Category Archives: mental health

What is experiential avoidance?

 

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What is experiential avoidance?

Photo by tropical.pete

Experiential avoidance is an attempt to avoid situations that make us feel stressed or anxious. The problem with avoidance is that the threat remains ‘untouched’ and we never learn the skills needed to work through the problem. Avoidance only works in the short term until another similar challenge presents itself.

Anxiety/stress  =   overestimation of the threat and underestimation of our ability to cope

We never learn how able we are to cope if we never confront the scary issues in life. The key to getting ahead in life and developing resilience is to approach those things that we fear. We develop greater psychological flexibility when we face our fears and see it though. Experiencing the outcome is essential for our personal development and growth. Either the outcome is good and that boosts us but even if the outcome is not as successful as we’d hoped, we still learn that we are able to cope.

The bottom line: do what you fear. It improves confidence (even if it goes wrong!) and makes you feel braver in life.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

What is mental wealth?

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What is mental wealth?

Mental wealth is just as important as mental health. Mental health is the physiological functioning of the brain and nervous system. Mental wealth is how successful you are at managing the content of your mind. I’m going to share a few strategies with you to enable you to become more mentally wealthy:

Don’t take thoughts seriously. Thoughts aren’t facts. Learn to dismiss them. There will be more along to cloud your mind before you know.

Attention training. Be aware of where your focus is. We tend to focus on things that confirm our existing beliefs about the world. If we see the world as nasty, we will look for examples to confirm this. This is known as confirmation bias. Be aware of what you focus on as it grows and seems more real. The alternative may be true too if you focus on it.

Real worry vs hypothetical worry. When you worry ask yourself if you are focusing on a “what if” worry (hypothetical – it might not happen) or a real worry. An example of real worry would be – your washing machine breaking down. It requires attention now. Know the difference and let go of the hypothetical worries.

Understand that most thoughts are nonsense. We have over 80 000 thoughts every day and most are a waste of your attention. Learn to let go.

Thoughts affect feelings. Feelings affect behaviour. Monitor thoughts for a better quality of life. Focus on the ones that work for you – the positive ones. Let the negative ones go. Watch for errors in thinking such as: overgeneralising, personalising, black and white thinking, catastrophising, mind reading etc – all a waste of energy and attention.

How the brain misinterprets stimuli (old brain – primitive). Sometimes the brain sends us false alarms – know the difference. At times we feel stressed out – we blush, sweat, feel tense, get heart palpitations but often, it is just modern day stress being interpreted by the old brain (the amygdala and hypothalamus) as real danger. Unless there is a real threat such as a lion or a bomb etc..learn to recognise it as a false alarm. The unconscious does not know the difference. It interprets stress as one thing – danger.

Mindfulness – be present in the moment. Learn to engage your senses in what you are doing right now instead of constantly living in the past or the future.

Follow the above and you will be one of the few who practices mental wealth techniques!

Mandy X

 

Your thoughts aren’t real

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“The quality of your life is determined solely by the relationship you have to your own thinking” – R.Carlson

Your thoughts aren’t real

Okay, hear me out. The idea that your thoughts aren’t real may seem bizarre but once I have finished explaining you will see the logic. Your thoughts are your perceptions about the world. We don’t experience the world directly, we experience the world through our preconceived ideas and attitudes that have been created during our lives. We all have ‘filters’ that change how we perceive things around us. For example, the same event can happen to two people, the exact same experience, yet these two people may take very different lessons and experiences from that one event. If thoughts were real and standardised, we would all experience the world exactly the same way.

Imagine that you are sitting on a park bench with a friend and a dog approaches you. Imagine that you were once attacked by a dog. Your thoughts would be fearful and you would try to escape the dog. Your friend may not have the same filter of fear for dogs and may want to pet the dog. The exact same event yet very different outcomes. The difference between the two people was their thinking. Their thinking influenced their experience.

Your consciousness produces a stream of thought, one after the other. When we pay attention and focus on a thought it seems real but as soon as we distract ourselves the thought and the emotion attached to that thought disappears. Thoughts come and go.

Once you understand that you are the creator/thinker of your thoughts and that your mind doesn’t produce reality, it produces thoughts, you won’t be as affected by what you think.

Thoughts directly affect how we feel. It’s impossible to feel without thinking something first. Try feel angry without first thinking about something that makes you angry – it’s impossible. Focusing on negative thoughts will cause you to feel low. It’s common sense. Analyse less and live more in the moment. By all means, create goals and problem solve but don’t believe that you can think your way our of depression.The more you analyse, the worse it will be. Try mindfulness as a way to distract yourself from your mental torture.

Overthinking is one of the worst things you can do. Learn to let go of the thoughts, dismiss them and picture them passing you by…you can choose the ones you want to focus on and the ones you wish to dismiss. It takes practise but becoming a better ‘thought/mind manager’ will make you a whole lot happier.

Mandy X

 

The effects of childhood abuse

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The effects of childhood abuse

The effects  of childhood abuse can last forever. It can influence your thinking, emotional state and the way you relate to others way into adulthood.  Child abuse takes a wide variety of forms.

The most common forms of childhood abuse are:

sexual abuse

neglect

emotional/verbal abuse

physical abuse

parental substance abuse and/or mental illness

children witnessing domestic violence

The long term effects of child abuse

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, lack of emotions and hypervigilance. The traumatic past event can be triggered by a smell, similar situation or sounds.

Errors in thinking

Adults who were abused as children may have the view that the world is a dangerous place. They may distrust others and isolate themselves. Some adults behave in the opposite manner by becoming very dependent on another person (sometimes referred to as “co-dependency”). Abuse often leads to an adult who struggles to relate to others, often due to their beliefs that others can’t be trusted. Fear of intimacy can reign and cause havoc.

Emotional Distress

Severe stress as a child can alter brain chemistry. It can also affect the way the brain develops and matures, leaving a person more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Anger is another common symptom of emotional distress.

Avoidance and disassocation

As a child, we are extremely vulnerable and don’t have a way to escape our situation. As a result, children have to learn a way to cope with the abuse on a mental and emotional level. What often happens is that children learn to disassociate and ‘compartmentalise’ the unpleasant emotions. They somehow find a mental ‘box’ where they stuff the unpleasant experiences and emotions. In its extreme form, children create separate personalities knows as multiple personality disorder. Children who are abused can form personality disorders – a distinctive and dysfunctional way of viewing the world. The brain creates unnatural pathways to cope with abuse and this affects lifelong functioning.

Some abused children go on to avoid experiences that caused upset in their childhood. The other extreme is to over compensate. Parents underestimate their influence on their children.

The first step to dealing with childhood abuse is to acknowledge what happened and that it wasn’t healthy. Therapy can help immensely, allowing adults who were abused to understand they did not deserve the abuse and that it was their parents who were to blame, not them.

We cannot change the past but we can update our thinking and beliefs about the past. An abused childhood can hold us back but only if we allow it to. As adults, we have the power to reject old childhood messages from our parents and re-create another life that is more healthy and conducive to love and happiness.

Mandy X