analyzing all the self-doubt, abandonment, and what I wasn’t doing.

Mind you, this was a gutting process.

I sat down on the carpet, breathing, taking stock of my reflection in the mirror. I opened a notebook, clicked open a pen, and wrote.

The final work smudged in tears and probably snot was not pretty. Yet, it held everything I had in mind, allowing me to clear my thoughts and identify the root cause of those feelings or ‘problems.’ What I could control and change.

Device a Plan & Execute

Once you know what the problem is, then you determine how to solve it. Going back to the snotty pages before, I made a game plan to tackle each.

Whenever I felt the same feelings or thoughts creep up on me, I’d remember the game plan to remedy the root problems causing said feelings (but that’s just me).

If you need to write a detailed plan in your journal, any planning tool, or even go as far as creating a Gantt chart, do so!

Execute your solutions or plans at your own pace; don’t add another pressure to your life. Don’t lie to yourself either. If you feel like you can push yourself, then go for it, but be kind to yourself. It does not come naturally; it takes patience, consistency, and time — like so many things in life.

These recommendations are not a silver bullet, yet they have consistently helped me get out of ‘lows’ without relying on others, and I hope this proves useful to some of you.

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