Hey there, friends!
I am so sorry I didn’t write last week! Life snuck up on me and I ended up being busier than anticipated and dealing with some ugly brain issues, but I’m back again! Hopefully there will be no more interruption in my schedule.
This week’s post is a continuation of the post I made two weeks ago, so if you haven’t seen that yet, I encourage you to check it out!
We’re supposed to fill out thought records whenever we’re in a stressful/upsetting situation. These vary slightly depending on your therapy, but they’re all relatively the same.
The first part of a thought record is the easiest. Just add the time and date at the top/side, depending on whether you’re filling your record out horizontally or vertically.
I personally prefer to write my thought records top to bottom, whereas a lot of clinical thought record sheets come side-to-side. There is no right or wrong way to do it, though, just find whatever works best for you personally!
After you put the time and date to your thought record, you need to identify the situation you’re in.
Then, you need to identify what you’re thinking about during the distressing situation. These are called automatic thoughts. These are usually a direct response to a trigger and are often out of our control.
Sometimes these thoughts occur so rapidly that you won’t even notice them, but they can still affect your mood.
Because automatic thoughts are oftentimes negative and harmful, it’s important to replace them with new, rational thoughts. (Remember when I talked about wise mind, reasonable mind, and emotional mind?)
After you’ve identified our thoughts, you need to identify the emotions tied to them, and rate their intensity from 0-100%. The numbers don’t have to add up together. It’s a rating of how much you feel that particular emotion. The other emotions get their own rating.
If this doesn’t make sense right now, don’t worry! I’ll share an example of a completed thought record in a minute.
Also, side note, it’s completely normal for thought records to feel foreign or silly at first, and your first few probably won’t be very detailed, and that’s okay! It’s all about practice. You’ll get there if you just keep working at it!
The next part sounds a bit complicated, but it’s not that bad when you start understanding the necessary steps.
First, you have to identify the thinking styles you engaged in, which is why my last post was so important. Feel free to refer back to them when filling out your thought records!) during this upsetting/distressing/stressful time. Then you have to evaluate how much you believed the automatic thoughts you had/have during the event from 0-100%. Again, these numbers don’t have to add up together.
From there you need to re-evaluate those automatic thoughts you had before. Is there any evidence that those things are true? Evidence is only what is verifiable and solid. You’re not allowed to use things like, “because I feel this way, it must be true.”
Write down your evidence “for” your thoughts.
Now write your evidence “against” your thoughts.
Again, you need hard evidence. Things that can be proven or otherwise verified. If you’re not sure if these things are true or verifiable, think about describing the evidence to a friend or someone else trustworthy. You don’t have to ACTUALLY describe it someone else unless you want to, but ask yourself, if you told someone the evidence, would they agree that it’s actually true?
Is there an alternative to your automatic thought? Write that down as an option, even if you don’t believe it. But you must write down a realistic alternative.
What is the best thing that could happen in this situation? Again, even if you don’t believe that it will, you should write it down!
Also write down the most realistic outcome, if you can think of it.
It’s okay if you can’t answer all of these questions, just do the best you can!
Finally, ask yourself, if a close friend were in the same situation as you are, what would you tell them? The way we speak to the people we care about is often so different from the way we speak to or think about ourselves. Write down your advice to your “friend”.
Now how do you feel? Are your emotions the same? Have they gone down? Elevated?
Write down any emotions you may be feeling, as well as the emotions you put down before. Rate (or rerate) any of the intensity of these emotions.
Thought records don’t always make a huge difference right away, but they are important to be able to look back on, especially if it’s a reoccurring situation we find ourselves in.
A fabricated example of a “complicated” completed thought record (just so you get the idea) might look like this, though you can make your own as detailed or simple as you’d like!
August 3rd 2020
The situation: I got in a huge fight over the dirty dishes with my significant other today!
My automatic thoughts: Everything is my fault. I am the worst. I hate myself and my significant other hates me too! If only I had done the dishes like I was supposed to, we never would have fought. I’m a bad significant other.
My emotions: sad (80%), unworthy (50%), unlikable/unlovable (100%). regret (60%)
The thinking styles I experienced: Personalization, Should statements, magnification.
How much I believed the automatic thoughts:
– Everything is my fault (50%)
– I am the worst (70%)
– I hate myself and my significant other hates me too (60%)
– If only I had done the dishes like I was supposed to, we never would have fought (70%)
– I’m a bad significant other (90%)
Evidence FOR my automatic thoughts:
– I didn’t do the dishes even though it was my job and my significant other was angry about it.
Evidence AGAINST my automatic thoughts:
– My significant other said they still love me, even after we fought.
– I did other household chores today, such as vacuuming and washing the windows.
Alternative ways to think about the situation:
– Today happened and I made a mistake, or a lapse in judgement, perhaps, but this doesn’t make me “the worst”.
– I can still do the dishes, if my significant other hasn’t already done them.
– Sometimes couples fight. I apologized, and they said they forgive me.
What’s the best outcome in this situation?
– My significant other forgives me, and I can do better tomorrow.
What is the most realistic outcome in this situation?
– My significant other forgives me, and I can do better tomorrow.
If a close friend was in this same situation, what would I say to them?
– It’s okay, everybody has bad days.
– Your significant other loves you, and you not doing the dishes tonight isn’t going to change that.
Relief (70%), loved (60%), sad (20%), unworthy (0%), unlikable/unlovable (10%), regret (30%)
Something to note: it’s totally normal to not be able to identify your thinking styles right away! Don’t beat yourself up about it. It takes practice. Just do your best, and be aware of the thinking styles so maybe you can identify them in future situations!
Alrighty, friends, that’s it for me for this post. I hope this was helpful and not too confusing! If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. I’m not a doctor or professional of any kind, but I’ve learned a little throughout my time in therapy and I like to share.
Stay safe everybody!