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Coping Skill for the Holidays: Testing Your Thoughts/Thought logs.

November 25, 2017

 

Since we are officially in the holiday season, I thought it would be a good idea to share another coping skill that has helped me tremendously to muddle through the triggers and ED thoughts that seem to come faster and stronger this time of year. 

 

When you have an eating disorder, Holidays are the ABSOLUTE WORST. I don’t know if it’s because of the pressure, seeing people, all the food, the questions, what to wear, the insecurities, you name it. It’s hard and it gets me every... single... time. 

 

This past week was Thanksgiving and as usual I struggled. The thoughts were so bad that I feel like I’m on the verge of relapse. ED’s current form of abuse is to make it loud and clear in my head that I am now so obese that I should NOT be eating anymore. That something in recovery has gone wrong and continuing to eat is in incredibly bad idea. It reminds me that I don’t deserve to eat and eating is exactly why I am this big. It non-stop has me comparing what I’m eating to everyone else as I sit with them around the Thanksgiving table, making sure my size is at the forefront of my mind and keeps me from eating dessert like everyone else. It makes sure that everywhere I can see a reflection I look and can feel the deep shame and humiliation of my recovering body. 

 

ED thoughts DO NOT STOP.  They are strong and incredibly difficult to fight and not believe. When I am in a vulnerable position (like being at a party) it can be so overwhelming, that when it’s over I feel like world war 3 just happened in my head and I am so defeated and tired that emotions take over and soon I m left in tears thinking the absolute worst and can’t decide whether to eat breakfast the next day or not. Literally, this happened to me this week. 

 

So, after I allow myself a pretty good cry sesh and send up my prayers of healing and strength to my Savior, I know that I have to turn to something practical to keep me choosing to eat that next meal and to slow down my emotions from some really triggering experiences. Testing my thoughts by using thought Logs. 

 

Thought logs were introduced to my by my lovely therapist pretty much right away when I entered treatment. ED gives us a constant string of thoughts that are automatic and feel VERY real and true. The problem is, they aren’t always true, but our emotions and mind don’t let us know that. Sometimes the thought might be true, but how we feel about them or what we think after the thought or the choices we make because of it are completely out of wack. An ED thought pops up, I quickly believe it, then the anxiety, stress and emotions start to boil up and over relatively fast. After some time and distance from the situation or thought, and my emotions have settled down a little I can test my ED thoughts using a thought log. 

 

It is important to test our ED thoughts because,

 

1- They might not be true.

2- We no longer want to be controlled by them.

3- It’s important to try and lessen the emotional response to them so that we can proceed mindfully rather then emotionally.

4- Testing/challenging ED thoughts can help us to slow down and think clearer about our situation in order to not allow ED to rule our minds.

5- Testing them can also keep us from partaking in E.D. behaviors.

6- Over time, testing ED thoughts can happen faster and our minds can be renewed and changed and RECOVERED!

 

So how does this work?! Here is a blank example of a “Testing Your Thoughts” thought log. Below it I will give some examples of ones I did in the past two days. (At the end of this blog I will attach a picture of one so that you can print it off and use it yourself!)

 

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TESTING YOUR THOUGHTS

 

What is the situation? _____________________________________________________

 

What am I thinking or Imagining? ___________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

How much do I believe it?     a little       medium      a lot      (or rate 0-100:______)

 

How does that thought make me feel?     mad      sad     nervous     other:___________

 

How strong is the feeling?   a little strong   medium   very strong  (or rate 0-100______)

 

What makes me think the thought is true? ____________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What makes me think the thought is not true or not completely true? _______________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What’s another way to look at this? _________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What’s the worst that could happen? Would I still live through it? __________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What’s the best that could happen? _________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What will probably happen? _______________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What will happen if I keep telling myself the same thought? ______________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What could happen if I changed my thinking? _________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What would I tell my friend if this happened to him or her? _______________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

What should I do now? ___________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

How much do I believe the negative thought now?    a little      medium    a lot  

(or rate 0-100 _______)

 

How strong is my negative feeling now?   a little strong    medium    very strong  

(or rate 0-100 _______ )

 

 

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Ok, so now that you see what a testing your thoughts sheet looks like, I’m going to give three examples from my own life from the past two days so you can see how it works. These examples actually happened and will show, not only how ED is a nasty piece of garbage, but also how you can use these logs for a bunch of different situations and how they can really help to calm, challenge and turn the mind from ED and point it towards recovery.

