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The Sunday Night Ritual Part 2: Talking Back

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Stress » Featured Article

By Kelly Romirowsky, PsyD

Kelly Romirowsky, PsyD

We are all familiar with that dreaded Sunday night ritual many of us have developed in response to knowing tomorrow is Monday. In part 1, I asked you to take notice of what you were feeling physically and emotionally and what thoughts were racing through your head on Sunday night before bed. The reason for doing this is we can't change what we don't recognize. As uncomfortable as it is to imagine or pay attention to what it feels like, it's important to get to know the ways in which you're handling the stress. Is your usual reaction to sit in front of the TV for hours to distract yourself, to busy yourself with housework, or to talk to your friend about your woes until you're blue in the face? Many people choose to avoid focusing on what it is that bothers them about this time.

Right now we're going to take a good hard look at it - together.  What was going through your mind? What are the automatic thoughts that you have when 10 PM rolls around? Write a few down and estimate your belief in each thought (0-100%).

For example:

"I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I'm probably next to get the pink slip."

Belief in my automatic thought: 90%

Now let's take a step back and suggest a rational way to talk back to that nasty thought. If it makes it easier, pretend you are talking to a friend and not yourself.

How about this?

"I know you don't want to go to work tomorrow but considering you just did well on your latest performance appraisal and got assigned an important project, it's not so likely they're going to fire you tomorrow."

Belief in rational response: 65%

Now how much do you believe you will get fired tomorrow? It's probably not as high as your original 90%, is it? And how anxious do you feel now? Has your breathing started to slow down a bit?

This exercise is one that you can use in many distressing moments. Think of it as talking back to your negative, unrealistic self. It takes practice to start correcting your negatively skewed thoughts and to replace them with more even-handed ones, but it works. You may find it is similar to conversations you have with friends when one is calming the other down and trying to bring some realism into the picture.

Try it tonight. Instead of letting your mind run away with itself, challenge it to be realistic and to look at the evidence for what you're fearing. Watch the intensity of your emotions subside and your mind slow down. Take a deep breath and smile at the way our minds can jump to conclusions. Relax knowing that you are in charge.

Sweet Dreams.

About the Author...

Dr. Kelly Romirowsky is a clinical psychologist with a therapy practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Last Update: 10/3/2009

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