Have you ever thought…..
‘I’m going to have to work harder this week because I’m already behind with my work, why can’t I just be more organised, more productive. Why can’t I just cope with a normal workload. I’m so lazy, I’m rubbish at my job’.
Coping with a health condition at work can be physically exhausting and mentally draining. It can be easy to get caught up in the feelings that you ‘should’ be able to cope especially when you see your colleagues being able to easily manage their workload and busy working lives.
When we get caught up in those feelings we can be quite critical with ourselves. We berate ourselves for not being more ‘capable’. But what is this negative self talk doing to us?
Research has shown that focusing on your negative thoughts can lead to decrease in motivation, greater feelings of hopelessness, higher levels of stress and has even been linked to depression. So it’s definitely something that we might want to look at changing.
Lets focus on some ways we can be kind to ourselves, lets change our inner critic to an inner champion:
The first step to tackling negative self talk is to recognise when it is happening. One way you can do this is to keep a record or a journal for a week. Every time you get into a situation where you start feel stressed or anxious and the unhelpful thoughts start, note down the thoughts in your journal. Also keep a note of anything that might have triggered the unhelpful thoughts, for example did you see a colleague finish all their work for the day and leave on time whilst you still have a lot of work to get finished?
Once you start to recognise what thoughts you are having and what the triggers are for these thoughts you can start to tackle them.
Once you become aware of the unhelpful thoughts you might be surprised at how often you are having them or the situations that are triggering them. This can in turn result in you berating yourself for having so many unhelpful thoughts.
However, it is important to recognise that having these thoughts is a normal human experience, everyone will speak to themselves in a negative way from time to time. Accept that these thoughts will come up and then forgive yourself for having them, an affirmation you could use is ‘I recognise I am having these unhelpful thoughts and I am feeling difficult emotions, it is a normal human experience, but I have the strength and the resilience to cope with these thoughts and can still treat myself with love and kindness’.
3. Shift perspective
Imagine if a friend came to you and told you they were really struggling at work, what would you say to this friend?
You might say something along the lines of ‘I’m really sorry you are feeling this way, it sounds like a really difficult situation but you are doing the best you can, is there anything I can do to support you?’
Now think about how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in this way when you are struggling at work?
Getting some distance between you and your thoughts can be helpful in starving the thoughts of power over you. By stepping back from your thoughts and simply observing they are there we can change our relationship with them, they become something separate from us, they become just words.
Imagine thinking ‘I can’t do my job, I can’t cope with my workload, all my colleagues think I’m the weakest person on the team’.
As a result of these thoughts you might feel sad and angry at yourself, you might start avoiding taking on tasks at work or not put yourself forward for projects. You might avoid working on projects with others for fear of what they will think about your abilities.
Whilst avoiding these things in the short term might mean you avoid the judgement of others or the anxiety around your competence, in the long term the anxiety is likely to come up again and you may start to avoid more and more things at work until you start to question whether you should have a job.
What if instead you simply watched what your mind was saying, you just watched the thoughts come and go much like watching leaves blow down from a tree in the wind? What would your behaviour be if you simply chose to see these thoughts as possibly true but possibly untrue?
By recognising the thoughts as just thoughts you are free to decide how you want to act. You can either believe the thoughts and carry on avoiding things. Or you can recognise they might not be true and carry on putting yourself forward for opportunities or behaving in the way you want to at work.
Distancing from thoughts gives you choice, it gives you the freedom to choose an alternative.
Most importantly when you distance yourself from your thoughts you are not trying to change the thoughts themselves, you are just reducing the power they have over your behaviour.
5. Reflect on the positives
Whilst its easy to keep replaying the negative self talk we have about ourselves over and over in our heads I would like to challenge you to break that broken record by also considering the positives.
- What are you good at in your job?
- What tasks do you find easy?
- What things do you find enjoyable at work?
- What are you grateful for at work?
Reflecting on our strengths, what we find enjoyable and what we are grateful for creates a positive narrative to counter the negatives.
If you find reflecting on the positives hard to do in the moment why not write down your answers to the questions above on a notepad or your phone when you are feeling relaxed and then use them as a reminder when you feel the inner critic taking over.