Overthinking, stressed, worried

Stop Negative Thinking Patterns Ruining Your Day

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A teacher’s life can be joyful, and it can certainly be tough, but sometimes we make it tougher on ourselves then it needs to be.

By Samuel Kett

Recently I have been analysing my thinking. With the guidance of a coach and my own mindfulness, I’ve noticed some sub-conscious negative thinking patterns that I have lived with for ages that have brought about unnecessary distress and a current of discontent. 

Placing demands on ourselves through harsh self-talk, attempting to mind-read what others think of us, fortune-telling our own future with a negative perspective and saying blunt statements to ourselves that aren’t necessarily true are all negative thinking patterns that once addressed, greatly improve our day to day lives. 

1. Demanding Thoughts

I NEED to drink more water” STRESS! 

I HAVE to work out more” ANXIETY! 

I SHOULD spend more time planning so the kids enjoy the lessons” GUILT!

If you monitor your thoughts, I’m sure you’ll notice numerous times throughout the day where you are saying “I need to”, “I have to”, “I should”. If you also notice the feeling that follows these thoughts, it’s not often a positive one. These thoughts are usually anxiety and stress-inducing. 

Here’s how to start rewiring this thinking pathway

Replace the “I need to”, “I have to”, “I should” with “I’d like to”.

“I’d like to eat better”, “I’d like to read more”, “I’d like to spend more time with friends”.

Notice how by simply softening the language, we create a completely different vibe in our minds. It opens you up to feeling positive, motivated and like you will genuinely make it happen. Another option would be to use “I want to”. “I want to work out more” is much more empowering and motivating than “I have to work our more” DREAD!

Practical Tips For Dealing With Demanding Thoughts

  1. Be mindful, notice when it happens, acknowledge it, smile, let it go and replace it with softer language. 
  2. Turn the demanding language into “I’d like to”, “I want to” or even “I’d prefer”, set these “wants” as mini-goals. 
  3. Keep a journal, write every evening, reflect on your thinking throughout the day and how it made you feel. Developing your awareness will go a long way towards thinking more clearly and positively. 

For more insight and in-depth analysis of Demanding Thinking I suggest you read the article here at testandcalc.com

2. Mind Reading – Worrying What Others Think

“The truth is, other people’s opinions of us are none of our business. Their opinions have nothing to do with us and everything to do with them, their past, their judgments, their expectations, their likes, and their dislikes.”

Sandy Woznicki – Tiny Buddha

Within your teaching team, you can preempt this natural tendency. When establishing relationships, routines and planning in your teaching/leadership team, it’s important to create essential agreements about how you will work together. My new team recently decided that “clear and open communication” and “no bitchiness” were two of our most important essential agreements. This means as issues arise or when there are disagreements or misunderstandings we will solve these positively through open dialogue. No one has to hold on to frustrations, questions or annoyance and therefore we can feel confident that there are no unnecessary negative feelings being held about us. 

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Overly worrying what others think about us is not helpful, however, some work environments have a habit of judging and criticising and this can exacerbate the worrying issue. If your workplace is like this I encourage you to be the person to start to change this habit. The first thing you can do is to disengage from any conversation where a colleague is being gossiped about and criticised behind their back. The second thing you can do is question the criticiser and help them to become aware of what they are doing. 

Practical Tips For Dealing With Mind Reading

  1. Build positive relationships through clear and open communication, make this an essential agreement in your team. 
  2. Be open about your weaknesses. Acknowledge your personality quirks in front of others. This lets your team know that you are aware of your weaknesses and show them they don’t need to gossip about it behind your back. 
  3. Apologise quickly when you do something wrong or make a mistake. Even if you’re not sure you have done anything wrong, go and apologise, this will at least start a conversation.
  4. One key thing you can do to move past worrying what others think about you is to ask yourself “Is this helping me?”. If the answer is “no”, then allow yourself to just move on from the worry by recognising it for what it is. 

But, if you are going to worry what others think about you, then maybe you should focus on how your students perceive you. Check this article out to find out how our student’s perceptions of us, impacts their learning.

3. Blunt Statements and Fortune Telling

Blunt Statements are unhelpful and negative statements we say to ourselves that put us down and assume the worst.

“My classroom reading program is so boring”

“I can’t teach PE well”

“I can’t write these reports”

Fortune Telling is similar to Blunt Statements but with a focus on negative outcomes for future events. 

“My music program is going to be stressful and unsuccessful”

“This year is going to be really hard and unenjoyable”

 “I know Billy is going to behave terribly today”

The more we allow these negative statements to repeat and allow our minds to create a habit of negative thinking, the more likely it is that these statements will come true; or they will at least stop more positive outcomes eventuating. 

“What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.”


Practical Advice For Dealing With Blunt Statements and Fortune Telling

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Turn your negative thinking into WHAT and HOW questions. For example:

“I can’t teach Maths well” changes to: 

WHAT do I want? I want to have a fun and engaging Maths program in my classroom”

HOW will I make this happen? I will use pre-made worksheets and lessons for one of week of Maths lessons. This will give me the extra time to finally study the exciting Maths Inquiry book I’ve been meaning to read. In the extra time I have made for myself this week I will plan and develop the structure of my new and engaging Maths program.”

““I know Billy is going to behave terribly today” changes to:

WHAT do I want? I want Billy to have a happy and positive day in class where he is engaged and not disrupting others”

HOW will I make this happen? I will greet Billy at the door when he arrives. I will rid myself of the bias that may lead me to be looking out for bad behaviours. I will seek the support of a senior leader or colleague if his behaviour deteriorates so it does not interupt the other students. I will praise everything he does well. I will be flexible with his learning program to reduce opportunities for him to become distracted.” 

Turning Blunt Statements and negative Fortune Telling into WHAT and HOW questions provides instant relief. It helps us to make a plan for what we want instead of dwelling on what we don’t want.

In Short

We all have moments where we allow negative thinking and self-talk to take over and some of us are more effected by it than others. The key thing we need to do is to be awake to this thinking and notice when it is happening. That is the first step to changing these thinking habits. Once you notice this thinking happening then you have a number of strategies to turn them into positives. Soften the language and be kind to yourself, make open communication a priority in your teaching team, and change your negative thoughts to “What do I want?” “How will I make it happen?”.

Your Turn

Have you experienced any of the above habitual thinking patterns or has this article helped you in some way to notice them for the first time? If so, please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear your feedback. Maybe you have some strategies that you use to combat negative thinking and to harness positive or at least helpful thinking. Again it would be great to hear from you below in the comments section, as any extra advice and alternative perspectives will be very helpful for all of us.


4 Responses

  1. Granny Hetaraka
    • Samuel Kett
  2. Alana
    • Samuel Kett

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