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How to Keep Your Mind from Racing to the Negative

Picture this: life is going great. Everything is rolling smoothly. Life is like a well-oiled machine on a set course. Until one day, the machine stops working properly and sends us off-track. Something has happened that makes us have to pivot and change direction. We are not going where we thought we were. Sounds familiar? How do you deal with that when you’re in social isolation? When you are alone, coping with the situation? So many people find themselves struggling on their own. That’s when their minds start racing to a negative place. But did you know that we have complete control over our brains? We do. We have full control. So, the minute your brain starts to shift to a negative space, you must ask yourself, “what about this could turn into something good? What are the positives?” Ask yourself what is working right now, and then what needs to be done to change things. Here’s an example. Quite a few years ago, my husband’s hours were cut in half and no income was coming into my company. Overnight, our collective income was cut by 75%. It would be easy to fly into a full-blown panic. Instead, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote down what was working for us financially: we were both employable with desirable skills, we had large professional networks and our communication abilities were excellent. This meant we could apply to a myriad of jobs. What else? We were renters, so we had the freedom to move and rent cheaper. Or to move away for a new job. Anything else that was working? Yes – we still had some income over which we had spending control. Then, I wrote down what was not working: the price of oil, my husband’s hours and subsequent lower pay, and my job. Finally, I created a “how do I make it better?” category. Here, I looked at what I could fix. The price of oil? Out of my control. Cross it off the list, because no amount of thinking and stressing over it was going to change it. No need to waste my energy on that. Money? Now here’s something we could do something about. We would cook in instead of eat out, cut our cable, shovel our own snow and drive out bottles to the refund depot. There is always a way to shift. It is key to figure out what you cannot adjust and what you can. This stuff can keep us awake at night. So, if your mind is too full and you can’t go to sleep, write down all your worries on a piece of paper, then put them in a “worry-later box” (yes, a literal box) before going to bed. The reason why we play things over and over in our head is because we haven’t done anything with it. Our brain replays them constantly, so we don't forget. Writing things out gives our brain an opportunity to feel like things are dealt with and we can move on to something else. Even if it's something you have no control over, put it in the box. And then go look at it a week, two weeks, three weeks later. Here's the crazy thing: half of it you're going to laugh at and think “I can't believe that's what I was worried about. That’s what was consuming my mental headspace.” The other half is going to already have worked themselves out. Or they never even came to fruition because you were worrying about things that haven't even happened yet. A second major thing to take into consideration when your thoughts are dwindling to the negative is the food you’re ingesting. Be cautious with what you’re eating. The wrong food will make you feel bad, sending your thoughts on a downward spiral into further negativity. Finally, ask for help. The people in your life who are truly connected with you will help. Come up with what you need, but be really specific about it. Whether it be somebody picks up groceries for you or lends you $50 because this week has been rough or is a listening ear on the phone. Because people want to help us. They do. But they often don't know how. And while we can be bad at asking for it, we can't expect everybody else to know what we need. Nobody is in your head. Nobody is in your shoes. And everybody is dealing with their own chaos and their own story. But most of the time, the people who love us will say, “Absolutely. How can I love on you?”

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