Day 3: Common Thinking Traps
We should trust our own thoughts at all times, right? Not exactly. Sometimes our brain plays tricks on us.
Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that cause us to perceive reality through a skewed perception - usually a negative one. These thinking errors then often trigger feelings of pessimism. Those feelings of pessimism, over time, can give way to increased levels of anxiety and sadness. It's literally a domino effect!
But how do you know if you've been falling into thinking traps? Below are nine common cognitive distortions with a food allergy spin. Do you find yourself commonly using one....or more?
This list of thinking traps isn't a complete one - here are additional cognitive distortions. So now that you've identified which food allergy-related thinking traps you typically fall into, what can you do about it?
Challenge Them - This is exactly as it sounds. You're going to challenge your thoughts to a duel! Think of yourself as a private investigator, whose job it is to find evidence to confirm that the negative thoughts in your brain aren't true. That evidence then becomes the weapon you'll use to fight back against the negative thoughts. In the emotional reasoning example where the faulty thought is "If I feel incapable of managing food allergies, then I must be incapable!", you're looking for evidence to support the opposite - that you're more capable than you think. Even if the evidence isn't food allergy-specific, it's still applicable. (Here is a brief video from University of Toronto on challenging thinking traps, and a helpful chart to use to help you challenge cognitive distortions).
Self-Talk - Once you've identified the thinking traps and attempted to challenge them, you'll want to create positive self-talk. (Yes, it's okay to talk to yourself, either aloud or in your own head). Even after you've challenged your stinking thinking, that negative internal dialogue may return; therefore, you'll want to fight back with self-statements that allow you to feel capable, empowered, and resilient. You may have to fake it until you make it with your self-talk initially, but eventually, you'll retrain your brain to believe it! (Try these positive self-statements on for size: "Even if my child has a reaction, I am prepared, capable, and ready to handle it." Or "It's okay to feel scared; I don't have to judge myself or let others' judgments make me feel bad.")
----Read all seven Food Allergy Awareness Week tips here!---
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(If you find yourself needing support for food allergy-related psychosocial impacts, locate a food allergy-knowledgeable clinical behavioral healthcare provider via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory.)
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