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Practice balanced thinking

It’s normal to have negative thoughts after a traumatic event, loss, or difficult period of your life. You may think, “I wish that had not happened to me” or “I’m afraid that this is going to happen again.” After losing a loved one, you may think, “If only I got a chance to say goodbye” or “I don’t know how I am going to cope without this person.” These thoughts are common and may even help you express strong emotions or figure out what you need to do to heal.

Unfortunately, negative thoughts can also be inaccurate or unhelpful, such as thinking, “It’s all my fault that this happened,” “I am a terrible person for not doing more to prevent this” or “I will never recover from this.” Thoughts such as these could ruin our mood and make us less productive and more likely to distance ourselves from others.

When you feel yourself engaging in negative thinking, take the following steps to create more balanced thinking:

  1. Try to identify a specific thought that is accompanying a negative emotion.
  2. Consider the evidence for and against that thought.
  3. Think about whether you are missing important information about the situation. Taking this information into account might help you find more helpful ways of thinking about the situation.
  4. Based on the questions you asked yourself in Steps 2 and 3, try to come up with a more balanced thought that takes all of the evidence into account.

On your own: Try out the steps to create more balanced thinking

Remember, we have little — if any — control over what thoughts come into our mind, but we do have control over how we respond to them. Responding using the four steps above typically helps people feel a bit better about the situation and can serve as important practice for the next time something bad happens.

Downloadable resources to use on your own

Information Sheet

Recovering from Trauma & Grief

The Body's Response to Fear & Anxiety

How-to Guide

Practice Balanced Thinking