Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 5


Depression

In this blog I am revisiting the unhelpful thinking styles identified in Part 4. Here you can find suggestions for beginning to change depressed thinking and behaviour that you may have recognized. These are simplistic examples but they illustrate contrasting ways of seeing things. Perhaps you could focus on one area every week to see what difference it will make?

Catastrophizing

When you are depressed you tend to catastrophize – focusing on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, if you are made redundant, don’t allow yourself to become convinced that you are on the scrap heap. Problems can be sorted out when you take action, one step at a time. Instead of thinking, ‘I’ll never get another job’, you can say to yourself: ‘I will get another job. It may just take some time.’

Ruminating

Reflection can be a good thing as it may help you find solutions, but rumination tends to maintain the problem. Recognise when you are ruminating and do something – distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts to something helpful.

Crystal Ball Gazing

No one has the ability to predict the future and our worst predictions rarely come true. Rather than worry about what might happen, it’s more helpful to stay in the present where you are less likely to blow things out of proportion.

Dwelling on the Past

You can’t ever change what has already happened. It is gone. Instead of wishing for a different outcome and perhaps replaying past events (a sign of rumination), it is more helpful to accept that you made the best decisions you could have made with the information or resources you had at that time.

Isolating Yourself

As humans we are social creatures. We all have networks of people and relationships around us and they provide the opportunity for support. Remember those basic emotional needs I mentioned in Part 3 of this blog? You probably already have a team of ‘supporters’ around you but you don’t recognize them as such right now. Think about those official posed photos of sports teams for example – standing beside the athletes you can see the coach, the trainer and other staff members – all the people who support the athletes and help them to perform well. Putting yourself at the centre of your own imaginary team photo – who would be there with you? When you start reconnecting with people, you can begin to feel understood. You allow yourself to get positive advice and encouragement and it’s often done in activities that end up being fun. Staying home alone will maintain the depression. Getting out with other people – even a little bit – will lift your spirits.

Structured Routine

Even when you don’t feel like it, set an alarm and get up at the same time every day. Eat meals regularly at set times. Avoid lounging around during the day, as it will probably prevent you from sleeping well at night. Even if you’re unemployed or feeling down, it’s really important to set and establish a daily routine as best you can. This provides a sense of regularity that can help lift a depressed mood. Include socializing in your routine too.

All or Nothing Thinking

It’s important to recognise that your thought patterns can get you into a rut or keep you there. When you feel low or sad, this negatively affects the way you think about yourself. Thinking in extremes can paralyze you – stop you from doing the things that will make you feel better. Instead of thinking in black and white terms, look for the shades of grey. Instead of thinking ‘no one loves me’, think ‘there are people who care about me’.

Reality Check your Thoughts

A depressed mind state breeds negative thoughts. However, they are rarely grounded in reality. Once you’ve identified a negative thought, begin to challenge your thinking. For example, ‘Where is the evidence that I’m the worst person in the world?’ It‘s not helpful to keep sabotaging your happiness with untruths. To accept something as true, you have to come up with some really solid evidence to back it up, not just guesswork.

Choosing Unrealistic Goals

When you want to achieve something, select a few simple, straightforward goals you can easily set and follow. Realistic goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Time-limited. For example, if you are job hunting you could make a plan to post three CVs to companies who are hiring before the end of the working week.

Giving Up Everything you Enjoy

Are you aware of what you have stopped doing that you used to enjoy? It’s helpful to write down all the things you used to like doing that you’ve stopped because you’re sad and feeling low. Perhaps it’s going out somewhere in particular, playing a sport, socializing with friends, or simply going for a walk and enjoying nature. Start with the easiest activity and one by one, start adding them back into your life, even if you’re feeling unenthusiastic about it. Begin to focus on tasks that give you a sense of mastery or accomplishment, whether it’s a household chore, doing something creative or even paying an outstanding bill.

Denying Depression

When you accept that depression has taken hold of you, you begin to relieve the suffering. If your present situation is terrible, then denying it will only make things worse. In general, knowing and accepting that you have depression will allow you to take steps to make it better (with or without the help of a therapist), rather than pretending that everything’s okay.

