Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Brainspace: Strategies for Coping with Negative Thoughts



Opening exercise: Start by thinking for a few minutes about some of the things that occupy your mind nowadays. List as many as you can think of by putting them in the brain picture below. Try to put neutral, positive or helpful thoughts next to the black numbers 1-5. If you have negative or harmful thoughts that occupy your mind, then put those next to the red letters A-E

When everyone has had time to fill out the diagram, 

then as a group discuss some of the thoughts that occupy space

 in your mind in your life today.

The R’s of Managing Difficult Thoughts

Read First – Some people have a chronic mental health condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD involves recurring obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that can be extremely difficult to control. OCD is biological in nature and often requires a psychiatric evaluation with a qualified professional who can prescribe medication as needed.

 The strategies discussed here may help someone with OCD but alone they may not be enough dependent upon the severity of OCD

Keep in mind, different strategies listed below work better for various kinds of problems so it may require using a variety or even a combination of these coping skills to manage negative thoughts.

Resolve – Ask yourself: Can I lessen or remove these difficult thoughts if I take care of the source problem?

Example: “My obsessive thoughts about money decreased significantly when I finally resolved the stress by making a budget and started sticking to it for a while”

Root Out – This is like the Resolve strategy just mentioned but this could involve deeper problems in life. Things like trauma, fears, and chronic anxieties can trigger negative thoughts so getting to the root of these issues (which can take time and therapy) can help a great deal.

Example: “I was driving myself out of my mind thinking critically about my looks until I finally got help and processed my childhood experiences where my mother was always putting me down about how I looked while I was growing up. Now that I have worked on this, my mind is much freer and clearer”

Redirect and Replace – Some thoughts are simply better dealt with by distracting ourselves or changing the channel. This is not always easy but when it works it can be extremely effective

Example – “Every time I started thinking about my Ex, I just remembered what a waste of time it is to think about the past and instead I focused on positive goals that I hoped to achieve in my new life since the relationship ended. Since I shifted focus my career has really advanced!”

Reason – Some thoughts are just irrational or unrealistic, and therefore they can be reduced or even removed by thinking things through in a reasonable and rational way. This can take practice.

Example – “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and start obsessing about how things could go wrong in the day ahead. I have learned to reduce those thoughts by reasoning that the odds are my day will have some basic ups and downs but if I make safe decisions, I am going to be just fine, so worrying about what might happen each morning is a waste of time”

Recognize – Finally, sometimes we need to recognize and accept that some things are what they are and therefore, thinking about them is not going to change anything. It can be important to remind ourselves that thinking about the same thing over and over is not going to make it any better

Example – I used to find myself obsessing about my receding hairline until finally I accepted that some men just go bald and as much as it can be uncomfortable to adapt to, it just is what it is. I then gave in and changed my hairstyle to adapt and I am so much more at peace mentally.


Pick a problem in your life from the opening exercise and discuss how you can practice these strategies to manage the negative thoughts


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Self Esteem Word Challenge


Self Esteem Word Challenge

Directions: This is an insight and self-awareness building exercise specific to self-esteem and self-image. In this exercise everyone in the group will consider different descriptive words and then discuss how they feel personally about these word descriptions. As a group go through the list of words provided below, one at a time. Group members are encouraged to share and discuss their personal comfort level with each of the items of the list below, based on their own self-assessment, using the following 1-5 scale as a guideline


5 – I have a high level of comfort with owning this word or phrase in my life today

4 – I have a moderate level of comfort with owning this word or phrase in my life today

3 – I am somewhat comfortable with this today, but I am still working on it

2 – I am not yet comfortable with this

1 – I feel very uncomfortable or awkward with this description


The counselor should carefully guide group discussion, allowing group members to share freely without judgement. It can be helpful to discuss why people have different feelings, thoughts, and reactions. Group members are encouraged to be supportive of one another to help make this easier for others to share their personal strengths and challenges both openly and honestly

Descriptive Word/Phrase List

















Start with: “I have… (Add words below)








Start: “I am a good… (Add words below)”






Relationship Partner

Role Model



Optional – Come up with and try some of your own?


Some Self Esteem Builders:

Engage in Change – It may take time drop a bad habit or work out a deep-rooted personality issue but if we are working to change it, we can start to feel better about ourselves. Making an effort counts


Positive Affirmations – Writing down and saying positive things about ourselves on a daily basis can build self-esteem. Choose words that are realistic rather than overly lofty. For example, “I can do this” or “I am capable” may be better for someone who may be struggling with self-esteem than “I am the greatest” or “I can do anything!”


Positive Self Talk – This is similar to affirmations but a little different in the delivery. Positive self-talk needs to happen in the moment, either before or during a time of challenge. The positive self-talk message we tell ourselves should be specific to that challenge and also reasonable and believable. A good example of positive self-talk would be when faced with a difficult task ahead, saying to oneself “If I give it my all and don’t give up, I will make this work”


Journaling – This is one of those “try it and you may just like it” ideas. People are often resistant to keeping a journal but often when people really give it a try, they find journaling to be extremely helpful. Writing down things that you did well and goals accomplished each day, no matter how small, can be a huge self-esteem builder


Goal Setting – Speaking of goals, they are essential for self esteem building. Choosing achievable goals each day and then conquering them builds momentum and belief in oneself and our abilities. Every time we reach a goal it can build more and more motivation and hope, both of which contribute to improved self esteem


Regular Physical Activity – Exercise, sports, walking, running, hiking, biking, etc. – These all can not only make us stronger and healthier physically, but the increased activity can also make us feel better about ourselves. Try it for a while and you will see!


Insight and Self Awareness – When we look inside ourselves with a mind toward self-improvement, we can find strength, ability, and potential for positive growth. Living in denial is a recipe for poor self-esteem in the long run. Learning to face our fears can be scary at first but incredibly empowering over the long term. Asking ourselves searching questions like “how can I do this better?” or “what reasonable changes can I make to start to improve?” can provide the building blocks for self-improvement and improved self-image


Media reboot – Are you spending a lot of time either watching shows, surfing the net or on social media? These things can rob us of joy especially if they take too much of our precious time and attention. For example, let’s say you spend a lot of time on a social media platform: Ask yourself questions like: “Is this bringing me more joy or frustration?” or “Am I reading material or comments that are making me angry and making me want to argue?” Many individuals have improved their lives by ditching various forms of media.