Our thoughts — the things we tell ourselves — can keep us from feeling better about ourselves. Learn how to identify unhelpful thoughts, worry less frequently, and think more positively.
What you tell yourself about a trauma, and about your future, really matters. Your words will influence:
- Your mood
- How you cope with your challenges
- How you deal with people around you
- How effectively you rebuild your life
We are always talking to ourselves. We constantly think about what is happening, about ourselves, and about the future. This constant stream of self-talk is automatic. We sometimes don't even notice that it's going on.
When a trauma happens, it can powerfully affect your self-talk. For many trauma survivors, their self-talk becomes distressingly negative. This will make you feel worse, not better. Instead of keeping you calm and focused on your recovery, it will make you feel fearful, depressed, or angry.
Positive thoughts can increase your sense of control and ability to cope. When your self-talk becomes negative, try telling yourself:
- "I've come through other things, I can come through this too."
- "Things will get better with time."
- "I've just got to take things slowly, one day at a time."
Negative Beliefs About Stress Reactions
After a painful or traumatic event, people often feel intense fear or panic, depression, and emotional numbness. They may also experience rapid heartbeat, physical pain, and headaches.
These reactions and sensations are common. (For a more complete list of symptoms, check out the National Center for PTSD.) However, these reactions may seem upsetting if you have never encountered them before. You may start to worry about the stress reaction itself.
You experience two things:
- The stress reaction itself
- A concern about what this reaction means
For example, being reminded of a frightening experience may make your heart beat rapidly. Your interpretation of what this rapid heartbeat means can vary from "I'm going to have a heart attack" to "I must be ill" to "They told me that this is not dangerous."
Negative interpretations about your trauma reactions can worsen your distress and make you feel worse about yourself. Change these interpretations, and the negative feelings will decrease. You'll feel more able to cope.
Remember: what you're going through is expected and it will decrease over time.
If you feel your symptoms not decreasing or are drastically interfering with your daily life, consider speaking to a mental health professional.
You may be coping well, but not notice it. We mostly notice when we feel upset or negative, and ignore the times we deal with something in a positive way.
Try to pay attention to things that you are doing that are positive (like spending time on this Web site or talking to a friend).
Last Reviewed: October 2015
Look up prescription and over-the-counter drug information.
Look up helpful health information.
See our full library of diseases and conditions.
Practical info for Sutter patients.
Online tools to help you make decisions about your health.