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Is your mental chatter about pharmacy your worst enemy?

If anyone wrote down the negative thoughts that go through the minds of pharmacy people, it would alarm you (and a psychiatrist). Trust me.

Or... Improving pharmacists’ self-talk through distance

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I can’t keep up with all these changing vaccine rules.

I’m falling behind in blister pack checking.

We don’t have enough staff.

If anyone wrote down the negative thoughts that go through the minds of pharmacy people, it would alarm you (and a psychiatrist). Trust me.

In Dr. Ethan’s Kross’ book Chatter, he elegantly argues that distance during self-talk reduces the impact of negative thoughts. He describes distance as a separation of ourselves from the negative thoughts that battle us. 

Distance is what allows us to process the negative thoughts so we can move on from them, without them brewing into a downward spiral, making us our harshest critic and worse enemy. 

How can we create distance in our heads?

Ever notice how criticism stings less if we heard it about others instead of ourselves? This is because there is mental distance between us and the words being said. The first way to create distance when we recognize our own negative chatter is to refer to ourselves in the second person. This makes it less personal, almost as it we are referring to someone else.

“Jacob will never make it as a Regulated Technician” versus “I will never make it as a Regulated Technician.”

You will never make it as a Regulated Technician” (referring to yourself) actually gets us thinking about another person, the first step in differentiating our character from the bad storyline. 

If this sounds oversimplified, take it one step deeper and pretend you are advising a fellow pharmacist colleague. Replace the pronoun you with someone else’s name who fits in the conversation and feel how less personal the talk becomes. The mental distance created is a natural disarming signal to the brain, allowing us to process the feedback rationally instead of emotionally. 

Photo by Jessica Yap on Unsplash

The second mental manoeuvre we can use to create distance involves changing the clocks. Mentally selecting a different time and reflecting how we will feel later (for example, tomorrow when it’s over or next year when the hard work has paid off) removes us from the blast radius of the event or negative thought pathway. Just as reading a nasty email from the beach is diluted by the relaxing setting, placing ourselves after the episode shows us the bigger picture. 

time control
Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Finally, distance is found organically when we are in control. When we feel on top of a situation and in charge of influencing the outcome, our mental chatter is more positive (or less negative). Finding control during turmoil involves performing a ritual. Rituals allow us to execute something we have done before, from start to finish in a predictable way where simply finishing them brings a feeling a success. Whatever your ritual is, welcome it as a way of taking over control in your head.

Perhaps you leave your counselling room and re-enter it the same way you would each morning. Turn on the light, put on your lab coat and fix the collar, pull out the chair, sit, stretch your arms, crack your knuckles, roll your ankles, straighten the keyboard and mouse, take the cap off your pen and lay if beside your mouse then attack it again. 

vast distance
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

The next time you catch your negative mental engine starting up, create distance by using the second person, advising a colleague, changing the clocks to reveal the bigger picture or performing your ritual. 

Check out Jason’s compilation of tangible mindset tools, put together as a kit call RxMIND here

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