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Mind and Matter

Mental Health Corner

Mitigate Pandemic Fatigue with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, when applied over time, rewire the brain to think differently. These practices can change your mood in the short-term and have lasting effects.

Even if you do not need or want counseling, or CBT treatment, you can use the following process on your own to reduce the negative impact of everyday stressors as well as pandemic fatigue. Many people think of negative thoughts as our “inner critics.” These thoughts are a part of ourselves and they are typically genuinely trying to protect us in some way. However, they often miss the mark; making us feel worse rather than better. The good news is, we can re-program them to work differently!

If you experience thoughts that are not rational, and you are having trouble changing them, the following steps will help guide each down healthier paths. Complete this 7-step process for a few of the strongest negative messages that come up on a regular basis.

Applied to pandemic fatigue:

  1. Identify a common negative message you say to yourself about the pandemic.
    • (Example: "We are failing in tackling this pandemic." Or, "we will all eventually get COVID-19 so, why continue my efforts?")
    • Write the thought down on a sheet of paper. Notice if it comes from a particular struggle, stressor, or situation you find yourself experiencing. (Example: "When I go outside of my home, I see people not wearing masks, not social distancing, and an increased count of newly infected people.")
  2. Ask yourself if there is a purpose for this thought, or message, continuing. Is it trying to help or protect you in some way? How?
    • (Example: "It keeps me from raising my hopes to prevent the possibility I will eventually feel disappointed if we fail despite all of my efforts.")
  3. What is the evidence against your thought?
    • (Example: "Actually, I do see other people wearing masks and taking appropriate actions." And, "I have a choice to set an example by doing the right things to protect myself, my family, and my community.")
  4. What would my “wise self” or “spiritual self” say about this?
    • (Example: "Be a benevolent force for good in the world." And, "do what’s right!")
  5. Can I give this internal protector/critic a new job?
    • (Example: "You can protect me by motivating me to 'stay the course,' but let’s not discourage me with thoughts of giving up on my efforts – much is at stake.")
  6. What's a more helpful thought I can tell myself and believe right now?
    • (Example: "I try to do my best, and although I sometimes feel weak in my resolve, I strive to be successful in my day-to-day efforts.")
  7. Once you have a more helpful thought that you can believe, write it down somewhere, or store it on your phone, and remind yourself of it often.
    • Make it a habit to notice the old thought of giving up and correct yourself with the new thought as much as you can. Over time, you will gradually get better at the new thought, and if you are committed to keeping it up, you will actually start to go straight to the positive thought and skip the old one entirely!

Source: Lannette, Jennie, Ph.D. (2019, March). 7 Magical Steps in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT Change your Thoughts Change Your Feelings, The Counseling Palette.  


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