Dealing With Negative Thoughts

By | June 1, 2019

Negative thoughts. We all have them, right?

But people with depression, anxiety, and addiction issues tend to have them more than the general public. And sometimes, they linger.


Yesterday started out pretty well. I was in a decent mood and looking forward to a productive day. But then I went to the dentist to get fitted for my permanent dentures, only to find out an hour later that my bite had changed, so I have to do it again next week.

Then, on the way home, it was one of those days where everyone seemed to be tailgating me. I swear a lot when I drive, so that really allowed my anger and fear to start getting in my way.

When I got home, I saw my mother-in-law’s car in the driveway, which means she had gone somewhere. Just two days ago, she agreed not to drive anymore (she’s 78); that didn’t even last 24 hours. I got pissed that she was so impatient, she couldn’t even wait for me to come home and take her to run her errands, even though that’s how we had left it that morning.

Then, as I was getting out of my car, (get this), I bopped myself in the lip with the corner of a shoebox! Hahaha, I know right? Don’t ask how I was able to pull that off!

Plus, I was really hungry and more than a little tired.

In short, my brain had had it. I got pretty pissed off. Mind you, those were all little things that happen from time to time (except the shoe box thing) and a lot of the time, they roll right off me.

But when they all happened within twenty minutes of each other, my brain took the low road. I was now in a rotten mood and fairly angry with my MIL (because we fear for her safety).


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I *could* have combatted this negativity by using some of the skills I learned in DBT. However, my brain has a mind of its own, and yesterday it got the best of me.

Here’s how I dealt with it:

I took a Xanax so I could calm down.
I was none-too-happy with my MIL.
I smoked (cigarettes) more than usual.
I ruminated.
I couldn’t get the angry off my face.
I tried to figure out how to control my MIL’s driving (which is, of course, impossible).
One look at this short list, and it’s easy to see how the snowball kept rolling. Instead of accepting things, dealing with them as they came up, and moving on, I tried to avoid the negative feelings (thus the Xanax) and I allowed it to ruin a big part of my day.


So I have all these skills and options on how to deal with negative emotions, but I chose not to use them.

Why? Who knows? Because sometimes, that’s just the way life goes. It’s hard to roll with every punch life throws your way, even if you have good intentions. No one is perfect.

I thought about doing the following, instead of doing what I actually did:

  • yoga
  • meditating
  • paced breathing (in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, out for 5+; then 2 regular breaths; rinse and repeat)
  • writing
  • cleaning (that often helps when I have an excess of energy)

Yes, I could have done these things instead, but I was not willing to. I felt justified in my anger and allowed it to just keep on going. Needless to say, that’s not the most effective way of dealing with life.


Part of DBT is learning how to tolerate distress in very specific ways without hurting anyone or making things worse. In the 400+-page DBT Skills Training book, there are several handouts with lists of things you can do to distract yourself when you feel negativity coming on.

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I’m going to share several ideas with you right now. Maybe you’ll discover some different ways of coping.

  • Focus your attention on a certain task that needs to be done, maybe something you’ve been putting off for a while.
  • Watch TV or binge-watch something on Netflix.
  • Clean one room or part of a room.
  • Play a game on your computer or phone.
  • Get outside; walk, jog, take the dog for a walk, play basketball, etc.
  • Listen to music (the kind that won’t you get even more riled up!).
  • Clean out your car.
  • Make your bed.
  • Do some laundry.
  • Spend time with your kids/nieces/nephews.
  • Play a card game. If no one else is around, play Solitaire.
  • Read the last magazine that got delivered to your house or something from your TBR (“to be read”) list. Or finish that one book you started six months ago!
  • Do word searches, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku.
  • Build a puzzle (this is one of my favorites).
  • Bake or cook something.
  • Go buy a coloring book and some colored pencils. (An aside: a mental health professional once challenged me to color outside the lines because I’m such a perfectionist. I couldn’t do it. Maybe you could try?)

Wait! there’s more!

  • Call or text someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Help someone (this one can work magic).
  • Watch a reality show and sit in wonder at their (often self-imposed) drama.
  • Remind yourself that you don’t always feel this way; think of a time when you felt better or were able to cope with something in a positive way.
  • Build an imaginary wall between you and your problem.
  • Tell the negativity to “Stop!”
  • Put your negativity on a shelf. Make a small (or large) box you can put all your negative thoughts into. Make a “God box” (same idea).
  • Count to 10; count to 100; count to 100 by three’s. Count backward from 100 by seven’s.
  • Recite the lyrics to your favorite song inside your head.
  • Get a stress ball and squeeze the hell out of it.
  • Hold ice in your hand or in your mouth, if you can handle it (I can’t!).
  • Spend some intimate time with your partner.
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There are 28 ideas on this list, and there are more where they came from. If this list doesn’t give you some ideas, I don’t know what to tell you. I know, sometimes it feels kinda good (for lack of a better term) to sit and wallow and feel self-righteous. But in the end, that doesn’t serve us.

I mean, the whole idea is to feel better, right?


I sometimes regret how I deal with things. I want to keep my positive momentum going, continue to enjoy my more “mild” level of depression (as opposed to my Major Depressive Disorder, Continuous – Severe), and do the things I know will help me stay well.

We all screw ourselves once in a while; sometimes we know why, a lot of the time we don’t. Brains and emotions and biology are exceedingly complicated.

Do me a favor? The next time you feel yourself sliding into a hole, or the snowball is in danger of getting bigger and bigger, or you begin to feel yourself ruminating, try one or more of the things on this list.

Hell, try all of them. If nothing else, it will keep you busy, and before you know it, you’ll forget you were even feeling crappy in the first place! ?

So give some of these a try – or make your own list. And do let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading, and remember –

Keep it Real!

This post was previously published on and is republished here with permission from the author.

Photo credit:

The Good Men Project