Unemployment rate has increased significantly in Singapore and many people are feeling stressed about being unable to find a job. Some of you may have applied to over 50 positions in the last 2 months and with little to no response from the prospective employers. In these situations, it is normal to feel frustrated and upset, and your thoughts might be “I will never get a job”, “I feel hopeless” or “I’m so disappointed in myself”. However, thinking this way will only make you feel like you are not good enough and eventually feeling demoralised. Furthermore, this emotion may run with you, causing you to feel lousy and possibly discouraging you from trying to send out applications again.
Instead, take a moment to consider a more helpful alternative thought that you might have in this situation such as “what can I do to increase the chances of me getting a job”, “I have come a long way to give up now” or “I am going to try again”.
By generating more helpful thoughts, it can help to replace the unhelpful thoughts that you have. Furthermore, when we consider a situation from a few angles, it helps to improve our cognitive flexibility. It can also help us to not jump to the same knee-jerk reaction that results in us feeling lousy about ourselves (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 2014).
This is important because our thoughts are so powerful that it can control how we feel about ourselves and the world around us and what actions we might end up taking. Most of the time, our thoughts happen so quickly that we fail to notice them. These are called automatic thoughts and, our automatic thoughts can sometimes be negative and irrational (Therapist Aid, 2013).
There are times we often believe that we unable to change our unhelpful thoughts even though we have tried and it is also a lot easier to continue to dwell in this negativity. But it is, however, very unhealthy for our mental health and not to mention a real mood kill.
One essential tool in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the Cognitive Triangle. The Cognitive Triangle is simply a diagram that depicts how our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all interconnected with each other, and influence one another (Huntley, 2014).
Jessie Potter once said, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten” (Quote research, 2016). So, by always allowing yourself to continue to stay in the realm of negativity, you’ll always only get these negative thoughts. But despite, these thoughts being hard to avoid, it is possible to use helpful thinking to counteract them. And it is through cognitive restructuring that you can train yourself to help you to think more helpfully. Because sometimes, “positive” is not necessarily helpful or realistic.
Hence, here are 2 strategies involved in cognitive restructuring that you can adopt (Stanborough, 2020):
- Questioning your assumptions
An essential part of cognitive restructuring is learning how to question your thoughts and assumptions. If you’re a person that tends to assume the worst possible outcome in every situation, by questioning your thought, it would allow you to consider new possibilities that aren’t as drastic or as bad as you may think it is.
So here are some questions you can ask yourself the next time you are in an unpleasant situation:
- Is this thought based on emotion or facts?
- What evidence is there that this thought is accurate?
- What evidence is there that this thought isn’t accurate?
- How could I test this belief?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- How could I respond if the worst happens?
By doing so you will start to notice the qualitative change of your feelings. So even though you might still feel discouraged, maybe the discouragement is a bit more level-headed and manageable.
- Performing a cost-benefit analysis
Using this strategy, you would consider the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining a particular negative thought.
You can do so by writing your answers to these following questions:
- What do I get out of calling myself a failure?
- What does this negative thought process cost me emotionally and practically speaking?
- How will this negative thought affect me in the long run?
- How does this negative thought affect the people around me?
It is only through physically writing it down that this will force you to see the pros and cons side by side. And it is by seeing your written answers that you will realise that there is not a single benefit in maintaining these negative thoughts after all.
This is CBT at work. We mainly took the same situation and reframed our unhelpful thoughts to more adaptive, helpful, and realistic ones through cognitive restructuring. By doing so, we feel better about ourselves and ultimately will lead us to take more rational actions. This also helps us to mentally prepare and proactively take care of our mental health and wellness.
Remember, practice makes perfect, so here’s one more example from us before you try it on your own:
Situation: I have applied to 100 job postings and there was no reply. Not even a call back for an interview!
Unhelpful thought: My resume must have been lousy.
Changing unhelpful thought to helpful thought: Times are challenging and job positions are few. Let me review my resume to see if I have clearly shown my skills and abilities. Maybe I can also ask my friends for feedback.
Camellia Wong, Demi Ng
Cherry, K. (2020, June 13). What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Retrieved from
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. (2014 May 4). Improve Your Perspective Using Cognitive Reappraisal. Retrieved from http://cogbtherapy.com/cbt-blog/2014/5/4/hhy104os08dekc537dlw7nvopzyi44
Quote Research. (2016, April 25). If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Gotten. Retrieved from https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/04/25/get/
Robyn, H. (2014, August 22). What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Retrieved from https://www.prairie-care.com/blog/what-is-cognitive-behavior-therapy-cbt-by-robyn-huntley-lmft/
Selva, J. (2020, June 23). 5 Worksheets for Challenging Negative Automatic Thoughts. Retrieved from
Stanborough, R. (2020, February 4). How to Change Negative Thinking with Cognitive Restructuring. Retrieved from
Therapist Aid. (2013). Automatic Thoughts. Retrieved from https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/automatic-thoughts