 

 

 

TESTING YOUR THOUGHTS EXAMPLE #1

 

What is the situation? In one week I will hit the two year mark of entering treatment and starting my recovery process. I’m feeling angry because my body is not back to normal yet. I’m discouraged and feel like this process is B.S. and my team has no idea what they are talking about. I’m weary and defeated and want to give up.

 

What am I thinking or Imagining? I will be fat forever. I will struggle with this forever. I will never be free from anorexia so I should just give up and restrict and exercise every day again until I get my body back. 

 

How much do I believe it?     a little       medium      a lot      (or rate 0-100:_100__)

 

How does that thought make me feel?     mad      sad     nervous     other:  anxious, weary, defeated, lost

 

How strong is the feeling?   a little strong   medium   very strong  (or rate 0-100_100__)

 

What makes me think the thought is true? It’s been two years. The weight isn’t coming off. I’ve been doing EVERYTHING I am told to do with no result. My body doesn’t seem to be budging. I’m overweight and feel gross. 

 

What makes me think the thought is not true or not completely true? My doctor told me this would take at least three years and I’m only two years in. My dietician still tells me my body WILL go back down if I keep eating enough. People I have met that have recovered have gone through this and their bodies recovered and went back to normal, it just took them a long time too.

 

What’s another way to look at this?  my body is still recovering, the weight is where it is because my body doesn’t trust me yet. This is VERY hard and I’m doing everything I can to make it better and it just takes time.

 

What’s the worst that could happen? Would I still live through it? I will never get my body back and I will be stuck like this. Yes, I will freaking live through it....

 

What’s the best that could happen? My hard work and sticking to my plan will pay off and soon I will see results and my body will finish the healing and go back to a healthy place for me.

 

What will probably happen? My body will go back to normal but it will take another year or two

 

What will happen if I keep telling myself the same thought? I will live in constant anxiety and stress. This will keep my body from relaxing and healing. I will not be able to be present and life and possibly relapse. 

 

What could happen if I changed my thinking? This process could possibly be less terrible. I could regain some hope.

 

What would I tell my friend if this happened to him or her? “Girl, you are doing everything you are supposed to do. Trust the professionals and what you know. ED is a P.O.S. and don’t believe anything he says. Keep going. It will get better.

 

What should I do now? Keep eating. Trust my team. Ask God for strength to keep going. Take care of myself.

 

How much do I believe the negative thought now?    a little      medium    a lot  

(or rate 0-100 ____50___)

 

How strong is my negative feeling now?   a little strong    medium    very strong  

(or rate 0-100 ___50____ )

 

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TESTING YOUR THOUGHTS EXAMPLE #2

 

What is the situation? I am getting dressed and ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I saw myself in the mirror and feel immediate shame and embarrassment over my weight. I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want to eat. I want the weight to go away.

 

What am I thinking or Imagining? I should not eat dinner. My weight is too heavy to be eating. Eating dinner will just make me fatter or keep me this fat. Everyone at the table will see how big I am and my eating and will think I shouldn’t be eating too because of my weight.

 

How much do I believe it?     a little       medium      a lot      (or rate 0-100:__100___)

 

How does that thought make me feel?     mad      sad     nervous     other:_anxious, embarrassed, shame, confused

 

How strong is the feeling?   a little strong   medium   very strong  (or rate 0-100__100_)

 

What makes me think the thought is true? My current weight. I gained it all when I started eating again therefore food is what caused me to get like this. People think being heavy is bad and I’ve heard people say that bigger people should eat more salads or go on a diet. 

 

What makes me think the thought is not true or not completely true?  My weight actually has nothing to do the amount of food I am eating right now. My dietician has told me I still need to eat more. She has explained to me 10000000000000 times that my body is healing and my metabolism is working hard to restore itself. The weight is from years of restriction and damage to my metabolism and organs. The only way to get the weight to go away is to eat more. A lot more. There are scientific studies about this. I don’t know what everyone around the table is thinking about what I’m eating or my body. I’m making an assumption.

 

What’s another way to look at this? I do not like my weight. I do not like how I look. AND this is not forever. This is recovery. I need to keep eating for this to get better. If I don't keep eating my body will not be restored and I might actually be stuck this way. Maybe I should try and trust the process.

 

What’s the worst that could happen? Would I still live through it? Everyone at the table thinks I’m huge and shouldn’t eat and eating makes me gain more weight. Yes, I will live through it.

