Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Post-Lockdown anxiety - be gentle with yourselves!

 The end is in sight... after more than 12 months of the world going in and out of some kind of lockdown, it would seem that the end of lockdowns, closures, distancing and isolation is now something we can all start to look forward to. But is it that simple? Can we all simply drop back into our lives and pick up from where we left off?

Regardless of the social distancing measures which may remain in place, the UK and other countries are now looking at roadmaps of ways we can start to return to as normal a life as possible. For many this is fantastic news meaning we can start to see friends and loved ones again. At the same time, this 'return to normality' also brings with it anxiety. Even for those who would class themselves as having good mental health, the prospect of going back to busy work schedules, children's activities, social gatherings etc. is actually bringing up anxieties about how we will cope with these situations which, in pre-lockdown times, were just 'normal life'.

So what is going on here? Surely everyone can't wait to get back to normal life?

Not so. For the past year many of us have had to cope with huge change to our daily activities and routines and this itself was difficult to adapt to. After such a long time of having to live this way, the prospect for some of having to go back out in the big wide world is just as daunting. In adjusting to a new set of rules (many of which have been imposed upon us rather than a conscious decision we made ourselves) these new rules about how we must behave have become ingrained in our lives. "Don't get too close to other people, wash your hands as much as possible, wear a mask wherever you go, don't hug people..." etc etc.

And these rules have had a hard hitting life-saving message attached to them... Save lives.

With the end of some of these rules soon to come into play, we are once again having to adjust our mindset to the prospect of being able to socialise again, to share our space and air with others, albeit limited at first. Having changed our minds to one approach, we are soon going to to have to start to change this again. As adults, we have the intellect and rationality to decide what we are comfortable with (within the boundaries of the current restrictions) and make our own minds up about what we do and when. But for those who HAVE to return to the workplace after having worked from home for perhaps a year, I know some people who are simply not comfortable with this and are getting seriously anxious. Similarly, for some of my Mum friends, even the prospect of mixing with others for family gatherings, social engagements again is bringing an unexpected level of anxiety. the thing we yearned for is now becoming something we fear?!

Now consider children and young people in the equation. Kids are like sponges and are quick to adapt and change to their environments. They do however like to have consistent rules and guidelines or they quickly become confused. Confusion leads to anxiety and excess anxiety can lead to depression, even in young children. We are told as parents to keep household rules consistent to avoid badly behaved children. The past year has put our young generation through more change than we can imagine - in and out of school, being able to see friends and then isolated away. This is bound to lead to behaviour changes and I have seen first hand the effects this can have on kids. 

In the months (and perhaps even years) ahead, we must all pay careful attention to our own levels of anxiety and make sure we be kind to ourselves in terms of what we expect from ourselves (and others, particularly our children). Some people will inevitably have expectations forced upon them of what they need to do, however no one should underestimate the impact on our mental health and we need to realise that we can all be affected in different ways by the changes which we will see as the restrictions begin to be lifted. Above all, be gentle with yourselves!

If you are struggling with your mental health and would like to find out how Hypnotherapy could help, please get in touch with Christy for a no-obligation and confidential chat. Email: christy@christyhypnotherapy.com

Friday, 5 February 2021

10 ways to untwist your thinking

Have you found yourself having negative thoughts about yourself on a regular basis? It may not be obvious to you to begin with, but these thoughts may be twisted thinking about a situation which is not actually 100% accurate. Bad things happen, no one can deny that. We all make mistakes. We all misunderstand things sometimes. That's life and it's ok! What is not ok is to have continual negative thoughts about yourself which become automatic, to the point where we take them as totally and 100% true.

Below are 10 things you can do immediately to begin to 'untwist' your thinking and start thinking more helpfully about yourself and/or a situation

1.      Identify the Distortions

A distortion is something which you may have exaggerated out of proportion from reality. Try to find at least one distortion for each negative automatic thought you have. 