Treating Yourself Badly

Have you noticed the language you use when you think about or talk to yourself? Compare it to the way you talk to other people. If there’s a difference, decide to treat yourself in a kinder, gentler way. We can often be kind and compassionate to everybody else but we beat ourselves up. Don’t bully yourself.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recognizes that our thoughts, feelings and behaviour all work together. When you learn to change the way you think about things and the way you act in certain situations then it is inevitable that your feelings or emotions will change too. Over a number of weeks a therapist can help you to challenge your negative thoughts and subsequently change the way you act and behave. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help. Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

In Part 6 of this blog on depression you can read about changing the unhelpful thinking and behaviour which maintains that depression.

 

#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 5


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Have you noticed the sorts of thoughts you experience when you are particularly stressed or anxious? We all have unhelpful thoughts but when you are feeling anxious or worried these thoughts seem to occur much more often. If you are feeling anxious now then stop for a moment and notice the sorts of thoughts that are going on in your mind. There are some typically unhelpful ones to watch out for:

  • Thinking about things in all or nothing terms, such as “ I am useless”
  • Blaming yourself for things which may have nothing to do with you, such as “The computer is going wrong – I must have broken it”
  • Seeing everything in catastrophic terms, such as “If I go out today I might have an accident”
  • Mind-reading what other people think about you, such as “They think I am stupid”
  • Focusing on any negative aspects, such as “I messed up that bit” rather then seeing the whole picture
  • Thinking in extremes and strict rules, such as “I always get it wrong” or “I must look perfect”

When you think like this all the time, even the simplest things can become daunting because you are automatically setting off the threat activation system in your mind. When you are constantly on high alert, those symptoms of anxiety never calm down, and to make it worse you begin to interpret everything that happens through this negative filter – constantly on the look out for what could go wrong.

One of the biggest challenges in overcoming your anxiety is to learn to tolerate uncertainty. When you are anxious, you are not focused on the here and now, you are focused on the future – what might or might not happen. You don’t know yet what that might be, but you are on high alert, and predicting events in your mind, using all those unhelpful thoughts. When you are prone to thinking like this, constantly trying to predict the future, and unable to tolerate uncertainty, #mindfulness techniques can be very beneficial. #Mindfulness teaches you to shift your focus into the present moment. It helps you to notice that what you are worrying about is not what is happening in the here and now, but something that may or may not happen later on. In the here and now, you are probably ok and there is no immediate threat to your safety. Being grounded in the here and now allows your mind to relax and experience calmness. Once your emotional mind is calm, your rational thinking mind has better clarity and can weigh up the evidence and facts pertaining to a situation. In this way you can often gain a fresh perspective on what is going on, and on your own thinking.

You may also have noticed that when you are anxious you tend to focus on yourself and what’s going on inside your own body. Many years ago, despite being outwardly confident, I began to notice a feeling of flushing red in the face and neck when speaking in public. Eventually I became so focused on going red that I realized I was anxious about the flushing rather than the public speaking itself. The solution was to stop focusing so much on the bodily reaction and instead to focus outwardly on the audience and the information I wanted to share. #Self-hypnosis is a great way to train your mind to work in this way for you.

Overcoming your anxiety is achievable but it does take some effort on your part. Remember that anxiety is a natural reaction and it’s quite normal to feel a little anxious in new situations or doing things that seem a bit frightening. It is when that anxiety becomes more extreme and starts to impact on your everyday life that you should seek some professional help. Sometimes people go along for therapy thinking a therapist will just sort out their problems for them. No therapist can wave a magic wand and make things change for you. A good therapist will work in partnership with you to help you achieve your goals. Therapists are skilled at helping people change their faulty thoughts and behaviour and if you see your doctor for help with anxiety you will probably be referred for CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT recognizes that our thoughts, feelings and behaviour all work together. When you learn to change the way you think about things and the way you act in certain situations then it is inevitable that your feelings or emotions will change too. Over a number of weeks you will be given help to challenge your negative thoughts and subsequently change the way you act and behave, following a plan.

Therapists working in the private sector have the freedom to use a variety of psychotherapeutic techniques to help you overcome your anxiety. I personally use a combination of #CBT ideas, #Hypnotherapy and sometimes #EMDR Eye Movement Densensitisation and Reprocessing, depending of the needs of the particular client. The therapeutic plan is always designed to fit you, based on your needs and goals, rather than you having to fit any prescribed plan.

I specialize in hypnotherapeutic techniques for overcoming anxiety and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my next blog you can read about techniques you can use to effectively deal with anxious thoughts and feelings.