As a speech-language pathologist who has worked across many settings all over the United States, and as a longtime integrative health coach, I think a lot about positive mindset. Our work as speech-language pathologists and educators can be overwhelming, and we have to work at staying positive. Here is a quick quiz…
Give yourself a point for each of the follow characteristics you identify with:
- I am a Type A person
- I love to be/get organized
- I am productivity-oriented
- I am a planner
- I have a strong desire to help others
- I am very routine-oriented
- I do best with clear expectations
- I am a perfectionist
- I am a high achiever
- I am struggling in my job right now
If you scored 1 or above, this blog post is for YOU.
Do you feel seen?
Many SLPs, like you and me, tend to be full of good intentions, have a desire to serve, and are incredibly productive. Many of us are Type A, organized, plan-oriented folks. We love clear expectations and routines.
Can you find a silver lining in a tough situation?
We all experience rough, sometimes seemingly impossible times, and one of the keys to maintaining a positive mindset is looking for the lessons learned and the good things that come out of a tough situation. We sometimes call these, “silver linings.” COVID times have been challenging, to say the least. Some of the silver linings I have found in it personally, however, are learning the necessary skills of…
- Learning to pivot, and to pivot FAST
- Realizing that my beautifully laid out plans and schedules often times may change.
- Understanding that no matter how organized and prepared I am, that I am, in fact, not in control of what happens.
- Embracing letting go of productivity as a measure of worth.
- Focusing on what is MOST important- the physical and mental health of myself and my loved ones.
These are lessons that I have learned and continue to learn over and over again. I don’t believe that I’ll ever have them mastered, but they will always be in progress. Acknowledging the benefits of any situation helps build a positive mindset.
If you’re like me, you might be thinking,
“That sounds great, but how do I actually DO this, and really mean it?”
The answer is… By actively working to change our thoughts and mindsets.
Our thoughts create our feelings.
Our feelings create our actions.
And our actions create our results.
We have no control over the circumstances of our world. We only have control over our thoughts and responses to the circumstances.
Here are 7 steps to beginning to change your thoughts and promote your positive mindset to support your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Step 1: Identify your current thoughts.
Choose a circumstance that you are struggling with. Maybe your supervisor has added another school to your already packed caseload. Write down all the thoughts you are having about this circumstance. If you write down “I feel like…” please rephrase this to what you’re really thinking. We’ll talk about feelings in step 2.
Example: “I feel like I’ll never get it all done.” → “I’ll never get it all done,” or “I have too much to do.”
Step 2: For each thought you wrote down, write down the feeling it causes in your body.
If you need help, use your SEL tools or do a quick Google Image search of “feelings words.” You can label the emotion, or simply write down the physical sensations in your body when you think that thought.
Step 3: Next, write down all the things you do (or don’t do) when you feel this way.
No one is grading you or reading this, so be as honest as possible. Leave any judgment behind and objectively list what a fly on the wall may observe you doing or not doing.
Step 4: Finally, what results do these actions create? Do they cause something to happen/not happen? Do they impact your relationships? Do they create your experience of a situation?
**99.9% of the time we will see evidence of our thoughts in our results**
The circumstance: I just received consent for 5 new evaluations last week.
My thought: I am going to be so busy.
My feeling: Overwhelm
My actions: I complain/vent to colleagues and my partner. I don’t stop to think about how others can help me/what I can delegate. I think about how overwhelmed and busy I am. I start scheduling and planning these evaluations in all my free spots. I tense up in my shoulders and jaw. I rush through my days to try to get it all done. I skip lunch breaks and workouts. I get to work early and stay late.
My results: I find myself extremely busy and every minute booked up. I create the experience of feeling miserable and stressed while getting these evaluations done.
Can you relate?
Step 5: Identify how you WANT to feel or act.
Brainstorm these things. Pick one feeling or action that you want more of.
Step 6: Start “trying on” thoughts.
See if a thought evokes a sensation in your body (aka- a feeling). If it evokes the feeling you desire, then it may be a good thought to write down and practice. If it does not evoke the feeling you desire, then leave it behind for now (even if it seems like a good thought).
Step 7: Keep a list of your thoughts.
Keep a list of your thoughts on your phone, your computer background, or with an app (like the Gratitude App!) of the thoughts you are practicing, and look at them and embrace those thoughts for a minute or two each day, or anytime you find yourself struggling.
So, let’s redo that first example…
The circumstance: I just received consent for 5 new evaluations last week.
My thought: I believe it is possible to get these done without sacrificing my wellbeing.
My feelings: Empowered
My actions: I start scheduling and planning. I regroup some therapy groups to make more time for testing and report writing for one client/week. I ask my household to help out with dinner and chores in the upcoming 8 weeks. I take deep breaths, often. I use templates to help me write more efficient evaluations. I plan for breaks to eat and exercise. I make a meal plan and order my groceries in advance with simple foods. I post reminders to myself in my office. I plan fun things to look forward to on the weekends and for spring break.
My results: I get through one evaluation at a time while still taking care of my needs and living my life.
This does take time, and when you’re already booked every minute of every day, you may not see where you have the time to do this powerful work on your own thoughts.
So, if you need some even quicker takeaways, here are some thoughts that I have been actively practicing to promote a positive mindset that I am happy to loan to you:
- Slow down to speed up. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
- I deserve to take a break/time to plan ahead, reflect, and decide on purpose what kind of experience I WANT to have.
- It always gets done somehow.
- It’s ok if it’s not perfect.
- My colleagues and family want to help me.
- This is a normal human emotion. It won’t last forever.
- I am more productive, focused, and efficient when I am rested, fed, hydrated, and have exercised.
- I have the tools to handle whatever the day throws at me.
- My job is to be here to support my students/clients and create a safe, supportive environment for them. They show me what they need.
- HOW I live my life is more important than HOW MANY things I get done.
A positive mindset requires work.
SLPs, this is an ongoing practice in self awareness, self talk, and self compassion. Don’t expect to repeat these thoughts 10 times and have them mastered; rather, expect to have more challenges come your way. Expect that you’ll forget how to use your thoughts to impact your feelings, actions, and results. And, expect that with continued practice you’ll get better and quicker at identifying thoughts that are helpful or harmful. You’ve got this.
Alyson is a school-based SLP and integrative nutrition health coach. She specializes in helping SLPs find greater wellness, balance, and joy in their lives and careers, while healing from (and preventing) burnout.
To connect with her, please visit: www.speechandmovement.com
Finally, be sure to subscribe to her weekly email for easy-to-implement tools to survive and thrive as a SLP during these challenging times.
Related: ASHA CEU Course – Mental Health of SLPs: Let’s Talk About It