Tag Archives: anxiety

The overlap between depression and anxiety

 

depression photo

The overlap between depression and anxiety

I had hoped this year would be off to a good start but annoyingly, depression has raised it’s ugly head again. Suddenly, I realised I was withdrawing from others, spending more time sleeping and feeling very unenthused about pretty much everything in life.

It doesn’t help that I have been seeing someone for a few months who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that I have health problems. He was super keen until I told him about the fact that I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. To be fair to him, he is actually a very decent guy and lost his wife to cancer in 2015. Unsurprisingly he does not wish to have to go through all that trauma again.

Not that I am planning on going anywhere just yet but I guess I am more of a risk than a ‘healthy person’. The overlap between depression and anxiety is clear here. I have felt anxious about the status of the relationship for a few months now and this emotional stress has taken it’s toll, leading to depression.

Of course, I am doing my best to apply cognitive behavioural principles and keep perspective. I also ‘feed’ myself with positive affirmations daily and remind myself of all my wonderful qualities too. Despite, this, I am still human and still subject to all the rejection, fear and worry as everyone else.

I wanted to write this post to let anyone else out there struggling with anxiety and depression to remind themselves that life is a series of ups and downs. Accept that there will be down times but that the good news is you won’t stay down there forever. Take life one day at a time when you feel you are struggling and don’t take your thinking too seriously. I know that my thinking is seriously ‘off’ when I am depressed and I tend to see everything as my fault. I tend to also think about myself and my abilities in a very negative way. I do my best to ‘distance’ myself from this thinking as I know it is distorted and a product of my depressed state.

Keep your chin up(I will try too) and hopefully this dark cloud will soon clear.

Mandy X

How to manage negative thoughts

negative thinking photoPhoto by martinak15

 

How to manage negative thoughts

We have somewhere between 40 000 and 60 000 thoughts every day so it pays to be selective about the thoughts you decide to focus on.  In general, I have found that most of my clients tend to worry more when they have spare time. Rumination is the tendency to over think things without finding a solution. It is wasted energy and only serves as mental torture.

The best way to deal with negative thoughts is to remind yourself that thoughts are NOT facts. They are merely a representation of reality and are formed according to your existing ‘filters’ and experiences. This means they can often be distorted and unhelpful – creating anxiety and distress unnecessarily. Have you ever worried about something only to find out that you had made assumptions and all your worry was for nothing? Remember that there is ALWAYS another way to look at an event. Watch what you tell yourself and how you interpret things.

Thoughts affect emotions which in turn affect how we behave. THINK – FEEL – BEHAVE. This is the bottom line of cognitive behavioural therapy. Watch your thinking, challenge your negative thinking and immediately improve your quality of life.

We can all ‘catastrophise’ initially and think the worst. For example, I have had days when I have eaten junk all day and then had the thought “I am never going to be healthy, I may as well just give up”. This thought led me to feeling pretty low and annoyed at myself. I could also choose to think “I may have been undisciplined today but tomorrow I can start again”. The same event and two different thoughts which will in turn lead to two different emotions….the first negative thought will lead to negative emotions whereas the second thought will lead me to feeling more hopeful and optimistic. Watch what you feed yourself – I call it my ‘mental diet’ and I constantly work at talking to myself in an empowering way.

Ask yourself what you might tell a friend to help you think up another way to look at something.

Remind yourself that “this too shall pass”. One good thing about life is that there will always be change and although change isn’t always welcome, at times it can really be a good thing.

Accept that negative and intrusive thoughts are part of life. They will keep coming but you can train yourself to let the thoughts pass without really giving them attention. Distract yourself if necessary…another thought will soon be coming along.

Learn to choose the thoughts that work for you and empower you. You can choose your thoughts and beliefs.

Don’t compare yourself to others as you never truly know what is going on, Instead focus on yourself, your strengths and your goals.

If you find it really hard not to worry, schedule yourself some ‘worry time’, say half an hour in the evening and then don’t allow yourself to worry until then. Make sure that when worry time comes around, you do your best to be resolution focused rather than allowing your scary thoughts to ‘bully’ and scare you. Fear paralyses us and often there is no need for the fear in the first place.

