8 Habits That Make Your Shift (And Your Day) Worse

Author: IAFF Staff

September 13, 2019

When bad things happen, or we face adversity, we tend to ask ourselves why. This is basic human nature. We are born with a fundamental need to understand why things happen and create meaning from those events. The way we interpret events can be thought of as our explanatory style, or self-talk — what we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, the world and the future. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), first established by American Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck, remains a dominant force in the field of psychology and behavioral health today.

The concept of CBT is simple but profound: What
you think has a clear impact on how you feel and what you do The cognitive-behavioral model is not only a foundation for behavioral health treatment but can be used as an approach to daily life at home and at the fire station. The idea is this: It’s not what happens to us in life, but how we think about what happens to us, that matters most. Furthermore, this belief system is influenced by many factors, including our past and the environment around us. 

Distorted Thinking

Unfortunately, we are all vulnerable to crooked or distorted thinking at times. Changing (distorting) the way we think about something bad can be a good thing and help us cope. In other cases, distorted thought patterns can become toxic and subconsciously cast a negative outlook on our daily attitude, interactions and functioning. Dr. David Burns, a critical pioneer in the field of CBT, identified several common types of distorted thoughts we experience. Do you recognize any of these in yourself or someone else?

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking/Polarized Thinking: Also known as black-and-white thinking, something is all good or all bad. For example, “If I didn’t complete the drill perfectly, I failed.”
  • Overgeneralization: Forming an overall assumption of a person or situation based on a single event or fact. For example, after receiving negative feedback from your chief after a call, you think, “He is always so critical of me. He never gives me credit. He’s always critical of me.”

  • Jumping to Conclusions/Fortune Telling: Assuming you know what will happen in the future, often based on feelings rather than facts. For example, without having all the facts, on the way to a call, you already think, “This is going to be a bogus call.”

  • Mind Reading: Assuming you know what another person is thinking or feeling (often about you). For example, “I know the lieutenant thinks I’m not pulling my weight.”

  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization: Making something a much bigger (or smaller deal) than facts would support. For example, a friend is clearly intoxicated, slurring his words, and says, “I’m fine to drive; it was just a few beers.”

  • Should Statements: When you impose rigid rules or expectations on how you, others or the world should be, which is often a setup for disappointment. For example, assuming your spouse or partner should just know what you need or want, without you telling them.

  • Labeling: Assigning unhelpful, usually negative descriptions, to yourself or other people. For example, “I’m a screw up” or “He’s useless.”

  • Always Being Right: The belief that one must always be correct or accurate, and that being wrong is unacceptable or equated to inferiority. The inability to admit when you’ve made a mistake for fear this means you are less than. 

    Changing Your Thinking

    Increasing your awareness of unhelpful thought patterns and how these shape your daily emotions, behavior, interactions and relationships is often a primary goal of behavioral health treatment. When we learn to identify them for what they are (just thoughts, not facts), we can overcome them. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, substance abuse or PTSD, talk to your mental health care provider to see if cognitive behavioral therapy might help you.

    The IAFF Center of Excellence is a residential mental health and substance abuse treatment exclusively for IAFF members located 45 minutes outside of Washington, DC. The IAFF Center of Excellence offers cognitive behavioral health therapy, in addition to a variety of treatment approaches and activities that could be right for you. See the IAFF Center of Excellence Clinical Guide to learn more about the treatment offered at the Center.  To refer a loved one or learn more about getting help at the Center, call today. 

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