5 More Ways to Handle the Punches Your Mind Throws at You

Does your mind love to pummel you when you make a mistake? Mine does, too. My mind loves to beat me to a pulp at every opportunity.

Many of the clients I work with want to get rid of their negative thoughts. They want to escape the negative influence these unhelpful thoughts have on their lives. I totally get it.

Here’s the problem: There is no Harry Potter-like magic wand to wave that will take away your negative thoughts. I hate to be a killjoy, but that’s just how it is.

You can try to argue with your mind. Which is a waste of time and energy. You can try to ignore and push down the uncomfortable thoughts it throws at you. Yet they relentlessly return.

The key is to get distance from your negative thoughts since you can’t get rid of them.


Music in the Background

Here’s a quick metaphor for what I mean. Imagine that you struggle with thoughts of being a fraud. Imagine that those thoughts are contained by a pair of prescription glasses.

When you get consumed and fully focused on such thoughts, it’s like you are looking directly through those glasses. Every interaction you have at work and at home is seen through the lens of, “I’m a fraud.”

Being fully focused on such negative thoughts would have a horrible impact on your life. Your work and your relationships would suffer.

Ideally, you’d love to crush those glasses and throw them away. That’s ideal, and unfortunately, unrealistic.

But what if you could learn how to take the glasses off and put them beside you? Those thoughts are there, but they aren’t your focus. It’s like they are music playing in the background. You hear them, but they aren’t dominating your life.

How can you get such distance from difficult thoughts? I’ve written about 5 ways to do so in a previous post, and here are 5 more.

No technique works for everyone because we are unique individuals. Just try each one out with an experimental mindset and see which ones are most helpful for you.


5 More Ways to Get Distance From the Punches Your Mind Throws at You


1. Who’s talking here?

Pause and ask yourself, “Who’s talking here? Is it me, or is it my mind?”

This simple question can quickly give you distance from unhelpful thoughts.

One of the most important lessons that you can learn is that you are more than the thoughts that cross your mind. We are defined by what we do, not by the thoughts our mind throws at us.


2. Is this thought workable?

Here’s another helpful question to ask yourself: “Is this thought workable?”

This question guides you to consider what would happen if you let that thought consume you and dictate what actions you take. Would that thought take you towards or away from the life that you want?

If that thought directs you on what you do, will it help you behave like the person you want to be? Like the person you want to become?


3. Consider the secondary gains.

If you let this thought tell you what to do, what feelings, thoughts, or situations might it help you avoid or escape from?

For example, if you feel anxious in social situations, thinking, “no one likes me,” can help you avoid the anxiety of going out to dinner with some co-workers. In the short run, the negative thought has some payoff by decreasing your anxiety.

In the long run, succumbing to such thoughts increases their power over your life and intensifies your battle with social anxiety.

Are there some short-term benefits to your unhelpful thoughts? Identify what those benefits are, and consider what the long-term consequences are of giving into those thoughts.


4. Say the thought very slowly. Or say it quickly, repeatedly.

Our thoughts are a combination of words and pictures that have an emotional charge to them. If you learn how to play with them, you can get more distance from them.

Slowly saying a thought that typically hits you hard can decrease its power. Same with saying it quickly and repeatedly to yourself.

Note: I would not recommend experimenting with this strategy if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or if you are trying to heal from a traumatic experience. Again, this strategy seeks to break thoughts down into words and pictures with emotion attached to them. In the situations I just mentioned, this exercise can easily backfire.


5. Take a step back and look in on your situation.

We’ve all seen movies where a person has an out of body experience. A character is on the operating table and suddenly their soul is looking down on their body.

Imagine you are in such a movie. Wherever you are (at your desk, driving in your car, etc.), take a step back and look in on yourself as an unhelpful thought is hitting you. As you take a step back to look in on yourself, notice this thought that is cutting across your mind.

Notice what feelings the thought evokes in you. Notice what behaviors it draws you to want to take. Notice whether those behaviors would honor who you want to be.

Learning to step back and notice how unhelpful thoughts are impacting us can also help us to get distance from them.

Are you struggling with loss & grief, anxiety, or burnout and live in Ohio? Reach out to me at Oak Harbor Counseling Services. My office is conveniently located in northern Columbus. You can learn more about my counseling practice here or email me at [email protected].

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Brent Flory

Brent is a licensed professional counselor in Columbus, Ohio. He works with adults and adolescents, and specializes in helping people who are struggling with anxiety, loss & grief, and burnout.
In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his family, playing basketball, and eating too much ice cream.

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