Think of these three options: Change, accept or let go.

Decide on a plan of action and do it. Try not to allow thought to just keep running through your mind over and over. The more you worry, the more you lose time to be content and at peace.

Keeping negative thinking in check takes practise and the job will never be perfect but I work at it every day and I have definitely improved my happiness levels and ability to cope over time…a work in progress and you can do it too.

Mandy X

 

Dealing with my anxiety

Photo on 2013-10-16 at 13.33 #5

Dealing with my anxiety

I never really acknowledged my anxiety for many years. I always felt I was more depressed than anxious but now I realise that anxiety has been a constant companion by my side. I have just learned strategies to help get me through.

We all feel anxious at times and this is healthy. It is the body’s way of preparing us for a threat. The problem is that in modern day living, the threat won’t usually kill us yet the body reacts the same way it would if there was a real danger to us. Psychologists say that this is down to evolution and the fact that the ‘old brain’ – the amygdala and the hypothalamus still activate in the same way that they would have thousands of years ago when faced with a hungry lion, for example. So, nowadays, in modern living, we can be triggered by our body’s natural reactions and interpret this as real danger. Understanding that even though our bodies are preparing us for a fight/fight or freeze response does not necessarily mean we are in immediate danger has helped me to separate physical symptoms from any real threat or danger. Well, it’s a start at least!

The other strategy I try to use is to ask myself whether my worry is a real worry or a hypothetical worry (a “what if” type worry). If it is a hypothetical worry, I try to dismiss it and distract myself with something else. I used to believe that worrying would somehow keep me safe but I have since challenged the idea that worry is a good thing. I can think if many times when I have worried and it has had not effect on the outcome. One of my favourite quotes is: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”. I think this is very true. I see worry as mental torture now and although I cannot stop the thoughts coming, I am better at dismissing them and not focusing on them or giving them any attention. Think of it this way – you can’t control who knocks at your door but you can choose how long you wish to entertain them for. Your thoughts can be seen in the same way.

I also remind myself that thoughts are not facts – they are just my perceptions of reality, not necessarily the actual reality out there.

Anxiety comes and goes in my life. It has been debilitating at times but I have learned that the only way to reduce anxiety is to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by confronting my fears. Anxiety is caused by overestimating the threat and underestimating our ability to cope. I talk to myself more positively and tell myself that I will find a way through, no matter way. I have to repeat affirmations to myself regularly but they do help me.

Anxiety can be managed, I know because I have done it. I am still a work in progress though as life is naturally ‘up and down’ and anxiety always seems to hover nearby. Having said that, I do feel I am less anxious than I used to be and I keep working at it and resisting it. You can too!

Mandy X

 

My depression and anxiety

 

DSCF1088_face1

My depression and anxiety

I have always suffered from depression and can remember going to see a mental health professional at the age of thirteen. Depression tends to run in families and mine is no exception. My grandmother suffered from depression and my mother did too.

Depression is one of the most debilitating experiences. It feels like you are stuck in a dark tunnel with no light and no way out. Depression often gets confused with unhappiness and they are completely different places to exist in. Unhappiness usually has a specific cause (for example – losing your job or a relationship) and doesn’t last indefinitely. Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t always have a specific cause and can continue indefinitely without professional intervention. For me, being depressed meant I did not enjoy anything and did not look forward to anything. Even winning the lottery would not have perked me up.

I withdrew from friends and avoided social situations, locking myself away for lengthy periods of time. Of course, this is one of the worst things you can do when you are depressed but it is a very common reaction. I did not care about my personal hygiene and even taking a bath or shower became a huge effort.

The thing is, mental illness is not uncommon and statistics suggest that 1 in 4 of us will be affected by some sort of mental illness during our lifetimes. With this is mind, it seems ludricrous that there is still such a stigma attached to having a mental illness. I put this down to ignorance and a lack of understanding. Mental illness isn’t as obvious as a physical illness but it can affect someone far more severely in terms of the quality of their life.

