Black-and-white thinking: You think of things in extremes -- either you're perfect or you're a total failure. Example: You're on a diet, and you consume an entire dessert when you'd intended to eat just one bite. So, you say, "I've blown it." You feel like a failure (again) and ask, "What's the use?"
Emotional reasoning: You decide how things "really" are on the basis of how you feel. Example: You're worried about giving a presentation, and here comes the inner critic: "I'm so nervous. I know I'll blow it, and we won't get the business."
Labeling: You attach negative labels to yourself and call yourself names. Example: You miss an appointment by accident. Instead of thinking, "I made a mistake," you say to yourself, "How could I forget something that important? I'm so stupid!"
"Should" statements: You're constantly telling yourself "I should do this" and "I shouldn't do that." Example: As a working mom you say to yourself, "I should be more involved in my kids' activities" or "I should work harder to prove myself at the office." As a result, you don't measure up in either camp. Here's a tip: Don't "should" on yourself.
Overgeneralizing: You make a conclusion about something on the basis of one or two things. Example: You have a misunderstanding with one of your co-workers, and you worry the whole office is against you. "No wonder I can never get ahead. Nobody likes me."
Catastrophizing: You exaggerate the likelihood that something bad will happen. Example: "If I drive in the snow, I'll probably have an accident, and I can't afford any more car repair bills. I might even get hurt, and I sure can't afford any more medical bills!"
If you see yourself in any of these examples, you're not alone. We all fall into patterns like these from time to time. Take a step back and put things into perspective. Things are not always going to work out like you planned. Not everything is on your time schedule, and that's OK. Put on the brakes and stop your mind from running away with you!
As author Carlos Castanada said, "The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same."
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company that specializes in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.