by Gail Allen
I don’t know anybody who likes ants... let’s face it: they can quickly ruin a good picnic. If we see one in the house, it’s immediately time to call the exterminator. If you’ve ever been bitten/stung, your reaction most likely is to squash them all as soon as you see them! And while there’s plenty of essential oils we could talk about to deter the creepy crawly kind, that’s not actually the ones I’m talking about here… I’m talking about is A.N.T.s...Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Automatic Negative Thoughts - Not everyone has them, but many of us do, and they don’t lead to anything good. I’d like to challenge you this summer to start noticing them, and help your children start noticing and exterminating them immediately, because they are pesky little buggers!
How many times have you heard an off-hand comment or read a quickly sent text and blown it completely out of proportion - jumping to all sorts of conclusions? Just me? Oh...k! But, really I’m guessing I’m NOT alone!
What I call the “worm holes” of our thinking are the skewed perceptions of reality that leads us to base our thoughts on inaccurate assumptions. The ANTs then sneak in and the self-defeating emotions lead to self-defeating thoughts that lead to self-defeating actions that lead to anxiety and depression...ugh! What a vicious cycle!
Scientists don’t know exactly what it is that causes anxiety and depression, but what we do know is that stress triggers it at least 80% of the time! (What helps with stress management? Oh yeah, counseling, coaching, yoga, reiki, and massage therapy!)
Did you know that at any given second, your brain is perceiving 20 MILLION bytes of information? That’s a lot! But it can only process about forty bytes at a time!
How do we choose what to process? Well, often, it’s where we have our eyes focused...and too often, they’re focused on worm holes.
I’ve identified 8 different types of thought worm holes...they may not all be true for you, but see if any of them are:
+ Jumping to Conclusions
+ Focusing on the negative, while ignoring the positive
+ Blowing things out of proportion, over-reacting, or catastrophizing.
+ Taking things personally
+ Not taking responsibility for our own words or actions
+ Exaggerating the pattern
+ Not trying to actively solve the problem, but engaging in self-defeating pity parties for one and adopting a “victim” mindset
+ Believing that our feelings are the same as the facts (newsflash: they definitely are not!)
So how can we get ourselves out of these worm holes and squash the ANTs?
First thing first: we have to objectively look at our thoughts and words and identify the worm holes! We may even need to set our egos aside and solicit our spouses, family, close friends, and co-workers to help us do it.
When we start to panic that one mistake makes us a failure, or falling into any of the other worm holes, having someone point that out can be incredibly helpful, IF we’re open to receiving constructive feedback.
Next thing we need to do for ourselves, once the worm hole has been identified, is to collect hard evidence. I feel like there’s probably some T.V. show that I’ve never seen, but am referencing by saying, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” If we can collect information about the situation just like a private detective, we can objectively construct a true picture of the situation to face it head on.
Lastly, I encourage all of us to challenge our thoughts and emotions! Are they true? Are they lovely? Are they honorable? Are they pure? Are they commendable? Are they excellent and worthy of praise? If so, think on them! If they’re not, squash those ANTs and move on!
(Philippians 4:8, Gail’s version)