Dealing with intrusive thoughts

 

intrusive thoughts

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

We all have ‘noise’ going on in our minds. Odd thoughts pop into our minds that surprise us but usually we never act on them. Many of my clients don’t realise that intrusive thoughts happen to all of us. The trick is to realise that thoughts will always keep coming. Learning to filter your thoughts and not pay each thought equal attention is the key to a more contented life. When we focus on the negative thoughts, it can often lead to anxiety and/or depression.

Optimists are very good at buffering themselves from their negative thinking, they are just somehow good at placing less importance on negative self critical thoughts and spend more mental energy on the positive hopeful thoughts.

Imagine that you are a bus driver and you need to drive your bus from A to Destination B. On your bus you have a few intrusive difficult passengers who keep yelling, “What if we get lost?”; “You can’t drive a bus, you’re pathetic!”; “What if we get a flat tyre?”; “What if we have an accident?” or “You’ll never be able to do it”.

What would happen if you listened to these passengers? It would certainly make the task a lot harder and would probably distract you or lead you to avoiding driving the bus altogether.

Our intrusive thoughts are like these passengers on the bus – they can be ignored. If we pay attention to them they distract us and affect our confidence and our behaviour. Learning to focus our attention only on thoughts that are helpful is a skill that takes practise but we are all capable of doing it.

At times, we have to distract ourselves completely in order to stop the thoughts. One clever technique is to practise mindfulness which means being fully present in the moment. To help bring you back to the present moment rather than engaging with mad thoughts in our minds – try this technique:

  1. Look for 5 things you can see around you
  2. Listen our for 4 things you can hear
  3. Three things you can touch
  4. Two things you can smell
  5. One thing you can taste

It’s possible that not all the above will be possible depending on where you are, but engaging as many of your senses as you can leaves your brain with less space for mindless thoughts.

Thoughts are not facts – they are just part of how your brain works. Learn to ignore the thoughts that are unhelpful. Look for evidence of your thinking to ensure you are not assuming or mind reading (imagining you know what other’s are thinking), overgeneralising, catastrophising (thinking about the worse possible scenario) or personalising (eg. assuming someone isn’t talking to you because of something you have done – it could be that they slept badly or have a worry completely unrelated to you that has made them seem unfriendly). All of the above examples are not evidence based yet cause us stress.

Learn to be discerning with your thoughts – many of them are just complete nonsense!

Mandy X

 

How to face your fears

 

fears photo

How to face your fears

What are you afraid of? Do you avoid relationships because you fear rejection? Do you avoid job interviews as you worry you will fail? Fear is everywhere but it’s mostly in our minds. I know that seems a contradiction but it is only when you face your fears that you will realise that fear exists mainly in our minds.

We have a choice about how we want to view things in life. We can see the world as a scary place where others can’t be trusted and people are out to get us, or we can accept that parts of life are like that but we can still carry on and live life without allowing self limiting beliefs to limit our opportunities.

When you face your fears, you break down the huge threat that exists in your mind (eg. I will never be able to do that, that person is better than me, no one will ever love me, I am not good enough to do that, I will embarrass myself, no one understands me, I am the only one who is alone etc) and you build up confidence in your ability to cope with the tough times and your fears.

How to face your fears

Make a list of the things you fear. For example: talking to a stranger, opening up to your partner, going to the gym, etc

Rate each fear out of ten. Ten being the most stressful, one being the least stressful.

Example: Speaking to someone on the phone  2/10

Go shopping when there’s lots of people          4/10

Speak to a stranger                                               6/10

Ask my boss for a raise                                        7/10

Being assertive with a friend                               9/10

Telling my partner how I really feel                    10/10

Start with the lowest rated fears and begin working your way up. It’s all about baby steps. The more you face your fears the less you will fear them. Either, the worst won’t happen as you probably worry about and even if it doesn’t go well, you will be challenging the fearful thoughts and showing yourself that you can still cope.

Each step requires repetition so do each one regularly. The more you do it the less it will create fear for you. The less we fear the more opportunities we get in life.

If you think you would find it difficult to try the above steps on your own, speak to a Cognitive Behavioural therapist who can help you through the process. I have done it and it works!

Mandy X

 

Do the opposite

 

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Do the opposite

We’re creatures of habit so we rarely do the opposite. It’s human nature to repeat the same patterns often without even realising how often we act in a certain way. Think about it. Do you always go down the supermarket aisles in the same direction? Do you always put your underwear on before your socks? How do you make your tea and coffee? The same way each time I’ll bet. And when it comes to more important things like relationships, we tend to behave in similar ways too.

When we feel insecure, some of us become more needy, some of us pull away to protect ourselves. When it comes to friendships, some of us act aloof, some of us try too hard.

Whatever your patterns of behaviour are, I dare you try shake it up and do the opposite. I am trying this in my own life and it’s working! Of course, you need to find out what you do out of habit before you can do the opposite. Being self aware is part of the issue, as often we race through our lives like rats in a maze, hitting our heads against the same wall every time.

