'Cognition' is a word used to denote a thought or belief, and 'restructuring' involves challenging a cognition by looking at the evidence for or against it. The basic idea behind cognitive restructuring is that thoughts themselves are not facts; you need to consider whether the thoughts you are having are true and to consider whether there are any other ways to thinking about a particular situation. At first this can be a real challenge: we often believe what we think and don't question our own thoughts. However, often our thinking is biased, and with perfectionism it can be biased towards thinking too negatively and harshly about yourself.
Rules vs Guidelines
It is helpful to identify the particular rules that you have for your life, and aim to replace these rules with guidelines. The distinction? Rules break, but guidelines bend.
All or nothing thinking perpetuates rules: you either abide by them, or you've broken them. In reality, having a little bend can make sticking to the rules a whole lot easier.
Even prisoners get time off for good behaviour. Do you get time off? How often do you give yourself parole from the rules and regulations you have in place around you? No harm will come if the rule about eating five portions of vegetables per day is turned into a guideline, if you forgo one workout, read a trashy magazine, take a night off.
But perhaps you feel like time off only applies to other people? That giving yourself a pass this time will encourage you to be lazy in the future?
Giving yourself a bit of lee-way can prevent you "chucking in the towel" when a rule does get broken. For example, if you broke your strict diet rules by eating a single piece of chocolate, an all or nothing response to this would be "Well, my diet is ruined. I've blown it, might as well eat whatever I want now."
Whereas a response for eating a piece of chocolate if that rule was a guideline would be "If I eat a little bit of chocolate here and there it's ok and I'm still following my diet. I'm more interested in being healthy than being 100% perfect with my food choices all the time."
The second response doesn't detract from your motivation to keep eating well. It also doesn't provide any shame, guilt, or blame.
Download the following activity to try turning your rules into guidelines