Due to my own experiences with depression and anxiety, I decided to study Psychology to try to understand more about why depression occurs and what can be done to alleviate the symptoms. I have found many tips and tricks over the years (many of these I share in this blog) and thankfully, I can say that I manage my depression and anxiety far better these days. I still get down days (I like to refer to them as “duvet days”) and I will constantly be a work in progress. Depression and anxiety can be managed and in many cases, overcome.

Mandy X

The cause of anxiety

 

anxious photo

The cause of anxiety

In cognitive behavioural therapy, we refer to the anxiety equation. The anxiety equation shows the cause of anxiety.

Overestimation of the threat

____________________________________  =  Anxiety

Underestimation of ability to cope

Anxiety is always caused by our overestimation of the perceived threat and our underestimation of our ability to cope or handle the situation.

With regard to overestimating the threat – think about a time when you have anticipated an event and got yourself all worked up over it. Then  when you have actually experienced the dreaded event, you have found that it wasn’t half as bad as you expected it to be. Sound familiar?? This is part of the reason why we feel so anxious.

The other part is that we often underestimate our ability to cope. We tell ourselves we won’t be able to do it or that if the feared thing does happen, we will have a panic attack or not be able to manage it. We talk to ourselves in a fearful way that adds to our sense of dread. What we then do is try to avoid the event (which is the worst thing to do) or we find ways that we feel will help us cope by employing “safety behaviours”. Safety behaviours are things that we do that help us to cope temporarily in a feared or stressful situation. For some, it may be carrying a bottle of water or looking at our mobile phone (say for example in a situation where we feel anxious socially, in the company of others) or it could be complete avoidance. The problem is that when we avoid something we fear, the fear grows in our mind and we never test out our beliefs. When we face our fears, we often realise that we cope far better than we thought we would and this helps us to grow in confidence.

Even of the feared event doesn’t go that well, we teach ourselves that we still get through it, that we are still standing at the end of it and in this way we chip away at the fearful beliefs.

So, keep facing your fears. Keep repeating this and the more you face the feared situation, the easier it becomes and the less you will fear it. Start with baby steps if need be. For example, if you truly fear walking in to a room full of strangers ( a 10 out of 10 rating for anxiety, 0 = no anxiety, 10 = most anxiety), start with a 1 or 2 out of 10 anxiety rating. For example, perhaps start out by entering a room with one friend in it, then a few friends in it (slightly higher rating of 3 out of 10), then progress to a room full of friends (rating 5 out of 10 and then finally a room full of strangers)…this is just a very general example of “graded exposure” – get used to each level until the anxiety dissipates and then progress up to higher rating of anxiety of your feared-situation list.

In this way, you will learn to see the threat for what it really is, which is often less scary that you thought it would be and you also learn that you can cope with difficult situations. You will only know this by testing your beliefs out to see what happens!

You don’t need to live with anxiety – learn to challenge your fears. You may need to be out of your comfort zone more often but in the end you will expand your area of comfort and feel anxiety much less often and that is something we would all welcome!

Mandy X

 

 

How to challenge worry

 

worrying

How to challenge worry

Worrying is a waste of time- it expends mental energy but doesn’t solve anything. Solution focused worry is the best type of worry but most worry is made up of random ‘nonsense’ thoughts that destroy the current moment by sucking the happiness out. So we spend our lives worrying about things that might never happen and at the same lose, we lose opportunities to enjoy peace of mind and contentment.

Here are positive beliefs about worry that are irrational:

 

  1. Worry aids with problem solving

Example: If I worry about problems, I am better able to find solutions for them.

Ask yourself: Do you actually solve your problems by worrying or do you end up going over the problem again and again in your head?

Does worry get you to actually solve your problems or do you become so anxious that you delay solving your problems or avoid them altogether?

Are you confusing a thought (worry) with an action (problem solving)?

2. Worry as a motivating force

Example: If I worry about my performance, then I will be motivated to succeed.

Ask yourself: Do you know anyone who is successful and who isn’t a worrier?