Think of each time you do the opposite as a ‘life experiment’. Try small things first like a new route to the grocery store or go up and down the aisles in the opposite direction and see if you notice any new things or products. If you find that you end up in similar situations with intimate relationships and/or friendships, see if you can identify things that you do in each relationship and try doing it differently next time. See what happens..take a chance.

Mandy X

How to overcome insecurity in relationships

 

insecurity

How to overcome insecurity in relationships

A lot of it is made up

Separate what is your imagination and what is reality. When you feel insecure, you will be on high-alert for any possible sign that your partner doesn’t love you. Be willing to detach slightly from this type of thinking as it can increase insecurity in relationships. More often than not, you will find that your fears don’t come true.

Accept uncertainty

You can never have 100% certainty in any relationship unfortunately, so get into the habit of accepting that there is some uncertainty that is just a part of life and a part of relationships. It isn’t something you can control so try to focus on something you have control over instead – like how you behave when you are with your partner. Work on being as confident as possible, even if you don’t feel it inside.

Flexible thinking

You may have a rigid idea of how someone should behave if they love you. When your partner doesn’t act this way, you automatically assume they don’t love you. Be careful as this thinking is terribly flawed. We all show our love in different ways. Learn to relax and accept that your partner may not necessarily show their love for you in the way that makes you feel loved. There are in fact, many ‘languages of love’, such as gifts, quality time, acts of service and so on. Be more flexible in your thinking to help you minimise your insecurity in relationships.

Stop Mind Reading

Be aware when you are making assumptions about what your partner is thinking. Mind reading is an unhelpful thinking style as it is not based on evidence. Make sure you see the difference between what is going on in your mind and the real facts of the situation. Perhaps your partner is thinking the complete opposite of what you are assuming.

Focus on your good points

Remind yourself of all your positive points. Often, insecurity comes from not having enough confidence and self acceptance. Regularly remind yourself of how lovely you are and why anyone would be lucky to be in your company. Really – it’s important to speak to yourself in this positive manner as often as possible.

We can all feel insecure at times. Try not to focus on those negative thoughts that leave you fearful and anxious. Instead focus on what is going well and on what you can control. Remind yourself that you will cope with whatever comes your way. We cannot control other people in our lives, all we can do is control how we think and react to others. Learn to let go and enjoy life more without trying to control everything around you. Go with the flow a little more. Be philosophical and learn to trust the process of life more – that things are unfolding as they are meant to.

Mandy X

 

Why it’s important to tolerate discomfort

 

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Why it’s important to tolerate discomfort

If you’ve ever put something off, you can probably figure out that you have had a negative feeling that has led you to procrastinate. This feeling comes from an inability to tolerate discomfort. The more you try to avoid discomfort in life, the further you will fall behind. It takes discipline to tolerate discomfort. Does your discomfort drive your behaviour?

If you can say to yourself “I don’t like discomfort, but I can stand it”, you will be amazed at how much more you may be able to do in your life. You could overcome fear, rejection, boredom, frustration, exhaustion, resentment etc…

Increasing  tolerance to discomfort

Practise observing your discomfort in a detached manner, without trying to change it or get involved with it. Try not to struggle with it or try to get rid of it – just watch it as it is. Often, when people do this they find that their discomfort eases. Detaching is a skill and takes practise.

Steps to being more detached and less judgemental

Be aware

Be aware of what you are experiencing, notice your breathing, sensations in your body as it makes contact with the surrounding environment, sounds around you, things you can see, touch, smell and taste. Notice your emotions and thoughts.

Watch and observe with no judgement

Once you are more aware of your experience and how it affects you body and mind, get used to being an observer of your experience. Don’t try to change anything or get caught up in it. Imagine you are watching yourself on a movie screen and you are in the audience.  Be non-judgemental – try not to label the experience as good as bad. See it just as it is. You can use words such as “Here is a feeling of anger/frustration etc” Try to relate to them as just feelings, nothing more and nothing less. Remind yourself that you are NOT your feelings and that you are MORE than just your feelings”.

Let Go

If you allow your experience to be as it is without judgement, you might find it feels less scary and you are able to accept it more easily. We often resist what we fear and t makes the situation worse. Breathe in blue, breathe out red – visualise this and it can help you feel calmer.

Riding the wave of discomfort is possible and will lead to accomplishing more, less procrastination and a feeling of achievement. Discomfort is temporary, see it in a neutral way.

Don’t be afraid of a little discomfort, we all have to go through it – meeting new people, going to the gym, going for a job interview etc..there are many times when we feel discomfort. Learn to observe and not attach meaning and emotions to it. You will see how fearful situations become much easier!

Mandy X

Focus on yourself

self focus

Focus on yourself

It’s so easy to focus on the other person in a new relationship. Do they like me? Are they into me? It can become a draining and anxiety producing experience because we can’t control what another person feels or how they behave. This is why you must focus on yourself. All we have control and power over is how we wish to behave and react in a relationship. Focusing too much on the other person is a waste of time. I have been insecure in relationships in the past and it has turned a good relationship into one where I feel on edge. I am not the jealous type but I did tend to worry a lot when in a relationship and look for any sign that they were losing interest.