 

What’s the best that could happen? I choose to eat the meal, I actually have a good time and the food helps my body to heal and go back to normal.

 

What will probably happen? I will feel anxious, I will make a plate of food and eat it. I will try make it through dinner and then it will be over. I will have no idea what anyone is thinking about me or my weight.

 

What will happen if I keep telling myself the same thought? I will have a hard time eating the meal. I won’t be present and enjoy conversation. I might have ugly thoughts about everyone else based on something I don’t even know if they are thinking.

 

What could happen if I changed my thinking? I might be able to eat. I could possibly enjoy myself at dinner.

 

What would I tell my friend if this happened to him or her? “Girl, who gives a flying F what those other people are thinking. You are in recovery. If they don’t like your weight they should read more about the process. This dinner is HARD. Do the best you can and try and remember that food is your life line and will help heal your body. Oh, and tell ED to take a hike....”

 

What should I do now? Take a deep breathe. Reach out to a friend for support. Finish getting ready. Stop looking in the mirror. Make a plate the best I can. Try to be a present as possible.

 

How much do I believe the negative thought now?    a little      medium    a lot  

(or rate 0-100 _50______)

 

How strong is my negative feeling now?   a little strong    medium    very strong  

(or rate 0-100 __50_____ )

 

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TESTING YOUR THOUGHTS EXAMPLE #3

 

 

What is the situation? I was asked to play piano after Thanksgiving dinner. So I did. The next morning I woke up and someone at the party had posted a video of me, from behind, on freaking social media. I could barely even recognize myself. I looked huge and I can’t believe how I look anymore.

 

What am I thinking or Imagining? I looked like an obese person playing piano. I took up the whole piano bench. I can’t believe other people are seeing this on social media. I HATE social media. I can’t believe I sat there looking like this, playing in front of everyone. I should not have eating dinner. I HAVE to lose this weight. I definitely won’t be eating any dessert or leftovers today and I will start by not eating breakfast. I also will never play piano in front of people again until I lose the weight. I should just stay inside so I’m not seen like this.

 

How much do I believe it?     a little       medium      a lot      (or rate 0-100:__100____)

 

How does that thought make me feel?     mad      sad     nervous     other: Shame, humiliated, embarrassed, anxious,

 

How strong is the feeling?   a little strong   medium   very strong  (or rate 0-100__100_)

 

What makes me think the thought is true? I saw the video with my own two eyes. I’m feeling such an intense amount embarrassment. 

 

What makes me think the thought is not true or not completely true? nothing. I can’t think of anything that makes me think this is not true. 

 

What’s another way to look at this? Someone was enjoying my piano playing and wanted to share it with other people.

 

What’s the worst that could happen? Would I still live through it? a lot of people saw this video and saw my weight. I have to go out like this and just feel constant embarrassment and shame.

 

What’s the best that could happen? They would take down the video and no one else will take a picture or video of my while I go through this horrible process.

 

What will probably happen? The video will stay up. I have no control over who posts things on social media. I will feel bad about this for a couple of days. I am in recovery, this is not my body forever. I will eat breakfast because I don’t know what else to do.

 

What will happen if I keep telling myself the same thought? I will isolate myself. I will feel lonely. I will be allowing my body image and ED to take over and make me stop living and seeking freedom.

 

What could happen if I changed my thinking? honestly, I’m not too sure. I’m too upset about this one. 

 

What would I tell my friend if this happened to him or her? “Girl, people need to STOP just posting videos of other people without their permission. It was nice though that they liked your playing enough to want to share it. NEVER stop playing piano, but maybe turn it so you feel more comfortable? If it bothers you that much ask them to take it down. You HAVE to eat breakfast. If you don’t your body will just hang onto this weight and last, you are recovering. This SHIZ is hard. Give yourself some compassion. Practice self care. Remember I love you!”

 

What should I do now? Try and eat breakfast. Stop looking at the video. Practice self care. Allow myself to feel the emotion of it. Lay low for a day so I can refill my resources tank.

 

How much do I believe the negative thought now?    a little      medium    a lot  

(or rate 0-100 __80_____)

 

How strong is my negative feeling now?   a little strong    medium    very strong  

(or rate 0-100 __80_____ )

 

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Ok, so those are a few examples of not only how ED works in the mind of an anorexic, but also how a thought log can help fight back. 

 

I want to point out a few things.

