Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ideas for Living Well: Label Your Emotions, Thoughts, & Bodily Sensations to Experience Greater Calm and Clarity

Thought logs work, I learned from personal experience, about 10 years ago when I was first introduced to them. I had just returned to the field of social work and was fortunate to have a supervisor who was also a CBT Master trainer. She explained to me how to use them with clients. Not long afterward, feeling stressed out about Thanksgiving preparations, while juggling work and family, I applied what I learned to my own experience. What an amazing discovery, I felt much better after labeling and organizing my thoughts and feelings. This stuff really worked! I was calm again, having released the gnawing irritation that had me revved up while feeling sensitive and distracted.

The thought logs I started with didn't have columns for physical sensations and perspective-taking. I added these components to make it easier for individuals to identify the physiological information they encounter along with other possible explanations for their situation. Connecting with the body is a great way to bring attention to the present moment. When our threat system is activated our focus narrows, by design, and for our protection. Being able to highlight other possible explanations for events, expands awareness, and assists in re-calibrating our emotional systems.

Writing down what happened, the event, and the meaning you ascribe, attribute, assume about the event turns out to be a critical point of reflection. Often the interpretations about the event, rather than the actual event, are the main causes of distress.

Whether you're a do it yourself-er or prefer collaborating with others when facing problems it is important to know that there is so much information available about what works when it comes to living well.  The best part is that once you get a sense of the thought log format, you can do it in your head without writing it down. Rather than recycling the same old conversation, projection, or thought loop in your head, you get to experience been there, done that, something I am truly grateful for.