I had a panic attack last night – I woke in the early hours of the morning: the financial markets are in a panic; a world-wide recession is probable; people will loose jobs; crime will rocket; and the impact on individuals, families and livelihoods will be dreadful.
My retirement savings will be inadequate; finding work impossible. I will end up selling “The Big Issue” on street corners!
I couldn’t seem to shake these thoughts. Like washing in a washing machine – round and round they went; paused; then round and round again. The more I tried to get back to sleep, the more persistent they became. I sweated in the dark.
I eventually got out of bed and ruefully acknowledged that I needed to break this cycle of negative thoughts..
I asked myself how probable the catastrophic outcomes were. The answer was “most unlikely”. I then conjured up more useful thoughts: “I have been through tough time before, and I will be able to get through this” and “There is very little I can do to influence the stock market, so let me rather think about the how I can change my family’s spending patterns”
I wrote down some ideas on how we could restrain our spending, and immediately started to feel calmer and more in control. The negative washing machine thought pattern (or rumination) finally stopped as I changed my thinking.
When you have an attack of washing machine, what is the most effective way of dealing with them? Researchï€† ï€‡ shows that effective ways to control and choose thoughts, feelings and attitudes are to:
1. Challenge persistent negative thoughts – often these thoughts dwell inappropriately on the worst possible outcome, and thus are exaggerated or simply improbable.
2. Reframe the negative thoughts – find a different way of seeing the adversity; ask yourself what you can learn from the situation or what you will do differently next time. This gives a sense of control and purpose.
3. Spend time with people you love and trust – one of the greatest ways to break negative thinking is to spend time with those special people in your life who can lift your mood. It also is comforting have they care for you reaffirmed.
4. Review and think of the many things you are grateful for – this definite mood lifter works immediately and is surprisingly long lasting. This should be done daily at a fixed time, either mentally or in a journal.
5. Smile and laugh – this opens you to more positive emotion. So even if you don’t feel like it, “fake it till you make it”. It works!
So when you next have an attack of negative washing machine thoughts, remember these tools!
1. Seligman M E P (1990) Learnt optimism: Change your mind, change your life. Australia, Random House
2. Brooks, R. Goldstein, S. (2004) The power of resilience: achieving balance, confidence and personal strength in your life New York, McGraw-Hill