As you can imagine, this took all the fun out of the relationship. What I should have been doing was enjoying the relationship more and not overthinking and dissecting every small thing the other person did, driving myself crazy in the process.

Where to Put Your Focus

Putting your focus on getting your partner to like you, or constantly trying to figure out if they like you really doesn’t help you in a positive way at all. Instead, put your focus on yourself. Work at your own personal growth and self improvement. Have a lot going on in your life. The richer your own life is, the less bothered you will be if your partner is temporarily less attentive. If they are your whole focus, it will be a much bigger deal when they don’t text enough or show you enough attention. Work on really liking yourself and on finding fulfillment in your own life.  I know it’s much  easier said than done, but that’s what makes all the difference.

Be philosophical and trust the workings on the universe. Trust that things are unfolding as they are meant to. We don’t have much control over anything in this life. You can’t control how someone feels, or when, and if, certain things will happen to you and for you. All you can do is focus on yourself and find a way to be at peace, to accept yourself as you are, and to love who you are.

Mandy X

Anticipatory stress

 

stress photo

Anticipatory stress

I’ve noticed with many of my clients that they become stressed when they think about all the chores and duties they have ahead of them. It goes something like this:

“First I have to be up by 7am and get ready to be out of the house by 8.15 am. Then I have to make it through the traffic to work. I have a meeting at 11am but also have to fit in loads of phonecalls and I don’t know if I will have time to get them all done. I don’t know how I will squeeze lunch in as I have a report to write and I know two people are trying to pin my down for urgent meetings….etc”

When we consider all that we have to do all at once, it can seem like we have an insurmountable mountain ahead of us and can lead us to feeling panicky. Anticipatory stress comes from the fear of having to much to do and not being able to cope.

Instead of looking at everything that has to be done, break the day/week/month down into smaller pieces. This is called “chunking” and can help reduce and minimise anticipatory stress.

Deal with the morning separately from the afternoon and/or evening. Anxiety arises from the threat seeming overwhelming and our belief that we will not cope. If this feeling of being overwhlemed continues indefinitely however, it might be that you seriously need some proper time out. When last did you have some time off? We all need to have a few days in a row (at least a week, two weeks ideally for a proper rest) to re-assess and recharge. If you constantly feel tired and overwhelmed it may be that you are burnt out.

Have a look at what brings you positive energy (things, people who inspire you and leave you feeling happy and energised) and what drains you – negative energy. This could be toxic people, a bad job or a bad relationship to name a few. When we are out of balance and have too much negative energy in our lives, it’s common sense that we are going to feel tired and stressed. As much as possible, realign what you can to increase positive energy and reduce negative energy. Balance is key in counteracting stress.

Mindfulness techniques (I will write about this in a future post) can also be extremely useful in reducing anticipatory stress. We all tend to live in our heads too much, worrying about the future and learning to remain in the present moment is a fantastic skill that can allow you to really be present in your life now.

Stress is a part of life but we can learn to manage it effectively. Try the above tips and book that holiday!

Mandy X

Personal affirmations to counteract stress

 

confident

Personal affirmations to counteract stress

I created a personal mantra to help focus my mind when I am feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed by stress. It helps to remind me that it is possible to counteract stress by regularly ‘feeding’ myself a positive inner dialogue. I call it my 4R Mantra and I’d like to share it with you…

Resourceful – I am resourceful

The first “R” is for resourceful. I remind myself that I am good at finding a way around things. Whether it means finding out more information or by finding support from the right people, I believe that I can find these resources if I need them. The idea of being resourceful is a powerful one as it suggests that if I do not have the skills or knowledge to fix a problem, I will find someone or something to help.

See yourself as resourceful and believe that you will somehow find a way. Always believe that help is at hand. The next thing I need to work on is asking for help – still working on that one!

Resilient – I am resilient

I like to remind myself that I am resilient and in times of trouble, I like to  remind myself of the tough times I have already been through. I am still here – I have lived through tough times and have lived to tell the tale. Remind yourself regularly of how you have overcome problems in the past to reinforce that you will cope better than you think you will.

Ready – I am ready

I sometimes say to myself “Bring it on”. I don’t like stress and I hate feeling anxious but I accept that it will always be something that will enter into my life in various forms. Whether it’s through a tricky relationship or a challenge at work, I like to feel that I am ready for it. I try not to tell myself that I will be happy when….I can be happy now. I am ready now for the good and the bad. When you tell yourself you are ready it takes the fear away. You are prepared. When you don’t feel ready you are sending yourself a message that somehow you need to prepare or that you lack something. You hold the key – nothing is lacking…

Recognition – I recognise my strengths

We tend to be so self critical of ourselves and rarely give ourselves the recognition we deserve. Give yourself a pat on the back for all your triumphs, no matter how small. When you do something that outs you out of your comfort zone, give yourself recognition.

The above steps can help us to counteract stress and improve our belief in ourselves. It reminds us that we can and do cope better than we think we will when life is tough and challenging.

Mandy X