It’s one of those weeks where nothing seems to be going well. The car needs repairing, your boss asked you to stay late again after work, your child is acting up at school, and you just found an overdue bill in your mail- talk about stress! It just feels like the “bad days” won’t ever end and just wish SOMETHING would go right for once.
Those are the days we reminisce about the perfect day- either one we experienced or one we wish we had. It can feel rather hopeless to capture a day so perfect, right? You might ask yourself “Will it ever end? What am I doing wrong that life just feels like a series of bad things?” It would be wonderful if the day was filled with blissful feelings, the car worked like a dream, the kids behaved and didn’t need twenty reminders to pick up toys, and at the end of the day there was a relaxing spa experience waiting for you. Are you ready to hear the answers to those questions? 1) Yes the bad days can end, and 2) you aren’t really doing anything wrong. But there is something you might be able to change: your perspective.
“What,” you ask, “change myself….again??” I know, can you believe I’m actually asking you to change? Ugh, change is for the birds, right? Fear not, I am not going to suggest taking 30 mins of your already busy day to create a new habit. I just want you to think. That’s it, just think. The goal here is to consider reframing your thinking. We live in a society that is filled with reminders of how life needs to look perfect and if you’re not on board you live with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). What can happen for some of us is that by not having those perfect days it means feeling we must be doing something wrong. After all, everyone else is living the perfect life, right? (Not really, but they might be reframing their thinking!)
Here are some pitfalls and “reframe-your-brain” solutions:
“Overgeneralizing” -one thing goes wrong it means everything else after will go wrong.
Solution: Acknowledge the distressing moment and pause to remind yourself that this does not mean an end to a good day. Consider this a setback that you can work on overcoming. Give yourself space to commit to holding onto positive experiences. “This is awful. I’m going to move forward and commit to creating a more positive day.” Be deliberate in doing something positive for the day.
“Filtering” - putting emphasis on negative events and ignoring positive ones.
Solution: Remind yourself that negative experiences are bound to happen. Scan yourself to take note of the feelings attached to that negative moment. Is it triggering you to feel helpless, hopeless, afraid, angry? Sit with those feelings for a moment and give them a little space to just be. Reframe these thoughts to move forward and look for positive moments, no matter how small they may be. (That one kind driver let you into the lane, someone held a door for you, or a child smiled at you.)
“Personalization” - that feeling you are the cause for things that go wrong.
Solution: Challenge your beliefs that you cause negative things to happen. Without challenging these thoughts, you will constantly feel like the victim and expect bad things to happen. Remind yourself you are not a magnet for less than ideal outcomes. Explore gratitude, look for things you are grateful for, and think about positive qualities you have. If you cannot come up with positives for yourself, ask a friend to tell you what they like about you as a starting point.
“Magnification” (or “Catastrophizing”) - exaggerating or minimizing the importance of things.
Solution: Focus on acceptance. You had a string of good days and suddenly things went awfully wrong leaving you with the feeling “things will never get better.” When we magnify problems and negative experiences we might miss the finer points. One mistake or one bad experience does not redefine your competence, abilities, or very being. Take time to find acceptance of a setback and build self-compassion by asking questions on what you learned about yourself from the experience. Go easy on yourself and ask, “Am I striving to be perfect?” (Sometimes we may find that there is a layer of shame hiding behind this question that pushes us to be perfectionists.)
These are just a few ways to explore your thoughts and challenging your beliefs. The hope is that you will pause to reframe your thinking to help create a more positive outlook. Take note that sometimes this means practicing these reframing skills so try to be patient if it doesn’t feel like it is helping right away. Over time you will have created a new habit opening more space for you to see positive aspects of life. Developing strengths to seeing life in a more positive perspective will also lessen the need to have those perfect days. After all, life might be kind of boring and we wouldn’t learn much about ourselves if we didn’t have those less than perfect days.
Sometimes we encounter barriers that prevent us from moving forward. If you are finding that you are struggling to push through negative experiences after making your own changes you may want to consider meeting with a professional who can help guide you with additional skills and techniques. The investment to positive mental health can be very rewarding and may inspire changes in you that you may have not been aware of before. Create your positive day- you are worth it!
Creative Pathways- Rochester Art Therapy- specializing in treating the Highly Sensitive Person, is devoted to helping individuals face their struggles in a supportive and gentle way. Let us help you achieve your personal goals and develop in-depth solutions. If you would like to learn more and meet with a therapist, please contact us today to determine how we can help.
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.