Who knew that simply challenging yourself to rethink your day could change its trajectory entirely?
Rewind and Reframe
Learing to distance yourself from all the negativity is one of the greatest lessons to achieve inner peace.
—Roy T. Bennett
The Relax & Rewind Technique
Imagine this…your alarm goes off and you immediately feel a heaviness on your chest. You know you have a dumpster fire of a day ahead of you and all you want to do is pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. You know the day is going to be awful and you are summoning up the energy to face it.
We have all been there. Your schedule is full of back-to-back mind-numbing meetings and if you hear your boss utter one more word about increasing productivity, you might flip your desk. Or perhaps you studied hours for this final examination, but the professor is notorious for his difficult questions. Maybe you were up all night with your sick child and have no clue how you are going to function, let alone work and keep them home from school.
It might seem like all you need at this moment is a fast forward button wherein you can bypass all the awful and get to the good part. Unfortunately, time traveling technology does not exist quite yet so let’s focus on something more realistic and within our control. Actually, let’s try something entirely different.
Rewind back to that moment where you opened your eyes and let out that Napoleon Dynamite-esque sigh, thinking about how soul sucking this day was going to be. Now pause. How can you think of the same situation from a completely different perspective? How can you look at that same day and reframe it to work for you rather than against you? Here are some examples:
- I have so many soul-sucking meetings scheduled today —> I can sit quietly and absorb information, maybe even daydream or plan my weekends activities, rather than feeling pressured to find the data, answer calls, or [insert typical job duties here].
- So many people called out today. We are going to get steamrolled. —> It is just one day and it gives me the opportunity to stand out more as a team player.
- My kid has been up all night and has to stay home from school. I am not going to get anything done. —> Being there for my kid is one of my main values, and I did that. This is an opportunity to slow down and prioritize. I will talk to my boss and see what options I have.
- I do not feel like doing this today. I am exhausted. —> I will get through this day just like I always have and I will reward myself at the end of the day with my favorite dinner and a few episodes of the new show I am watching.
When you feel like you cannot possibly find the good in something, try to focus on what is on the other side of it. What are you looking forward to? If nothing immediately comes to mind, consider creating a reward for yourself whether that be a small treat, guilt free television, or booking a simple luxury such as a nail appointment or a massage.
To be fair, the idea of a Rewind and Reframe is not a new one. Psychologists call this technique cognitive restructuring. When we attempt to rethink or “restructure” a thought to make it more positive or find less negative options or explanations, it has the power to improve our mood. As we practice this same technique over and over again, we are essentially rewiring our brains to analyze problems or scenarios from a more logical and healthier mindset.
Let’s break it down further into a step-by-step approach to help you feel more at the ready to deploy your own Rewind and Reframe!
Step 1: Recognize The Problematic Thought
As many of the 12-step programs say, the first step to addressing a problem is to recognize that there is, in fact, a problem. You know your thought is no bueno when it is accompanied by feelings or sensations such as dread, guilt, anxiety, or fear. Look at that thought you are having and, if helpful, either say it out loud or write it down.
Example: “I have too much to do today. I am never going to get it all done.”
Step 2: Why Is The Thought Problematic?
Outside of making you feel like absolute garbage, why else might having this thought be problematic for you? Is it going to result in your being less productive? You having less patience for your colleagues, loved ones, or even your beloved dog? Feeling less inclined to hit the gym or prepare a healthy meal?
Example: “By telling myself I have too much to do today, I am already setting myself up for failure. I am going to be irritated and defeated before the day even starts. That will make me less pleasant and less motivated to get anything done.”
Step 3: What Are Some Other Perspectives On The Same Thought?
Now we get down to business. Take a closer look at that thought and let your mind explore other ways you could think of the very same situation. Try to do this from a neutral, logical, or even (gasp) positive lens.
- Some of these obligations are not time sensitive. I do not have to get everything done today.
- I am going to prioritize what needs to be done and focus on that and that only today.
- I have so much to do, but not all of it is bad. I am looking forward to seeing my coworkers or that happy hour later with my friends!
- I am grateful that my position makes me feel challenged, productive, and needed.
- I will do the best I can today and reward myself at the end of it.
Step 4: How Are You Feeling Now?
So you can do the mental gymnastics of reframing your thoughts into more positive ones, but if you don’t check in with your emotional state after, then where is the gold medal?? By experiencing the calmness, empowerment, or hope that comes along with defeating a destructive thought pattern, we reinforce the habit and are more apt to do it again.
Example: “By recognizing I don’t need to put unnecessary pressure on myself to do everything today, I feel more prepared and relaxed to take on the day.”
It may feel awkward, silly, or as the kids say “extra” to break a thought down this much, but the more often you “Rewind and Reframe”, the more natural and less cumbersome it becomes. Just imagine what it would be like to automatically look for the good in something! By regularly utilizing your “Rewind and Reframe”, you can do just that, let go of that existential dread, and wake up ready to take whatever this crazy world throws at you.