It has been a while since I have created a blog post. As I was typing, I noticed how much pressure I felt in that sentence. In my mind, it implied that I have been doing nothing since I wrote one. I am totally minimizing the working parent thing and everything else in my life. I always keep a list of topics that I want to write about in the future. For the past ten minutes I have been going through the list looking for the right topic to jump out. Setting boundaries, navigating transitions, emotional intimacy…all great topics at some point. I noticed I started to feel the pressure again. It was as if I had to write the perfect post because I have not written in a while. Then it reminded me of a familiar topic that comes up in sessions with clients. Who is making this rule? Who is saying I have to write about a good topic after not writing? I am making these rules and putting this pressure on myself to perform, which is a message coming from my underlying thoughts.
Then I realized, I had the topic for my blog post. It is so easy to get caught up in the inaccurate thoughts in our head, which cause uncomfortable feelings and can prevent us from doing things we enjoy. I can use my example to show one way that we have the power to change our thoughts.
First, I noticed feelings of pressure or anxiety as I was thinking of a topic and looking at the list. I checked in with my thoughts. (I have been busy and let the blog slip. I want people to know that I am still committed to it, which shows people that I am committed to my work, and that I am a good therapist). It is easy to get lost in the train of negative thoughts. (People may not want to work with me if they do not think I am committed. What if I started to have a hard time getting clients? Would my business go under?). In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) this is called a thinking error, catastrophizing. When I challenged the automatic thoughts and look at the facts, none of this is true. Creating an interesting blog or frequently posting is not a qualifier to being a successful therapist and helping my clients. Instead, my thoughts created the feelings of anxiety, expending emotional energy unnecessarily. The anxiety caused me to avoid writing a blog post, which continued the thought process cycle.
Now let’s look at this from more of an accepting, mindful place. One way to practice being mindful with our underlying thoughts is an exercise known as leaves on a stream. I prefer to think of little boats in the ocean, but feel free to sub in something that works for you. As a reminder, I noticed anxiety, which caused me to reflect on my automatic thoughts. Using this exercise, I took note of the thought of letting the blog slip, labeled it as a judgmental thought, dropped it on a boat, which sailed out into the ocean. Next thought was I want to show that I am committed to the blog. I labeled it an anxious thought and put it on another boat. Keep filling up those boats until you are out of thoughts to put on them. Important note, if you catch yourself jumping in and swimming after the boats, slow it back down. Try not to judge yourself and start again.
I started typing and this is where I ended up. It is okay to just be. We do not have to hold ourselves to such high standards of perfection. We can all get carried away in our thoughts, no matter our background. We have the power to change our thoughts to reflect a more accurate picture of our circumstances. We all can use techniques like CBT and mindfulness to increase our ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings and label them with acceptance and without judgment, just like this brief example.
Side note, I did complete a full year of blogging, which was my goal. Here is another thinking error, minimizing the accomplishments, because I did not recognize that achievement until way down here, but that is for another day!