I couldn’t sleep worrying about the presentation I had the next day. I was too anxious to fall asleep and I couldn’t stop thinking about the disaster the presentation was going to be. I could vividly imagine my embarrassment.
I met with my cognitive therapist and showed her my Stress Log exercise. We decided together that it would be best to challenge the automatic negative thought: “Tomorrow’s presentation will be a disaster.”
She helped me identify the cognitive distortions in my thinking and explained the importance of challenging them so I don’t feel so anxious.
I know there are many more layers of complexity to this, but I don’t need to get overwhelmed right now and this seems to be a good clear start. I know that I shouldn’t care so much, even if the presentation was a disaster. I know I have a deep conviction that I need to make my parents proud and my dad’s recent heart attack takes the whole career success pressure to a whole other level. But I agreed with my therapist to tackle things one step at a time. We’ll start by questioning this thought that was causing me to feel so anxious and preventing me from falling asleep: “Tomorrow’s presentation will be a disaster.”
Here’s a picture of this Thought Challenge exercise:
After talking about the evidence in favor and against the idea that the presentation would be a disaster I came up with a more balanced thought. I also understood that I have a tendency to this kind of distorted catastrophic thinking in which I picture the worst case scenarios. Similar catastrophic cognitive distortions have had a lot to do with my panic attacks, when I think I am dying or having a heart attack.
I believe that if I catch myself thinking this way and correct the distorted thinking on the spot, then I won’t feel so anxious.