There are many stressors that confront us such as divorce, dementia, death, illnesses, caregiving, injury, retirement, addictions, and/or neurological disease. Managing the emotions and behavioral changes required to move forward requires effort, persistence, emotional support, and saying the “right” things to yourself. This is the foundation of resilience.
Self talk (“psyching oneself up”) as psychotherapy and self-help was popularized by Albert Ellis as “rational emotive therapy” and is broadly discussed today as “cognitive behavioral therapy.” The underlying assumption is that the dialogues you engage in with yourself are the foundation for behavioral change and managing difficult emotions.
Consider the statement “I can’t do it.” Or sometimes others will try to help by pointing to someone who made the change you are seeking but you say to yourself “He/she can do it but that doesn’t apply to me.” For example, “I can’t handle being a caregiver,” “I can’t place my spouse/parent in a memory care unit,” or “I can’t change this destructive behavior that is interfering with my life.” What this statement actually means is that managing stressful situations and behavioral change is hard. Change usually involves creating discomfort and giving up some elements of security for a period of time needed to calm emotions and build new habits. It may help to say to yourself that yes, this situation is difficult but that “I can make the change if I put the right structure in place and get through the discomfort.”
Another self-defeating statement we tell ourselves is that “I need my ______.” Fill in the blank with car, coffee sugar, cigarettes, drink …. We actually only need air, water, shelter, and food to survive. It is also helpful to have love and connectedness. There are many destructive behaviors and substances that we feel we need but can do without if we endure the period of discomfort in making a change.
Whether needing to make changes or managing a difficult situation the “I can’t do it” may mean that “I don’t know how” or “I don’t know where to start.” As long as your memory holds, you can learn new things and build new habits and behaviors. Today’s world is full of opportunity to learn. We have access to massive information via computers. There are many support groups. There are courses to take. There are many self-help books. There are many talk therapists who can help support and direct you.
Don’t give in to setbacks, mistakes, fear, procrastination, feeling that something is “too” hard, being tired or the myriad of other excuses we use to defeat our own best interests. Set realistic goals for making the changes you want. Break the changes into “baby” steps that keep moving you toward your goal. Reward your self along the way as you make progress. Get support, don’t go it alone.