Step 1: Calm yourself down – Don’t try to think before you are ready to think. If a situation feels overwhelming, you need to first take action to calm down, such as taking 10 deep breaths, calling a friend, going for a walk, listening to music, or taking a shower.
Step 2: Recognize triggering thoughts – Often the intense feelings that we experience are actually in response to very specific automatic thoughts. In other words, our feelings are not actually in response to the experiences in our life but to the thoughts that we have about those experiences.
Step 3: Identify cognitive distortions – Extreme thoughts include labeling (“I’m a failure”), fortune telling (“I’ll never get over this depression”), all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization (“I never do anything right”).
Step 4: Provide evidence to support or contradict your distorted thoughts – When you look at the evidence, you may realize that some of the baggage from your past holds more weight than the current facts in providing validity for your distorted thoughts.
Step 5: Reframe your thinking – By reframing your thinking you can immediately shift the intensity of your emotions so you don’t feel the urge to run away or numb overwhelming emotions with drugs and alcohol.