Most people don’t spend a lot of time trying to listen to those messages they tell themselves between events and their reactions. It comes automatically. Do you find yourself over reacting or feeling worse than you think you should? Getting more control over what influences your thinking will help you gain more control of your reactions.
There are exceptions. Death of a loved one is an example. In a situation such as bereavement or other tragedies it is not your thinking, but the event itself that is more important. For most things, your thinking does have a powerful influence.
There are four things that influence our automatic reactions to situations:
1 Unhelpful thinking habits
2 Our style of explaining things
3 Deep core beliefs
4 Our physical and mental well being
Start paying attention to your initial thoughts. Check if your thinking is helpful and constructive or destructive and damaging. It can be hard work. Being aware of what you are thinking helps you to challenge thoughts that aren’t working for you.
That section on challenging comes later. For now, let’s learn to listen!
Unhelpful thinking habits
When something happens, our first automatic thought may be more negative and unhelpful. Some psychologists believe the mind focuses on more negative details as a form of self protection. Our ancient ancestors had to prepare themselves for the worst as the world they lived in was full of danger. Modern living does not have the same levels of hazards, but that’s the way our minds have evolved. It takes more effort to see the positive.
It helps to learn what kind of unhelpful thinking habits you have come to use automatically. Your moods might be a signal. They tend to make us make knee jerk conclusions based on inadequate or incomplete information. That is why they are unhelpful.
Ten common unhelpful thinking habits
All or nothing thinking You see things in extremes: good or bad, right or wrong
Jumping to conclusions has two types:
Overgeneralising Assuming something happened once; you think it will happen all the time. It is a never-ending pattern of defeat. Has something difficult happened in the morning and you say to yourself, “well that is today ruined” or “that’s the story of my life?”.
Making a mountain out of a mole hill You exaggerate the importance of things or blow things out of proportion. It just won’t be bad. It will be a disaster.
Emotional reasoning If I feel it, it must be true. We confuse feelings for facts.
Should statements You tend to think in absolutes. Things or people should act in a certain, predictable way. Words like should, must, have to dominate your thoughts. We live by fixed rules and unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others that can lead to guilt and disappointment.
Taking things personally Blaming yourself when something is not at all connected to you.
Wishful thinking “If only” thinking dominants. It is being locked into the past and regrets.
Mental filter Pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it.
Discounting the positive Anything positive does not count. You reject the possibility that there is something positive here or something good could come out of it.
Types of unhelpful thinking
Why do I need to know my Character Strengths?
Knowing your character strengths isn’t just interesting information. When skilfully applied, character strengths can actually have a significant positive impact on your life.
Research shows that using your character strengths can help you:
If Creativity is your top strength, thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
If Curiosity is your top strength, you are interested in learning more about anything and everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.
If Judgment is your top strength, thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.
If Perspective is your top strength, you have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself. Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice.
If Social Intelligence is your top strength, you are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease. You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.
Today we have looked at only five of the 26 character traits explored in the full training module.
Make a list of your character strengths and reflect upon how they help you develop workplace resilience.
What Is Resilience?
Have you ever had times in your life when things just seem to get on top of you? Stressful events or situations are just too much to bear. This is when it helps people to be resilient. But what does being resilient mean?
Resilience is the ability to recover and move on in the face of difficult circumstances. It is to being able to “bounce back” from life’s struggles.
Resilience helps people to:
• Deal with stress and adversity
• Be less prone to difficulties such as anxiety and depression
• Overcome childhood disadvantage
• Reach out to new opportunities
The evidence for resilience comes from years of research that looked at why some people seem to do well in the face of life’s struggles and some do less well. Resilience is shaped by an interaction of a range of things.
Why is resilient thinking so important?
What happens to our thinking in difficult situations?
People generally maintain a balance between their thoughts and feelings. It is our thinking that helps us control our feelings. Strong emotions like anger, fear or sadness can make our thinking close down. It is as if the rational part of our mind becomes flooded. The result is we are not thinking straight. When this happens we often do things that really don’t work for us. Negative emotions narrow our focus to deal with the problem in front of us. The fight or flight reaction makes us just want to resolve the problem fast.
On the other hand, when we are in more control of our thinking we are more likely to see that situation and its solutions more broadly. We can be more flexible and creative in how we deal with it.
Calm times Thinking 50% Feelings 50%
Strong emotions Thinking 25% Feelings 75%
Does your thinking get hampered by your emotions more than you would like?
What happens when it does?
So let’s ask, how important is this work for you?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to get more control over your thinking?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Not important Very important
Believe change is possible
Knowing you can change and having the confidence to change is vital.
This seems like such a simple thing. People can convince themselves they just can’t change. So, right from the start, they’re stuck. People are not trapped by their past or “not stuck with the cards they were dealt with”. Do you agree with this?
Think of one thing you have changed before or a skill you have developed.
