AS@W Antidepressant Skills at Work: Dealing with Mood Problems in the Workplace
Realistic Thinking
Step 3 Learn to challenge depressive thoughts and replace them with fair and realistic ones

Challenging depressive thoughts involves deliberately rethinking the situation or event(s) that contributed to low mood. To do this you can use a strategy called Challenging Depressive Thinking. Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns, like the example below. There is a sample of this form at the back of the manual. Make extra copies if you need to.

Example: Imagine that your boss unexpectedly cancelled a meeting in which you were to discuss progress on an important project. First, make a brief note of the situation. Next, write down the depressive thoughts that seem related to how you feel. If you like, you can try to classify the type of distortion involved (as discussed earlier). Finally, think about the situation and try to come up with a more fair and realistic assessment.

Depressive thinking often goes way beyond the facts. In this case, the fair and realistic thought is simply to remind yourself that you don’t have enough information to know for certain what’s happening: “I don’t know why he cancelled the meeting; there might be hundreds of possible reasons.”

If you focus on unrealistically negative statements (depressive thoughts), you will feel more discouraged and as a result you may give up. Giving yourself encouragement and evaluating yourself fairly (realistic thoughts) makes it more likely you will hang in there and try harder – this makes it more likely that you will be successful.

When you’re down or depressed, it’s not easy to come up with fair and realistic thoughts. Asking yourself Reality Questions can help.

Use the Reality Questions below to come up with more realistic ways of thinking about a situation that upset you. In the Challenging Depressive Thinking worksheet, write down the situation that upset you and the depressive thoughts you were having. Then use the Reality Questions to come up with realistic thoughts about the situation.

Challenging Depressive Thinking (example)

My manager canceled a meeting with me that had been scheduled to discuss an important project.
Depressive Thought   Realistic Thought
He must be hearing bad things about my work – he probably thinks I’m incompetent. (Mind-Reading)  

I don’t know why he cancelled; maybe something urgent came up.

He’s probably going to take this project away from me. (Overgeneralization, Fortune Telling)  

It’s only one meeting. I have no other evidence that he’s unhappy with my handling of this project. In fact, I’ve had some good feedback from him.

I’ll never get a promotion, no matter how hard I work. What’s the point, anyway? (Catastrophizing)  

The evidence I have doesn’t fit this gloomy prediction. Just canceling this one meeting doesn’t tell me whether I am likely to get a promotion.

Reality Questions

Depressive Thought:





Can I get more evidence, like asking someone about the situation?




Would most people agree with this thought? If not, what would be a more realistic thought?




What would I say to a friend in a similar situation?




What will happen if I continue to think this way?




What is another way of thinking that is more encouraging or useful?





Challenging Depressive Thinking





  Depressive ThoughtS   Realistic ThoughtS
































You may download the worksheets or the entire book for use on your computer or for printing out.