Negative self-talk involves inner dialogues we have with ourselves. Our intimate talk is a natural mental habit – we continuously have these internal conversations about what is going on in our lives.
Our self-talk has profound practical implications for all aspects of our lives. And this may become an issue when inner conversations with ourselves are overly negative. These negative self-talks can diminish our self-esteem and confidence, reduce productivity, and hinder our chances for satisfaction and success.
The negative self-talk you use to discourage yourself may affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Moreover, self-critical thoughts can influence your life choices, prevent you from seizing opportunities, and further damage your self-image.
In short, negative self-talk can have toxic effects on your work productivity, happiness, and overall well-being.
Negative self-talk is rooted in cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are thinking patterns that encourage negative emotions and beliefs. Our minds use cognitive distortions to convince us of something that isn’t true. Distorted thinking can interfere with our perception of situations, objects, and relationships, deepen our negative viewpoints and increase anxiety and depression symptoms.
If you work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience issues with productivity and performance caused by your negative self-talk. For instance, if you keep failing to meet deadlines, you can become self-critical with negative thoughts accumulating to the point of creating negative beliefs about yourself. You may start thinking: “I am a failure,” “I will never get promoted, “or something similar.
The problem with cognitive distortions is that they assume a permanent state of failure that cannot be changed. Moreover, these negative statements markdown any success you achieve so that you cannot take pride in any accomplishment. This consequently ruins your self-esteem, triggers anxiety, and implants a fear of failure that keeps you from trying new things.
Understanding negative self-talk patterns and learning strategies to tackle these patterns can help you perform better, increase productivity, and alleviate stress.
Here are some of the most common types of cognitive distortions and how they affect your productivity.
1. Polarized Thinking
Also known as all-or-nothing, splitting, or black or white thinking, this type of negative self-talk represents a tendency to think in extremes – everything is either good or bad. You set unreasonably highs standards, and if your performance while working from home is not perfect, you tend to see yourself as a failure.
To overcome black or white thinking and improve your productivity, you need to work on your self-compassion and understand that there is the whole continuum between ‘black’ and ‘white.’
You tend to see one adverse event as a continuous pattern. For example, if you fail to finish your daily tasks, you may start believing that you will always fail as if you don’t control your actions or behaviors.
3. Focusing on the negative
Focusing on the negative is a tendency to see only negative in every situation while eliminating the positive aspects.
You always expect disaster, no matter what. For example, your co-worker calls to inform you about a mistake you’ve made, and you start using “what-if” questions (e.g., “What if I lose my job?” “What if I never find another job again?” “What if my boss thinks I am a failure?”).
5. Should's and Must's (Guilt Beating)
Using excessive guilt to control behavior and thinking in terms like “must” and “should” may cause you to have unreasonable and unrealistic demands from yourself and others. This, in turn, usually leads to disappointments that may trigger symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
This cognitive distortion involves a tendency to blame other people for your problems. For example, you may blame your spouse or your children for wasting time at work, refusing to take responsibility for your behavior.
This negative self-thinking pattern involves making global statements about yourself or other people based on situation-specific behavior or using negative terms to describe yourself or others, such as “I am a failure,” “he is a liar,” and similar.
To overcome labeling, you need to challenge yourself to find the evidence that contradicts the label you are making.
How to Overcome Negative Self-Talk and Increase Productivity
Research shows that positive thinking provides benefits such as lower rates of anxiety and depression, greater resilience to stress, better coping skills, increased productivity, better psychological and physical well-being, and so on.
Strategies such as positive affirmations, mindfulness, and cognitive restructuring can help you tackle your inner critic and replace negative thought patterns with the more positive ones.
Repeat Positive Affirmations
If you want to improve your productivity, start with your subconscious mind. Feed your subconscious with positive statements about your performance and the goals you want to achieve. These positive statements, also known as affirmations, can help you overcome negative self-talk and reprogram your subconscious mind to strive toward success.
When saying your affirmations, always start with the words “I am” and use the present tense. Make sure to keep your statements brief and specific and always include at least one motivating emotion. Finally, make affirmations for yourself, not others.
Mindfulness exercise helps relax and calm your mind, stop the negative self-talk that triggers anxiety and depression, and encourages you to achieve more conscious control over your behavior.
Moreover, mindfulness can help you acknowledge what’s happening in the present moment and help you understand those negative thoughts are just that, thoughts.
Try Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is a central technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that effectively combats negative thinking patterns and self-talk. Cognitive restructuring is based on the idea that how we feel emotionally is not the result of what happens to us but how we think about what happens to us. In other words, you can change the way you feel by changing your thoughts.
Organize Your Time, Not Only Your Thoughts
Use time-management skills while working from home can help you track where you spend your time during working hours, identify the time-wasters, and the times of the day when you are most productive. This can help you set the priorities and plan breaks and working hours according to your productivity patterns. For example, if you plan your breaks, you won’t waste time trying to work on something during those periods when you are less productive.
Learning to overcome negative self-talk as well as being well-organized will allow you to slow down with multitasking, increase productivity, and manage your deadlines more successfully. This will, in turn, reduce your stress level, alleviate anxiety, and improve your overall well-being.
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