It's all downhill from here!
Whilst on holiday I had the chance to get out of my comfort zone and try something that I hadn’t done for 20 something years - Skiing. I’d been on a couple of ski holidays in my twenties, and the experience had put me off for many reasons. Skiing is one of the husband’s favourite sports, so after much persuasion, I agreed to an hour’s lesson to see if it really was as bad as I thought.
One of the things I disliked about skiing was being up on the mountain, with the village looking tiny below. As the instructor suggested we move up from the green flag to the blue then to the red, I started to feel anxious and scared of being higher. My instructor, who probably wasn’t even born the last time I went skiing said “Don’t think of it as being up higher, just longer so you can practice more turns”. In that moment, I felt a lot more confident about being further along the slope. It wasn’t about being any higher, it was about being able to do a longer run and get more turns in as I was improving in my technique.
Reframing is such an underutilised technique in my opinion. Here are 5 tips to help you reframe that obstacle or unhelpful thoughts.
Get out of your head
Putting your thoughts down on paper (or on your phone!) can help create space in your head. Also, by seeing things in black and white it can take the power out of a thought so that it may not seem as big or overwhelming anymore.
Catastrophes and calamities
Catastrophising thoughts can take hold really quick, and before you know it, you’re imagining the very worst-case scenario. Reframing can help stop those catastrophising thoughts; take time to breathe and recognise those thoughts as going down the ‘worst-case road’ and ask yourself “How likely is this to actually happen?”. You can then remind yourself of what things are in place to stop the worst-case event happening. It is separating the emotional response from the factual objective view point.
What would you say to a friend?
Often when I speak to clients about the thoughts they say to themselves, I ask “Would you say that to a friend?”. The response is “Of course I wouldn’t!”. But we are happy to be bullied in our own head by ourselves. So, ask yourself “What would I say to my friend if they came with this situation?”. You may find that a kinder reframed approach appears.
Negatives into positives.
Reframing doesn’t always have to be taking a negative thought or scenario and turning it into a positive one. However, the opposite of an unhelpful thought isn’t a positive thought, it’s one that is realistic. Just as we often fortune tell the worst-case scenarios for ourselves, try to imagine what the best case one would look like, which might not be the most positive one.
Beware of comparisons
I often call this “compare and despair”, when you feel you should be able to run 10km without breaking a sweat, but can barely manage 100m or your career/family/relationship etc should be looking like someone else’s who obviously has their life together and is a much better grown up. No good can come from invalidating your feelings. You don’t know the inner voice of the person/situation you are comparing yourself to. It’s hard to completely stop these anxious thoughts, but one way to reframe it may be to ask yourself why you feel like you have to compare this situation, what will you get out of it?
When reframing, it needs to have some time to create new pathways in your brain, so stick with it for at least a week before taking some time out to look at how well it’s worked, and if it hasn’t worked what needs to be changed? Sometimes, reframing isn’t always the best tool to use. This is where having sessions with a counsellor can help look at other techniques and understand the anxiety and any issues with reframing.