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How To Cope With Challenges and Negative Thoughts; When Life Gives You Lemons

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

When life gives you lemons do you squeeze them in people's eyes? Or make lemonade?

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball that stops us from doing the things we love. And how we react to and think about those moments can have a huge impact on our mindset and wellbeing.

For example, last week I hurt my back and felt a constant agonising, slicing pain through one side of my ribs to my spine. You know, one of the fun injuries that hurts when you stand up, sit down, or breathe. Basically, it hurt to exist.

Being a proactive-kinda person, I tried gentle swimming, resting, pain killers, deep heat, hot water bottles, hot showers, and yoga. But nothing worked and it was making me cross and miserable, and I ended up doing the verbal equivalent of squeezing lemon juice in their eyes and was snappy, rude and grumpy with the people I love. (shame face emoji)

The pain continued to get worse, until eventually I caved and made a Dr's appointment, and was prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers, paracetamol and more rest. Thankfully, 48 hours later I felt a lot better and am pretty much back to normal now.

As someone who already manages daily pain because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis, I don't mind admitting that any additional movement issues can really test my resilience.

Because it is easy to slip into negative thought patterns when you are in pain and frustrated.

Patterns like catastrophising (it's never going to get better/I won’t be able to [important thing here]); mind-reading (I bet everyone thinks 'she's always unwell’ / ‘she's a total hypochondriac’); over-generalising(things like this always happen to me) and labelling (I'm a burden, or am hopeless / useless etc).

Now, I coach people to overcome these thought traps regularly, so I recognise them easily, and I know how to challenge them. I also appreciate, from my own experience, that it takes a sustained effort to challenge them; but learning to notice negative thinking traps is the first step to achieving this.

Here are a few ways that I challenge my negative thoughts to create a more positive mindset and build resilience:

  1. Acknowledge that what is going for you right now is a challenge. Explore and accept how you are feeling about it. Show yourself some compassion and do something that you enjoy that takes your mind off things.

  2. Remind yourself that you have been through challenges and tough times before and you have got through them; they never last as long as you think.

  3. Identify the type of negative thought you are having (download my free guide here). This will help you notice patterns in your thinking and challenge it more easily.

  4. Ask yourself what evidence you have for the thought - Taking my mind-reading for example, I have no evidence that other people think I’m a hypochondriac, everyone is always really supportive, sweet and understanding about my physical challenges.

  5. What is the thought behind it? Continuing the example above, I don’t like losing my independence when I have a flare/injury because it makes me feel like a burden to people. This can make me start labelling myself as hopeless/useless etc. So again, finding examples that challenge this thought can be helpful.

  6. Without dismissing what you are experiencing, notice the good in your life - no matter how small - and take each day as it comes. It's usually the little moments of happiness or peace that contribute to a positive mindset and resilience. When you brush your teeth in the evening before bed, try thinking of three good things that have happened each day (or kind/funny/beautiful things). Habit tying is a great way to stick to something new!

If you are really struggling with negative thoughts, or you want some support overcoming a difficult / challenging situation you are currently experiencing, you are welcome to book a free 20min discovery call to explore your options. Click here to book your session today.

And finally, if you want a weekly dose of positivity, along with coaching tips and practical tools to help you live the good life, sign up for my weekly newsletter using the button below.


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