Everyone has habits. A habit is something you do without conscious thought and repeat over and over again. Keep repeating it and it seems normal. Not all habits are harmful. Habits can make life a little more convenient and easier. Do we need to think of a new way to tie our shoes? But...you can also get stuck with unhelpful habits. The more you do things by habit, the less creativity you have. It can affect your sense of freedom. The way we think and our automatic reactions can be a habit. Even though habits seem automatic, they can be changed if you put your mind and effort to it.
Make a committed decision to change
How do you make a decision to change? Keep four points in mind. You must:
Why should we ask for help?
Have you ever heard a problem shared is a problem halved? Being able to ask for help strengthens our belief that we are not alone and that someone cares.
Some peoples’ core beliefs make asking for help difficult.
Up for discussion:
When did I ask for help and found that help really useful?
What type of help do I find easier to ask for?
What type of help do I find more difficult to ask for? Why is that?
How do I feel when someone asks me for help?
What are the benefits of being able to ask for help?
Supportive relationships are a strength that helps build resilience. Who are the important people in your life you feel able to talk to or ask for help from?
Make a list of people who are supportive and in what way.
Write your name inside the circle below. Next, use the list you have just made to draw other circles representing each person in your life. As you draw each circle, write the name of the person in it. Draw circles of those you consider most supportive nearest to you and people less supportive further away from you. Add more lines if you need to.
Some questions to ask:
People tend to have more resources within themselves when they look after themselves. Taking a positive and active approach to your health and wellbeing is your choice. It is within your control. Because this is so important, the final section of this workbook looks at:
Day 2 – Beliefs
What are your unhelpful core beliefs and unhelpful rules?
Read through the following examples of common beliefs and rules. Which of these contribute to the way you think? Do they work for you? How do they affect your relationships and daily living?
What are your core beliefs and unhelpful rules? Are they working for you?
I am not ok - I have little control over what happens to me
People can’t be trusted - The world is dangerous
Never ask for help. It is a sign of weakness - It’s easier to avoid difficulties rather than do something about them
I must be liked by everyone - I must do everything perfectly
Things should be fair - When things don’t go the way I want it’s terrible
What other beliefs are disrupting your thinking?
Understanding what your core beliefs and rules mean to you
While recognizing unhelpful core beliefs can be a difficult skill, it can be the most powerful you could learn. Take each belief. Ask yourself:
What strengths do you already have?
In Australia we tend to be quick at seeing our weaknesses. Seeing our strengths is more difficult.
Giving yourself thinking time
Impulse control is being able to stop, think through options and consequences and choose what is best.
Empathy is the understanding of what it is like being in someone else’s shoes. It is an important part of strong relationships.
Believing in your ability
Do we believe we can tackle most things head on and bounce back when things get tough? It is the belief that what we do does make a difference.
Recognizing your feelings
Being aware of your feelings is vital, because strong feelings of anxiety or sadness can make you feel powerless. Once you name the feeling, you have more chance of controlling it.
Reaching out has two parts. It is the ability to take on life’s opportunities and not fear failure. It is also about being willing to ask for help. Some people see asking for help as a weakness. It is a strength acknowledging that we all need support at times and that it is ok to ask for help.
Staying hopeful (optimistic)
Can we see things as they are and make the best out of any given situation? This does not ignore difficult things, but not getting locked into negativity. It’s being able to be hopeful.
Analyzing the cause of problems
Analyzing the cause of problems Do we accurately decide the cause of problems? The word accurate is crucial. What we think about stressful events or problems affects how we feel and what we do.
Building on your strengths
Self-knowledge is a good tool to help us see our strengths. We all have examples of when we use our strengths well. Not over reacting to critics, thinking through what went wrong in a situation, believing you will do better next time.
Even if you are not as strong you would like in any of these abilities, you can strengthen them.
As you go through these 7 abilities that support resilience, ask yourself these questions:
• Which would I be stronger in?
• Which would be challenging?
Write down two you would not be as strong in.
Which one of these seven abilities would you like to be stronger in?
After you have worked through the rest of this workbook, look back over these seven abilities and go through these questions again.
If you keep working on these skills, putting in the effort and learning from experience, change is always possible!
Share a module each day during November with your school office team to undertake to build there workplace resilience.
Each day during the National School Office Wellness month you can share a staff training module from this site. 30 training modules from the School Office Wellness Program are available to every school office staff member in an Australian school. You can spend several hours immersing yourself in empowering and resilience building training at little cost to your school.
The theme for the National School Office Wellness Month 2016 is Empowerment and Resilience in the school office.
Equip your staff to be self coaching and to develop resilience awareness and skills. Have your staff share in supportive and empowering activities that will build morale and team spirit in your school office.
You can purchase the National School Office Wellness Month CD and get all the modules in their complete format.
Download the entire training program buy clicking on the buy button (US$69).