 

1. In the third example it was VERY hard for me to come up with an answer to, “what makes me think this thought is not true, or not completely true.” The reason for this is because I was VERY emotional about what had happened. It had happened within two hours of writing this so my thoughts were STRONG and very fast. When my emotions are high and the ED thoughts are strong, it is really hard to find any other way of thinking about the situation. When this happens I can wait a little longer until I have calmed down so I can be wiser about it. I can email or talk with my therapist or a trusted friend and ask for their help finding another way to look at the situation or challenge it, or I can accept that right now it just seems REALLY REALLY bad and there is no other way to think about it so I just need to feel the emotions, take care of myself and try another coping skill at the moment to try and slow my mind down a bit. 

 

2. It is very hard to do a thought log when emotional, but it is good to do it anyway because it at least gets the thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper. That alone can often help everything slow down and not be as strong and debilitating. 

 

3. Thought logs do not have to only be used for eating disorder thoughts. I have used them when I felt hurt by someone and didn’t know how to address it or them. I’ve used them previous to a situation I an anxious about in order to get my thoughts in the right place before something might happen. Like in a coping ahead way. I’ve also used them when I’m anxious about delivering bad news or why it's ok to eat chips. You can use them for almost anything!

 

4. It is important to actually print it out and WRITE IT DOWN. I had done so many of these that I started to just do them in my head. That is great when you are in the moment but for some reason they are just more effective with you pick up a pen or pencil and write it out. I think this is because our minds can move fast and writing it down again, sloooooows our thoughts down and forces us to really think about what our thoughts are telling us. 

 

5. I print off a TON of these and keep one in my purse and even one written out in my notes app of my phone. This way I can do them at any time. I have many times found myself in a situation where a thought pops up that is causing E.D. behavior or me to ruminate. Instead of sitting there, completely in my head, I will take this out and do it! I've done it in a target dressing room. In my car before a meeting, in the bathroom while getting ready.

 

6. You will see in my examples that usually, after completing a thought log, my emotions, thoughts and behavior choice is different then what it was initially. It’s like I re-routed my brain to make choices that support recovery instead of restricting just by slowing down and thinking things through instead of automatically believing the thought that just popped in my head.

 

Thought logs do not make the situation all of a sudden sunshine and rainbows. Often times they actually don’t change anything about the situation. They DO however help our brains to slow down and think things through in a wise way. They help us to be able to find different ways to think about a situation instead of only how ED presents them, and they also help us to go from VERY overwhelmed with strong anxiety and emotions, to a bit calmer and accepting.

 

One of the best things about these thought logs is that if we continue to test or challenge our ED thoughts, over time, our automatic thoughts change. The first two examples that I wrote in this blog I had a LOT of ways that my thoughts may not be true or completely true. I knew all of those because I have had to test that thought many many times. Over time, the ED thought isn't as strong and I believe it less because I have fought it a lot. Using this sheet helped me to realize diets are B.S., restricting doesn’t work, sandwiches are good to eat and I shouldn’t isolate myself. 

 

When we do these logs our ED thoughts don’t just stop and the emotions do still rage, but we can become MUCH faster at being able to calm down and see the other side. Two years ago, instead of testing my ED thoughts I would have been stuck sitting there, believing all of them, restricting, and living in a constant brain state of emotion and negativity. Now, I can slow down, identify what my thoughts are and which ones come from ED and then FIGHT THEM with a thought log. 

 

If you have a thought that just keeps playing over and over in your mind or a thought that is very negative and leading you to an E.D. behavior, take a minute and sit down and give this a try. If you get stuck, ask a friend, family member or your therapist to help you. Heck, you can even message me and I’ll help you challenge it! Keep working at it. Keep fighting the thoughts! I'm being honest when I say this works!

 

The holiday season is hard! Lets not allow our minds to take over and keep us from enjoying our loved ones and the blessings of this time of year!

 

xoxo

 

- Sara - 

 

p.s. Just to end this on a good note! The examples above DID happen and they did cause me some tears, anxiety and a few moments of wanting to quit and hide under a rock, BUT, that's it. A few moments. Not all day. Not all week.  I was able to sit down, do these thought logs, allow myself some emotion and was able to move on with my day, not restrict and participate in life! I had a wonderful day after Thanksgiving. I was able to be present and those thoughts, because I addressed them, fought them and came up with a new way of thinking, did not continue to control my day or week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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