First of all, an important note: If you feel down and have depressive thoughts for a long time, you should seek professional help. And also “toxic positivity” i.e. Excessive optimism that does not allow contradictions is not very effective in mastering emotional downturns. As long as we suppress negative emotions with blinkers, they continue to accompany us and develop steadily greater powers to be perceived.
# 1 “Braindumping” and brooding times
Fixed time windows for brooding help to pay attention to concerns and needs while maintaining control. What is the most stressful thing about the project with the fickle customer? Why does the feedback conversation with the new employee cause us sleepless nights and what would be the “worst case” if the pitch is lost?
Devoting 15 minutes of time a day to mental ballast helps to free your mind for other things. As soon as we draw negative thought loops, we consciously decide to pay attention to these topics only during the “brooding times”.
The situation is similar with the “brain dumping” method. Comparable to “journaling” one writes (preferably by hand) in the morning without a fixed structure in a time-limited span of e.g. 10 to 20 minutes on everything that goes through your head. The highlight of brain dumping: We “empty” our minds and put our thoughts on paper. By reading our reflections in black and white and being able to put the mental horror scenarios into perspective, we get a distance from the carousel of thought.
Brain dumping has an effect similar to restarting the computer. If we are involved in too many complex and stressful processes, our system runs more sluggishly. The mental reset button on paper ensures a clear head.
# 2 Inner board
Which board members would you choose to help you with your current problems? With which team could you master every challenge? Do you have role models from art, sport, politics, contemporary history, old companions or your friends? Which people (dead or alive) do you trust with so much knowledge, courage and implementation power to remove your current obstacles from the way? Who would you go to for advice?
Instead of trusting the fluffy phrases from the carpet floor or the old management team, we can mentally convene our own board meeting. What advice would Karl Lagerfeld give in the event of a creative block? How would Barack Obama go about preparing the department for the digital transformation? What would your feisty great-aunt advise you if you were looking for a solution to a sales project?
We don’t have to act alone. The imaginative change of perspective through the glasses of our role models can lead to unimagined solutions and gives mental support.
# 3 digital emergency case
Just like paramedics pack their suitcases with IV fluids, ventilators and bandages for emergencies, set up your digital “rescue folder” on your mobile phone or laptop. There you can store songs, photos of friends and partners, pets and vacations as well as quotes or symbols that you associate with joy, success and satisfaction. Keep everything that makes you happy in this digital place. Before a salary interview, a presentation or at dreary moments, you can recharge your batteries by scrolling through your collection.
# 4 Past successes
What challenges have you mastered in the past? Negative experiences are quickly forgotten – a kind of self-protection. For your current resilience, it is expedient to look at past successes and masterpieces. Question what qualities helped you back then. Did you turn things around with iron stamina and the support of your partner shortly before your company went bankrupt? After the dot-com bubble, have you successfully conquered a completely new industry with curiosity and passion? Did you unexpectedly finish your part-time course as the best of your year?
Look at your strengths and successes from earlier times and trust in your skills.
# 5interrogation and evidence
Old beliefs and inner drivers such as “You can’t do that again” and “You have to do it much faster” slow us down in our potential and personal development. Often such beliefs stem from childhood days, when we had no way of questioning such attributions.
From today’s perspective, the disgruntled uncle probably did not trust us because he himself never received praise or encouragement. Its assessment has little to do with our abilities.
Today we can consciously listen to the inner voices of old times, build distance and question: Is it really the case that we are supposedly too weak to take on the competition? Is there any factual evidence and facts for this? With constant repetition and conscious awareness, we can gradually dissolve our beliefs.
# 6 self-efficacy and “circle of control”
The author Stephen R. Covey presents in his bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” a circle model that strengthens our self-efficacy and the ability to act. We can assign our worrying thoughts to three areas such as the “circle of control” (immediate scope for decision-making), “circle of influence” (our own sphere of influence) or the “circle of concern” (area of concern beyond our control). As soon as we become aware of how much influence and self-efficacy we can display, it is easier to deal with things like the global political situation or the pandemic that are beyond our control.
However, we have control and decision-making power over which people we want to surround ourselves with privately, which media we consume, what we do in terms of sport, nutrition and “topics” for our health. The more we see ourselves as agents who actively shape their everyday lives, the more we can let go of things that elude our effectiveness without falling into victim mode. Try it out and draw three circles on a piece of paper and assign your thoughts to the different areas of influence.
Lena Wittneben writes here regularly for Personal-Financial.com. She is a systemic coach, memory trainer, speaker & marketing consultant – more at lena-wittneben.de Her interview podcast “There is a crack in everything…” is available for free on iTunes, Spotify or her website.