self care iceberg watermarked

Welcome back to the series on Breaking into a Self-Care Mindset for the Professional and Family Caregiver!

So far, we’ve re-connected to our true selves in Step 1, built our self-worth in Step 2, and learned to set boundaries in Step 3.

We’ve come a very long way!

Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back.

If you’ve been doing these exercises, and devoting about a month or so to practicing each, you will have noticed the profound effects of the self-care mindset.

Today, we’re going to tackle how our thoughts can facilitate or obstruct our developing self-care mindsets.

We’ll end today’s installment with an exercise to help you identify which types of thoughts you have so you can decide where you want to make some changes.

Let’s get started!

The Devil is in the Details Way We Think

Have you heard the phrase, “the devil is in the details?”

Well, when we talk about creating a self-care mindset, and the obstacles that get in our way, we’re most likely going to be talking about HOW we think.

How we think is so much more important than what we think.

The types of thought patterns we have throughout the day matter.

The thought patterns we default to when we are stressed matter.

So, what are your thought patterns?

Do they make it easy for you to have a self-care mindset or do they crumple up your self-care mindset like a furious toddler and smashing a piece of paper?

Thought Patterns That DON’T Support a Developing Self-Care Mindset

Every yin has opposing yang and thought patterns are no different. Some you want. Others, you don’t. Here are a few common ones you definitely don’t want to hang on to when learning to operate from a place of self-care.

  • “All or nothing”

All or nothing thinking makes it difficult to see shades of grey. Things either are or aren’t. Something either always happens or never happens.

  • Overgeneralizing

Overgeneralizing means taking one or two instances and assuming a pattern will emerge.

  • Filtering

If your mind tends to focus only on the negative while ignoring the positive, you have a mental filter. I like to call this filter the “anti-positive” filter. Are you allergic to positivity?

  • Emotions as facts

Do you believe your feelings are facts? If you do, I encourage you to break this thought pattern first. It is incredibly toxic to the self-care mindset and your well-being. You’ll benefit from separating yourself from your thoughts.

This list is FAR from exhaustive. In fact, psychologists have recognized at least 50 types of thought patterns that are harmful to our self-care mindsets. For a far more complete list, please see 50 Common Cognitive Distortions.

How to Change the Way You Think

If you’ve read this far, I assume you want your thoughts to support and strengthen your developing self-care mindset! Here are a few strategies to try—

  • Separate yourself from your thoughts.

Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, says it best—you’re not your thoughts. Hence, what you think is not as powerful as how you think. Just because you think it doesn’t make it so. Separating yourself from your thoughts is one of the most powerful ways to reduce the impact of harmful thought patterns while gaining control over how you think.

  • Practice recognizing unhelpful thought patterns

Before you can change how you think, you need to understand how you think. This means that you need to identify how you think. How, how, how—have I said that word enough yet?! It’s important.

  • Counter unhelpful ways of thinking with thinking that supports the self-care mindset

After you’ve figured out how you think, you can counter unhelpful ways of thinking otherwise known as thought patterns or cognitive distortions. This countering process is what you’ll use to unshackle yourself from the kind of thinking that destroys the self-care mindset

After years of reflection and observation, I’ve come to believe that anyone can change their mindset to one of self-care by doing four things, and they are:

1) Separating yourself from your thoughts

This means we understand that the thoughts we have may or may not represent us. We get to decide which ones reflect who we are because we are autonomous. We’re not slaves to our thoughts. For example, the thought, “I’m creative” reflects me. The thought “I’m not worthy of a seven-figure job” doesn’t reflect me at all—I am totally worth this and welcome it.

2) Identifying what and how you think

You can figure this out by scanning this list of cognitive distortions and thinking about how you think.

3) Countering what and how you think

We’ll break into this in our exercise today.

4) Replacing unhelpful ways of thinking with thinking that supports the self-care mindset

We’ll touch on this soon.

An Exercise on Thinking

This month, we’re going to spend time figuring out how we think—that is, what thinking patterns do you frequently default to that aren’t conducive to developing your self-care mindset?

Your exercise is as follows:

Take a journal and make three columns. (Hint. Leave room for a fourth column.)

  • Label the first column “Thought.”
  • Label the second column “Thinking Pattern.”
  • Label the third column “Counter.”

Throughout each day over the next 30 days jot down any thoughts you have. You’ll have to be mindful of what you’re thinking, so now’s a great time to practice self-awareness! You can read about the role of self-awareness in emotional intelligence here.

Write down your thoughts in the thought column. One thought per row.

Next, identify which type of thought pattern your thought falls into using this article. (This is why it’s important to let each individual thought have one row).

Once, you’ve identified the thought distortion, you’ll counter that thought with a more accurate one.

Here’s an example of this process:

Thought: “I failed at this diet because I cheated and ate a cookie”

Distortion: All or nothing

Counter: “I deviated from my goal and will get back on track. I’m still very much able to reach my weight goal and thus am still very much able to be successful!”

Until Next Time, Stay Well

Spend some time with this exercise and in 2-4 weeks, I’ll be posting Step 5! If you’d like a hint about what’s to come, here it is—now that we’ve identified and countered unhelpful thought patterns, it’s time to learn how to replace them with specific self-care mindset strategies!

Congratulations on putting a real effort into your personal and professional self-care transformation!


Author Bio:
Amanda has contributed to public health initiatives on two continents in three countries. She’s currently pursuing a nursing degree and has successfully owned and operated a freelance writing business specializing in content for healthcare organizations for three years. She and her husband and daughter live in New York. They all enjoy eating out at great restaurants. Connect with Amanda on Linkedin and start a conversation.

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