I want to tell you about the Thought Challenge CBT exercise in which I challenged my automatic negative thought “My situation is hopeless.”
I was sitting in front of the computer looking for jobs feeling, very depressed, and decided to do a Stress Log CBT exercise. I identified some automatic negative thoughts I had in my mind at the moment. Then I chose to challenge “My situation is hopeless” because I thought it was the automatic negative thought that bothered me most, the one that made me feel most depressed. You can read more about this Stress Log exercise in my blog titled: “A Running Stream of Negative Thoughts – Unemployed and Hopeless.”
So, is my situation really hopeless? Is there any chance I’ll be able to find a job?
The first step in this thought challenge exercise will be to describe all the evidence I have to support the belief that “my situation is hopeless”. But before I even start doing that I need to clarify what I mean by “my situation.” At the time I was feeling really down and I was thinking about my situation being hopeless, “my situation” meant my whole life. I was thinking that every single aspect of my life was hopeless, not only my job search. Now I understand I was overgeneralizing. Overgeneralizing is a type of distorted thinking common in people that are depressed, like me. You can read more about it on my blog titled: Cognitive Distortions and Depression.
So, to be more specific, I’ll describe the reasons I have to believe my job search is hopeless. They are:
- It is very hard for anybody to find a job right now
- Being hired at age 59 is even harder
- The whole internet application process is cold and stressful
Now I’ll describe the reasons I have to believe the statement “My situation is hopeless” is not true. Here’s the evidence against this automatic negative thought:
- There might be a chance that my resume will be a good fit for some job
- Finding a job online is not my only hope of having an income again. I could find a job through the people I met during my years of work
I’ll finish this Though Challenge exercise by writing a more balanced statement, to replace the original “my situation is hopeless”:
“My job situation looks very tough, but I might be able to find ways to keep us afloat financially”
In this balanced statement I am not trying to fool myself into thinking that things will be great, but I am no longer overgeneralizing. I am being more specific and clear in the exercise (and hopefully in my mind) that my problem is lack of employment and its resulting financial pressures only. I am also opening my mind to consider that finding a job online is not the only way to avoid bankruptcy.
I am honestly not feeling that cheerful after this exercise, but my feelings of depression are certainly more bearable.
Here’s a picture of this Thought Challenge exercise:
For more examples of CBT exercises please visit CBT Examples.