Negative thinking, old habits and possible strategies to help

I’m a negative person. Trust me, if I had it any other way I would be one of those smiley, shiny happy people who seem to have a spring in their step rather than be an individual who sometimes dwells on what could go wrong and worry about things before they happen.

I don’t know how much of this is programmed in me due to genes or habit, but I do try to change my thinking by using different strategies. The problem is that although they work, it’s easy to forget them and slip back into old negative habits.

  • Reframing

One possible way to change negative thinking is to reframe situations and see the issue or thought in a different light. For example, right now I’m feeling so tired from lack of sleep and my body feels runs down. I’m meeting the guy I’m currently seeing later. I normally would look forward to seeing him, but right now I’m thinking “I’m so tired, I’d rather not meet up later because I need rest and feel I look so tired!”

It would be better if instead I thought “Why do I think it will be an ordeal of some type / a difficult evening? It could be fun and re-energizing. It may be what I need. It’s the start of the weekend and I can choose to do what I like”.

One big worry of mine is the Japan issue. It’s strange how something I’ve looked forward to for years and worked hard for is now nearly a reality (teaching English in Japan) and yet I am super terrified of the idea! People ask me about it and I evade their questions. I’ve put off the starting date 2 times already (from originally starting in April to June and now changed it to August). It’s like I’m dragging my feet when I should be so excited I can’t wait to go.

I saw a friend yesterday and she asked if I really want to go to Japan and I had to think about it. And the answer is yes, I do. I want to live abroad, I like working in a classroom, I want to live abroad and learn a new language – that’s like 3 or 4 birds with one stone!

I need to change my current opinion from “It’s scary / can I do this?” to “I know I’m made of strong stuff and I can do this. I can prove to myself and others that I am capable of dealing with this situation”.

The brain, when stressed, reverts back to what it did last time that we were in, and survived, a similar situation, i.e., the body tenses up, the brain gets anxious, etc, because this worked at one point (even if it’s maladaptive). When I’m stressed, I get very anxious. Although this is bad for me, it has some purpose in a strange way. My anxiety either leads me to want to disappear and wallow in a hole somewhere or spurs me on to create action points or ideas on what I can do that may help.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if we bypassed the trigger (e.g., the anxiety) and go straight to the response (e.g., action plan)?

It would benefit me to be more in tune with what I am feeling and question what’s going on with me. If I know I’m starting to get anxious, it would help to think of:

a) why am I anxious?

b) what can I do about it?

So that begs the question what can help me now regarding the Japan situation? It would help to:

  • learn Japanese (check – started doing this already)
  • Prepare myself mentally and get tips from those who  have done the same, especially those who went to Japan and Tokyo in particular (contact P, C’s boyfriend who lived in Tokyo for 1 year)
  • Get tips from people who I know that have moved abroad or taught English as a foreign language (contact E and her husband/ S’s friend)
  • Make connections to people living in Tokyo / Japan (facebook groups, etc)
  • Get support and advice from ELT teachers (discussion boards, etc)

Writing this list, I have already found I feel more peaceful and less overwhelmed with the situation. It also gives me focus on what I can do to help myself.