No matter how much you like your job, there may be times when you feel flat or unmotivated about work. For many people, negative thoughts and feelings pass quickly. But sometimes these thoughts and emotions persist, and can impact our wellbeing.
And as we work our way through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking after our mental wellbeing matters, says Sabina Read, SEEK’s Resident Psychologist.
“We know that periods of uncertainty and instability make it even more important to make sure you have support to build your resilience,” Read says. “One way you can do this is by recognising and addressing a negative mindset.”
The impact of a negative mindset
It’s not always easy to recognise if you have negative mental habits. But for many people, it can be a critical inner voice or negative self-talk, and this can impact us in a range of ways at work, including:
- Finding it hard to maintain relationships with colleagues or your boss
- Missing deadlines or finding it difficult to stay on task
- Constantly questioning your value, skills or expertise
- Feeling demotivated
- Worries about work take over your regular life
- Being drawn into gossip, complaints and negativity.
If this feels familiar to you, there are things you can do to challenge these thoughts or habits.
4 ways to help combat a negative mindset
Work can be challenging enough without having to deal with your harsh inner critic. Here are four steps you can follow to address your negative thoughts.
- Listen to your thoughts
“Imagine your thoughts are like the radio and you’re always tuned to the same station,” Read says. “If the news, the ads and the talkback callers are critical and negative, then that will impact your mental health and your performance at work.”
Noticing your repetitive thoughts can help. “Once you know your unhelpful common thought patterns, you can explore and question them,” Read says.
- Know the patterns of negative thinking
According to Read, there are three main patterns of negative thinking:
- Catastrophising. “This is when you think something is far worse than it really is,” Read says. If you think things like, “This is the worst mistake anyone has ever made” or “I can’t believe I said that, I’m definitely going to get fired” you might be catastrophising.
- Personalising. “Personalising is when we think everything is a personal attack,” Read says. “We assume we are to blame, or we feel blamed for everything that goes wrong.”
- Black and white thinking. Words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘disaster’, ‘perfect’ or ‘impossible’ are indicators of black and white thinking. “Thinking in extremes like this can stop you from growing because you assume you can’t learn a specific skill or you’re not good at doing a particular task,” Read says.
- Take your thoughts to court
“By taking your thoughts to court I mean we need to challenge our thinking,” Read says. “How do you know that the negative thoughts are true?”
If you have thoughts like, “I’m not good enough for this job” or “Everyone else knows more than me”, write down all the ‘proof’ you have. “Usually we don’t have much evidence,” Read says. “Just thinking the same thing over and over is not evidence.”
- Focus on growth
“Resilience is a huge part of wellbeing in the workplace,” Read says. “We know that resilient people have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one.”
People with a growth mindset look at what they can learn from challenges, and see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. “You don’t have to celebrate when things go wrong, but rather than getting wedded to your old negative thoughts, ask yourself what you can learn when things don’t go to plan,” Read says.
Being aware of our thoughts at work is one of the first steps in challenging a negative mindset. Once you recognise the negative mental patterns that are on repeat, you can start to address them – and work towards and focusing your thoughts in a more positive direction.
If you’re finding things tough at the moment, there’s support available to help you. BeyondBlue has designed a support service especially for the pandemic, and the Head to Health website has useful resources that relate to COVID-19 and more.