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Manage Your Mind in New Ways

26 May 2020

Barbara read Inner Critic Hacks: 8 Easy Tricks to Quiet Negative Self-Talk in Seconds and tried a few things to help herself manage her mind a little more effectively.

Tags: barbara read, covid-19, self-talk

I had a ten-day stretch where I had some equilibrium thinking I can do this, continue the quarantine. I had watched enough meditation videos that my fear had lessened except when I read or listen to the news. I had imposed a structure on myself that was satisfying and stabilizing. Get up at 8:00, write in the morning, meditate at 11:30, eat lunch while reading a book at noon, start to oil paint at 2:00, walk at 4:00, start supper at 5:00, eat at 6:00, read and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime till 10:00. Two of my pre-COVID-19 groups now meet on Zoom—meditation on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and my writing group on Thursday.

Throughout each day, I help my husband who has Parkinson’s, and I am available to my grandchildren and children whenever they want support with online school or work. I told myself that these things plus working on my writing were my job description now, and it was a blessing to have time and space to do them.

I had gotten into a rhythm and doing better than I would have thought possible. I normally do not like this much structure or routine, but I’d read that it could help, and it was working! However, on the 11th day I plummeted. I felt dread when I opened my eyes, was tired all day, jealous that other people were going out. There were no Zoom meetings or planned phone calls. (Later, Allison shared an article that helped me to understand I was experiencing a common phenomenon, the dreaded third quarter of isolation.)

As one is want to do when feeling low, I started scrolling on Facebook. I found an article by Melody Wilding in a ForbesWomen blog titled Inner Critic Hacks: 8 Easy Tricks to Quiet Negative Self-Talk in Seconds. She had eight suggestions for how women can manage their tendency to talk to themselves negatively and how to increase their self-confidence. Although I wasn’t having a crisis of confidence, I was feeling sadder than I had felt in a long time and was struggling with managing my inner negative dialogue. Numbers one, five, seven, and eight of her suggestions lifted my mood:

1.  Give it a Name
Personify your negative voice. I asked myself whose voice I hear when I’m writing and start to criticize what I’ve written too early. The answer was new to me, but it popped quickly into my head—my high school senior English teacher— the loud mouthed, big red lipped, sarcastic blonde with a raucous laugh. She was quick to direct criticism at any of us college prep students to bring us down to earth, put us in our place, embarrass us. When I finished that statement, I thought—I do have a bit of bitterness left from that year and I’ve got to stop talking to myself like a nagging teacher.

5.  Draft Power Statements
This article like so many things I read wants to reassure readers that they are not recommending positive affirmations like “I’m wildly successful and confident beyond measure.” I agree that statement is over the top, but so is anything positive when I’m anxious, sad, or afraid. What I’ll try to do to pull myself out of negative feelings is to begin my go-to phrases—"I enjoy being free of worry, fear, and anxiety. I enjoy every day.” Those words are definitely a lie when I first start to say them, but they usually become truer if I keep repeating them.

7.  Create a Playlist
This suggestion made me realize I could play music in the middle of the day and not just when I walk at night. Two of my favorite songs to help me feel better are:  

  • I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash and sung by Credence Clearwater Revival. This is not at all true right now, but I like pretending it is and want to believe it will be again one day.
  • Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones. I haven’t done any of what that song suggests but as American Bandstanders in the 60s used to say, “It has a good beat and you can dance to it.” It makes me feel “kick ass” and can jolt me out of a bad mood while I dance to it in front of the mirror in my basement.

8.  Give Someone a Compliment
If you feel trapped at home and not useful, think about who you could give a compliment to. Wilding quoted Edith Zimmerman “…I feel the worst when I feel the least useful, so sending someone a compliment out of the blue feels like latching back onto the lowest rung of the utility ladder.” I’ve now given several out of the blue compliments and have noticed how much better they made me feel even if I didn’t hear back from the person.

This article reminded me that these times may require me to try new tools and even some that don’t necessarily seem applicable to my current problem. Wilding’s tips above didn’t take a lot of time or discipline but still helped me to press the reset button and find continued patience and discipline.

What has helped you when you hit a low point?


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