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Untwisting Your Thinking: Coping with Cognitive Distortions

May 20, 2024 Dawn Gressard

Coping with cognitive distortions can be a challenge. In the intricate landscape of our brains, thoughts can often be like tangled balls of yarn, distorting reality and discoloring our perception of the world around us. For those of us coping with depression, these cognitive distortions can become particularly prominent, taking the tangled yarn and weaving a complex tapestry of negativity and despair. It becomes imperative to untwist our thinking and return to a more logical and realistic mindset. In the past year, through training peers about cognitive distortions and mental health wellness, I have come up with a couple of strategies to assist with coping with cognitive distortions. 

Cognitive distortions, or what I'm calling twisted thinking, are like optical illusions of the mind. They are deceptive patterns that lead us astray from seeing things as they really are. Jumping to conclusions, magnifying the importance of adverse events, and minimizing the positive in myself or a situation are typical distortions that I have that can lead down a dark highway of depression. It is as if my mind wears dark-colored glasses, casting a shadow over even the brightest moments. 

Coping with Cognitive Distortions: Step One

First, I have found that the most critical aspect of coping with cognitive distortions so that I do not become depressed is to identify and question the negative thoughts. By identifying and questioning my negative thought processes, I can straighten the once-tangled yarn's knots, thus reclaiming my cognitive processes and proceeding forward, making logical decisions or reacting to a situation more logically. 

An Example of Coping with Cognitive Distortions

For example, if you have read some of my other posts, you have probably noticed that finances are a tremendous and common trigger for my depression. My coping strategies are also often challenged by a decline in financial stability. Therefore, many of my cognitive distortions consist of or are precipitated by a modification to money coming in or a large unexpected bill that suddenly appears. It has not been easy, but I have implemented a coping skill that does assist in breaking the cycle of my finances triggering a depressive episode. 

Most of the time, I have become self-aware enough to realize that my mood is starting to feel slightly off. When this transpires, or a change in my finances occurs, I consciously stop what I am doing or thinking and take a deep breath. I then directly ask myself, "What is actually going on?" In other words, I challenge myself to determine the truth -- not what I assume will happen, what conclusion I have jumped to before looking at the facts, or what I think after discounting the positives. I make myself determine what the outcome could be based on facts, not on what I feel or what has happened in the past. As a result, I can usually cope with my cognitive distortions and proceed forward. Granted, it is not 100 percent effective for all situations, but it has cut the amount of my triggered depressive episodes considerably. 

It's Important to Cope with Cognitive Distortions

Understanding and recognizing our cognitive distortions is critical in our recovery journey. As we navigate the intricate landscape of our minds, we must be self-aware enough to recognize the signs when we begin to journey down a dark path. Part of self-awareness is recognizing our thinking processes and how to confront them with courage and grace. It is not easy to untwist our thinking and cope with our personal cognitive distortions. Ultimately, I have only described one way I cope with my distortions. There are several ways to do so. We each have to find what best works for us. 

I would love to hear from you and some of the ways you cope with your cognitive distortions. 

APA Reference
Gressard, D. (2024, May 20). Untwisting Your Thinking: Coping with Cognitive Distortions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2024/5/untwisting-your-thinking-coping-with-cognitive-distortions



Author: Dawn Gressard

Dawn Gressard is a freelance Veterans Affairs benefits, mental health wellness, and suicide prevention writer and a trainer of a peer-supported suicide prevention and crisis intervention program. Find Dawn on X, Instagram, LinkedIn, and her personal blog.

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