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Reality Check - Questions to screw your head on straight

Whenever you make yourself feel upset

(e.g. anxious, stressed, worried, depressed, angry, guilty, frustrated, embarrassed, insecure, jealous, etc.),

Or you behave in undesirable ways

(e.g. procrastinate, overeat, get high, lie, act impulsively, isolate, perfectionism, etc.),

Or you have physical symptoms of stress or depression

(e.g. headache, stomach ache, diarrhea, tension, hives, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, etc.):


  • What am I doing to create this situation?
  • Are my emotions helping me or hurting me?
  • What am I telling myself?
  • What are the facts?
  • Am I exaggerating or distorting?
  • Are there other explanations?
  • How likely are my worries?
  • Whose problem is this anyway?
  • What is the worst that can happen?
  • Am I awfulizing?
  • Am I taking this too seriously? Too personally?
  • Am I downing myself or others?
  • Am I unrealistically demanding success? Approval? Control?
  • Perfection? Certainty? Comfort? Fairness? My way?
  • Do I need this or only want it?
  • Can I stand it?
  • Am I babying myself?
  • How can I think more realistically?
  • Am I stewing rather than doing?
  • What are my options?
  • What, if anything, can I do?

Reality Check for Worriers

  • Am I playing "what if"?
  • How probable are my worries?
  • Am I worrying enough?
  • Will worrying do any good?
  • Do I equate worry with caring?
  • What, if anything, can I do?

Reality Check for Procrastinators

  • What emotions do I have about what I am putting off?
  • What are the advantages of doing it now?
  • What are the disadvantages of procrastinating?
  • Am I making excuses?
  • Am I putting myself down for procrastinating?
  • Will it kill me to do it for five minutes?
  • Can I break this task down?
  • What consequences can I give myself?
  • Am I doing the worst first?
  • Am I babying myself?

Reality Check for Parents

  • Am I overlooking good behavior?
  • Are my expectations realistic?
  • Am I demanding compliance or teaching responsibility?
  • Is this a battle of wills?
  • Am I disciplining out of anger or frustration?
  • Is my child capable of doing this by himself or herself?
  • Am I separating the doer from the deed?
  • What are the natural or logical consequences of this misbehavior?
  • Am I providing appropriate, rewarded alternatives?

Reality Check for Lovers

  • Am I buying in to romantic fantasies?
  • Do I expect love to make me happy?
  • Am I basing my self-worth on being loved?
  • Do I need or only want love?
  • Are we pushing each other's buttons?
  • Am I listening actively?
  • Am I communicating in my partner's preferred style?
  • Are we taking each other for granted?
  • Am I ignoring what I want?
  • Am I ignoring what my partner wants?
  • Are we playing the "who's right and who's wrong" game?
  • Am I being aggressive or assertive?
  • How can we negotiate a "win/win" solution?
  • What kind of relationship can we create?

Adapted from: Sarmiento, Robert F. Reality Check; Twenty Questions to Screw Your Head on Straight, Houston: Bunker Hill Press, 1993.

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Learn more below about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and how it works for Depression and Anxiety.

What type of therapy is best? What is REBT? How does it help?
What is Stress?? Psychotherapy defined
Understanding Irrational Thinking The 12 Irrational Beliefs of REBT
The ABCs of REBT What are Rational Beliefs?
ABCs Worksheet ABC Disputing Chart
Keeping Emotions in Check 10 Happiness Beliefs
Healthy Relationship Defined Help for Relationships
Self-Esteem Defined How to Accept Yourself


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