2.      Examine the evidence

Write down your negative thoughts and also any distortions you may have made. Then ask yourself “What is the evidence for this thought?” Examine the facts.

Ask yourself “Is it really true that….?”

Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it. For example if you feel that you never do anything right, you could list several things you have done successfully.

3.      The Double-Standard method

Instead of putting yourself down in a harsh, condemning way, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you would talk to a friend with a similar problem.

When you have a self-critical thought, ask yourself “Would I say this to a close friend who was very much like me and had a similar problem?”

Learn how to treat ALL people, including yourself, with one standard that’s both helpful and realistic. Give yourself the same encouraging messages you’d give a friend.

4.      The Experimental Technique

When you have a negative thought, ask yourself if there is any way to test it to find out if it’s really true. Sometimes an experiment will help you get to the truth about things.

For example, start to break down a task into small steps and see how difficult it actually is to do…

Try to do an experiment to test the validity of your negative thought.

5.      Thinking in shades of grey

When you have a negative thought, ask yourself “Am I looking at things in an either-or, black-or-white fashion? Am I thinking of myself as a total success or a total failure? This is all or nothing thinking.

Remind yourself that things are usually somewhere between 0 and 100 percent instead of insisting that they’re all one way or the other. Evaluate yourself on a range of 0 – 100.

For example, when things don’t work out as planned or as well as you’d hoped, think about the experience as a partial success rather than a complete failure.

6.      The Survey Method

Ask yourself “Would other people agree that this thought is valid?” You can often perform a survey to find out.

Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and attitudes are realistic.

For example, if you believe that public speaking anxiety is abnormal and shameful, ask several friends if they ever felt nervous before they gave a talk.

7.      Define Terms

When you have a negative thought, ask yourself “How am I defining terms? What do I mean by this? Am I using vague labels that have no meaning?”

For example, if you are calling yourself a “loser” or a “failure”, try to define what you mean by this and you will usually see that your definition is meaningless or that is doesn’t apply to you. If you think you are a fool for doing something, ask whether anyone has ever before done the same thing. If the answer is yes, you must either concede all people are fools or realise that you just did something foolish.

Ask yourself “What is the definition of a …..?”

Usually there will be no such thing.

8.      The Semantic Method

The method is simply substituting language that is less colourful and emotionally loaded.

When you feel upset, ask yourself if you’re telling yourself “I should do this” or “I shouldn’t do that”…

Instead substitute a phrase like “it would be nice” or “it would be preferable” in place of “I should”.

9.      Re-attribution

If you find you are putting yourself down or blaming yourself for a problem, you are applying a distortion of “Personalisation” or self-blame. The antidote to this is “re-attribution” where you attribute the cause of the problem to something other than your “badness”.

Ask yourself “what other factors may have contributed to this problem?” Develop a list of possibilities.

The aim here is not to deny mistakes you may have made, rather to assess the causes of a problem more objectively. If you did contribute to the situation, accept this and learn from the experience instead of wallowing in self-loathing.

10.  Cost-Benefit Analysis

Ask yourself “How will it help me to believe this negative thought and how will it hurt me?”

List the advantages and disadvantages of a feeling (like getting angry) or a thought (like “I always screw up”) or a behaviour pattern (like overeating).

If it turns out the disadvantages are greater, you will find it easier to talk back to the thought. When the disadvantages of an attitude are greater than the advantages, try to revise it with a belief that will be more realistic.

For example, the attitude or belief I want to change: “I must always be perfect”

List the advantages of believing this and the disadvantages of believing this and then rate the % of each one. Once you have done this, see if you can revise your original attitude.

SUMMARY

If you are having persistent negative thoughts, looking through this list may seem a little overwhelming in itself. THAT IS FINE! Take one or two points and give them a go to see what happens. If it doesn't work for you, no problem, just give something else a go. So take this list, dip in and out as you need and watch your attitude slowly but surely shift.

Well done :-)