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Cognitive distortions - London bridge is falling down. Or is it?

When you feel any negative emotion, hold yourself back from analysing the situation you are in. You are in a fight or flight mode, trying to save your dear life. Your amygdala has kicked in, and your cortex is unable to function in its current state.


Breathe! Allow yourself to relieve the emotion you are experiencing. If you are surrounded by people avoid communicating with them and, where possible, try to alienate yourself to calm down. Usually, it takes 15-30 minutes for the human brain to process emotion. It might be helpful to do some light exercise, go for a walk or do some activity that you know will calm you down.

Once you are calm and back to your senses, analyse the issue at hand to determine whether you have any of the following cognitive biases.


Catastrophizing

Are you making it worse than it is? What is the worst-case scenario? How will you tackle it if it happens?


Black or White thinking

What are the nuances of the situation? Are you trying to simplify the issue? How would 3 people who you admire see this situation?


Focusing on negatives, ignoring positives

Find 5 positives about the current situation. Be genuine, don’t be sarcastic.


Jumping to conclusions

Are you assuming you know the outcome? Find 5 areas where you can clarify your understanding of the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask the involved parties. Often it helps to clear up the misunderstanding (if it was one) or add more clarity.


My way is the right way ( and the only way).

Are you trying to justify your behaviour? Try to be open and see the situation from the position of your opponent and an independent third party.


Remember, be kind to yourself. Emotions are there to protect us. Negative emotions kick in to signify that our boundaries are violated. However, thinking under the influence of emotions can lead us to decisions we might regret later. Nobody can think when they are running away from a tiger or fighting with a bear. It’s always best to calm down and analyse what is happening when your cortex can function.

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