Use These 3 Proven Strategies to Overcome Cognitive Distortions!


This post is one of the more personal posts I have posted on Delightful Insights. As most of you have probably figured out, the posts in the Daily Dilemmas category are a documentation of my personal mental health journey. And honestly, I have been doing quite well until the past 48 hours. I had a special occasion this weekend, of which I stayed up fairly late to partake in. If you have read our post on the anxiety cycle, you’ll know that sleep is a key factor in combating anxiety, and subsequently, cognitive distortions.

The weekend is the only time in my week that I have enough time to get a significant quantity of quality rest, given my busy schedule (3 jobs and a business will do that to ya). So, when I neglect to get rest on the weekends it can (and usually does) lead to a rough week as I try desperately to catch up on lost sleep so that I can effectively use my coping skills.

There are many cognitive distortions, such as:

  • The Magnifying Glass: We magnify flaws and failures while minimizing successes. Acing a project goes unnoticed, but a single mistake becomes a source of shame. This can lead to self-doubt and hinder motivation.
  • Fortune Telling: We jump to negative conclusions without evidence. A friend doesn’t text back, and we’re convinced they’re mad. This fosters anxiety and distrust in relationships.
  • Mind Reading: We believe we know exactly what others are thinking, often assuming the worst. A colleague seems quiet, and we’re sure they’re judging our work. This creates unnecessary tension and awkward social interactions.
  • Catastrophizing: We blow minor problems out of proportion, envisioning disastrous outcomes. A simple presentation morphs into a career-ending catastrophe. This paralyzes us with fear and prevents us from taking action.
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: We see things in extremes, leaving no room for nuance. A test score isn’t perfect, so we’re a complete failure. This black-and-white thinking breeds harsh self-criticism and discourages effort.
  • Discounting the Positive: We brush aside positive experiences because they “don’t count.” We receive praise at work, but convince ourselves it wasn’t genuine. This robs us of happiness and undermines our achievements.
  • Emotional Reasoning: We believe our emotions are facts. Feeling anxious about a presentation means we’re bound to fail. This reinforces negative emotions and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • “Should” Statements: We hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations, creating a burden of guilt. “I should be able to handle this perfectly,” leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

These are just a few examples, and the impact can be far-reaching. Cognitive distortions can:

  • Fuel Anxiety and Depression: Constant negativity creates a breeding ground for mental health issues.
  • Damage Relationships: Misinterpreting situations leads to misunderstandings and conflict.
  • Hinder Performance: Fear of failure paralyzes us from taking risks or putting ourselves out there.
  • Lower Self-Esteem: Magnifying flaws and discounting successes chips away at our sense of self-worth.

For more info on cognitive distortions, check out the video below:

How Do I Overcome Cognitive Distortions?

In this section we will go through 5 ways to overcome cognitive distortions with an emphasis on the anxiety cycle. There are several techniques that can be used to promote a healthy state of mind free of cognitive distortions. My top 3 are as follows:

  1. NSDR (Non-sleep Deep Rest): Andrew Huberman’s NSDR protocol is a relaxation technique that focuses on reducing the sympathetic nervous system response and increasing the parasympathetic nervous system response. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the stress response (fight or flight), while the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the relaxation response.

    By activating the parasympathetic nervous system response, one is able to access a level of rest equivalent to that of a quick mid-day nap. Exactly the kind of rest needed to reset the anxiety cycle to the prime state (when coping skills are at their best). NSDR meditations are typically no more than 15 minutes long which is perfect for implementing on your breaks from work.
  2. Freewriting (Journaling): Part of the effect of the later stages of the anxiety cycle is that coping skills are rendered ineffective. However, this is largely due to the sense of overwhelm that comes from a lower immunity to stress. Often when I am tired, I convince myself that I don’t have the energy to implement my coping skills, thus creating a mental backlog of stress.

    The solution to this is simple. Grab a notebook and a pen and carry it with you in your bag everywhere you go. When you get stressed grab your notebook and pen and start writing your thoughts as they appear in your mind. This simple act gives you the cathartic release of letting all of these ruminating thoughts out onto paper, getting them out of your mind and giving you more mental bandwidth to implement your coping skills.
  3. Hydration: Our last method to combat cognitive distortions is hydration. Make sure you are fully hydrated. Get at least 8 cups of water a day. Your body is composed of ~80% water. If your body can’t get enough water, your brain can’t function at its best given its limited resources. By increasing your hydration, you should notice a difference in mood within thirty minutes to an hour. One little know trick is that when you feel anxious grab a bottled water and drink the whole thing. Within 30 minutes your mood should start elevating.

    Combine this technique followed by freewriting and then a NSDR session, and your mood should lift and your ability to cope with cognitive distortions increase for the next few hours. Then, wash, rinse, and repeat.

By implementing these 3 strategies, you can reset the anxiety cycle to the prime state temporarily so that you can put your coping skills to full use to handle stress. Do this enough and you may be able to get your anxiety cycle back to baseline consistently even on weeks where you have a busy weekend. If you want more tips on how to reintegrate your coping skills, check out our post here.



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