Are you confusing worrying with caring? That is, is it possible to want to succeed and not worry about it all the time?

Does your worry really improve your performance? Are there negative repercussions as a result of your excessive worry?

3. Worry protects against negative emotions

Example: If I worry about my child potentially getting a serious disease, I will be better prepared emotionally if it happens.

Ask yourself: Has anything bad ever happened that you had worried about before? How did you feel? Were you buffered from the pain or sadness that it caused?

Does worrying about things that might never happen actually increase your negative emotions in the here and now?

4. Worry, in and of itself, can prevent negative outcomes

Example: When I worry about an upcoming exam at school, I do well; when I don’t worry, I don’t do well.

Ask yourself: Have you ever done poorly on an exam even though you worried?

Is your rule about worry (that is, worry = good outcome; don’t worry = bad outcome) based on real evidence or is it an assumption? For example: is it possible that you only remember the exams you did well on when you worried, and that you forget those you didn’t do well on when you worried?

Were you really not worrying when things didn’t go well on some exams, or are you just remembering it that way to support your assumption?

Could you test this theory? For example: could you track your worry prior to all exams and then look at your performance on each exam?

5. Worry, as a positive trait

Example: The fact that I worry about my children proves that I am a good and caring parent.

Ask yourself: Is there anything else you do that shows you are a good and caring parent? Is it only worrying about your children that shows caring and love?

Do you know any other parents that you would consider “good” and “caring” but who do not worry excessively?

Have you suffered any negative consequences from friends/family because of your excessive worry? Has anyone ever considered your worrying a negative personality trait?

6. The cost of worry: Potential challenges for all worry beliefs

Has excessive worry impacted on your work performance? Do you find that it takes you longer to complete tasks than other people who worry less?

Has your excessive worry led to high levels of stress and fatigue?

How much time and effort do you spend each day worrying about this topic?

Worry isn’t always a good thing and more often than not, it causes more harm than good. Learn to distinguish between REAL worry and HYPOTHETICAL (What if..) worry. A real worry needs attention in the here and now – for example: a broken washing machine…a hypothetical worry is something that may happen but might not.

Worry saps the joy from life and lowers quality of life. Learn to keep it in perspective.

Mandy X

Depression in teenagers

 

depressed teen

Depression in teenagers

Depression in teenagers is a growing problem. Teenagers face increasing pressure to achieve, perform and cope with a variety of stressors. There is academic pressure to achieve against an extremely competitive backdrop. Teenagers are also going through huge developmental and hormonal changes that can lead to insecurity, low self esteem and extreme self consciousness. Social anxiety in teenagers is on the rise and bullying can now follow teenagers into the previously relied-upon sanctity of the home. Nowhere seems safe anymore.

Symptoms of depression in teenagers

Lack of enthusiasm and/or motivation

Social withdrawal

Decreased pleasure in activities or hobbies they used to enjoy

Changes in appetite (eating more or less)

Changes in sleep patterns

Irritability or anger

Restlessness

Poor school performance

Is it depression or ‘usual’ growing pains?

Teenagers all go through tricky phases, such is life for all of us but when symptoms persist for a few months, it may be time to delve deeper.

What to do:

Don’t ignore the problem. Gently talk to your teenager and try to find out how they are feeling. It’s is also important to establish whether they have ever thought about suicide.Try not to lecture or judge, rather listen and encourage – be supportive even when at times this can be hard. As parents, we all have expectations of our children and when they fail to manifest, we can become irritated at their perceived lack of drive.

Encourage socialisation. Withdrawal and hiding away only adds to depression. Being involved in activities and getting out of the house, even for a brief walk can have a positive effect on mood and behaviour.

Seek professional help if your teenager seems unable to help themselves get out of their funk. CBT can be useful and this can also be supplemented with antidepressants after a careful assessment by a doctor.

There is always hope and with the right input, all teenagers have the capacity to improve.

Mandy X

Helpline:  The Samaritans:  CALL  116 123 (UK)

http://www.samaritans.org/