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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Useful information if you worry a lot or suffer from anxiety

Here are two documents assisting my wife who suffers from high anxiety problems. They have been issued by our local council's help group. They're part of a 2 hours a day, two days a week, session (over a five week period). There are many other documents but these two are the best to help normal people who feel anxiety quite a lot of the time. According to the news, this is a far higher proportion of the population than one would imagine.


Challenging Negative Thoughts

Negative thinking is unhelpful and prevents us from feeling and thinking that we have control to make changes in our lives.

It is helpful to understand the characteristics of our own negative thinking patterns so that we can learn to challenge the thoughts we have.

Negative Thinking Characteristics

  • Automatic – thoughts that just pop into your head
  • Distorted – thoughts that may not fit the facts
  • Unhelpful – thoughts that make it difficult to change
  • Plausible – thoughts that can be made to fit what you see and it doesn't occur to you to question them
  • Involuntary – thoughts that you do not feel you choose to have and they may be difficult to switch off

Thoughts like these can trap you in the CBT CYCLE. This is a vicious cycle; the more you reinforce the same distorted thinking patterns, the more you believe them and the more trapped and stuck you become in continuing to think in the same unhelpful way.

By understanding your own negative thinking characteristics you can think about how you reinforce your “anger”, “depression”, “anxiety” etc.

This is when we can begin to challenge these patterns and to re-learn to think in a different way.

Step 1
  • Be aware of your distorted negative thinking and the effect it has on you.
  • Notice when your mood changes for the worse and look back at what was running through your mind at that moment.
  • In time you will become more sensitive to changes in your feelings and the thoughts that set them off. You may notice that it is the same thoughts that tend to come up.
Step 2
  • Evaluate the negative thoughts you identify
  • Look for more helpful and realistic alternatives
There are four main questions you can use to help you find answers to your negative thoughts.
  • What is the evidence? Do the facts of the situation back up what you think or do they contradict it?
  • What alternative views are there? Get as many alternatives as you can, then review the evidence for and against them. Try to think objectively then consider which alternative is most likely to be correct.
  • What is the effect of thinking the way you do? How does it influence the way you feel? What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking this way? Can you find an alternative that may be more helpful?
  • What thinking errors are you making? Have you distorted what has happened in the here and now? This can happen when you apply negative past experiences to a present experience; jumping to conclusions, over generalising, awfulising, personalising etc. Look for the errors in your thinking process.
You need to commit to practising the steps above. Standing back, questioning, evaluating and answering our thoughts are not something that we normally do. It can feel difficult at first to be objective; give yourself a chance and try not to become discouraged if at first it doesn't come easily.

You might find it particularly difficult to find rational alternatives when you are dealing with volatile situations or when facing distress. In these cases it is helpful to write down what has happened. Think about the situation and your actions within it and how you might be fuelling what is going on. This can have two purposes; it gets you away from the immediate situation and has a calming influence. It can also enable you to think about what has happened and how this can be avoided in the future. It also allows you to have time to think how differently you might have handled the situation and how this can be avoided in the future.

There is not one right answer. A good answer is one that changes the way you feel and reduces the negative thinking process and opens up other or better avenues of action. There is no same answer everyone; you have to find the one that works for you

Distorted Thinking

We are all prone at times to unhelpful “distorted thinking” but when we are either under a lot of stress or are depressed these distortions become more exaggerated. There are particular types of distorted thinking:

All or Nothing Thinking
Your thinking is black or white, good or bad and there is no middle ground, eg: “I can't”, “she never understands me”, “I'm a complete failure”. You may base your judgement on a single event resulting in condemning yourself completely as a person.

Awfulising – Catastrophising
Magnifying and exaggerating the importance of events; anticipating how awful or unpleasant they will be, over-estimating the chances of disaster; whatever can go wrong will go wrong! If you have a setback you will view it as a never ending pattern of defeat

You take responsibility and blame for anything unpleasant even if it has little or nothing to do with you. If something bad happens, you immediately think “it's my fault!”

Negative Focus
You focus on the negative, ignoring or misinterpreting positive aspects of a situation. You focus on your weakness and forget your strengths, looking on the dark side. If you've done a good job, you filter out and reject the positive and focus on the negative.

Jumping to Conclusions
You make negative interpretations even though there are no definite facts. You start predicting the future and start “mind reading”. You are likely to predict that negative things are going to happen.

Living by Fixed Rules
You tend to have fixed rules and unrealistic expectations, regularly saying the words “should, “ought”, “must”, “can't”. This leads to feelings of guilt and disappointment. The more rigid these statements are, the more disappointed, angry, depressed or guilty you are likely to feel.

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