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How Our Thoughts and Feelings Affect Us

Life is not about trying to control our lives through various channels in an effort to avoid being vulnerable to bad things (hurt, pain, sadness, anxiety).  Its about responding to life in the healthiest way possible, building a tolerance for bad/uncomfortable feelings, and being aware of the entire process so we can continue to make choices congruent with our values, goals, and worth (mindfulness) vs. just responding to just the feeling (i.e. just make the pain go away, stop the bad thoughts, etc.).  

Knowing your Think --> Feel--> Behave Cycle can help you work toward the aforementioned:


1) External Events Out of Our Control

a. Loss of a loved ones, arguments or conflicts with others, loss of job, challenges in the work place or at home, current events

b. We only have control of ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors

2) How We Interpret/Think About the Challenges We Face in Life

a. Based on our value system, culture, religion, observations we’ve made throughout our lives, things people have said to us, assumptions, stereo-types

b. We are constantly collecting data, making assumptions, conducting mini-experiments and gathering information—UNCONSCIOUSLY, SUBCONSCIOUSLY, and CONSCIOUSLY

3) Feelings and Emotions

a. Chemical/hormonal/physiological responses to our thoughts

i. Fight or flight, survival, reproductive urges, etc.

ii. Endorphins, serotonin, adrenaline, dopamine, etc.

iii. Where do you feel sadness? Joy? Anxiety? Fear? Anger?

iv. What would you call that sensation in your body?

4) Your Behavior

a. Your outward response to your thoughts and feelings

b. Coping Skills Coping Skills:

How we deal with the things that happen in life Negative Coping Skills

• Avoiding

• Ignoring

• Distracting

• Numbing

• Projecting with blame and aggression

Healthy Coping Skills Anything that allows us to fully ACKNOWLEDGE AND PROCESS our thoughts and feelings

• What are the thoughts I have about what happened? Do those thoughts make sense? What are these thoughts based on? How am I feeling right now? Where do I feel it in my body?

• Sometimes it is necessary to de-escalate or calm one’s racing thoughts or emotional flooding FIRST before acknowledging and processing ones thoughts and emotions

• Exercise

• Deep breathing

• Prayer or meditation

• Talking to a trusted friend/loved one

• Talking to a therapist

• Journaling

• Music

• Waiting it out (waiting for the uncomfortable feelings to calm down, take their course

• Gratitude Lists 

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