Tag Archives: cognitive behavioural therapy

Why life is full of surprises

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Why life is full of surprises

Photo by Tetsumo

Why is it that we fear uncertainty? Life is inherently uncertain yet we do our best to resist this fact on so many levels. We insure ourselves up to the hilt in order to stay safe. We risk assess and procrastinate, fearing we will make the wrong decision. Life seems to be a series of attempts to keep ourselves safe. We seem to forget that despite this, many of these attempts may only bring us psychological comfort. The reality is that life is full of surprises.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should dislike this. Uncertainty has value too. Being aware of every upcoming event would certainly bring its own challenges. Imagine knowing the day you will die or when someone you love will be injured and being unable to stop it from happening. No thanks. We fight uncertainty because we like to feel in control. When we learn to accept that we never fully have control and work with the flow of things, life becomes easier and less stressful. This may seem paradoxical but this is the exact intervention I use with my clients who come see me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

You can learn to tolerate uncertainty by introducing more of it into your life. Try a new restaurant, shop at a different supermarket or speak to strangers more often. Whenever we try something where the outcome is unknown, we are exercising our tolerance of uncertainty.

Perhaps life is full of surprises in order to teach us to live more in the moment. We often focus on what might happen and bombard ourselves with “what if..?” statements constantly. If we knew the date of an impending event, whether good or bad, we would find it even more difficult to stay focused in the present.

Accept uncertainty and embrace it as if you have chosen it. Only then will you feel free to live with the unfamiliar and the unknown.

Mandy X

10 Signs of good therapy

 

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10 Signs of good therapy

Good rapport

A good therapist will make you feel at ease. They will not judge you nor will they tell you what to do. When you feel safe and accepted and feel you could tell your therapist anything, you have found a good therapist.

Open minded

Another sign of good therapy is a therapist who is open minded. A good therapist will put aside their own personal values and work for the benefit of their client. They will withhold judgement in order to treat the client effectively.

Empathy

A good therapist finds it easy to empathise with a client and see the world through their client’s eyes. This is a real skill and a talent. University qualifications can only teach a therapist certain skills..empathy is another area altogether. A good therapist will be good with people.

Ethical issues

Good therapy involves a skilled therapist who knows the issues of confidentiality and when confidentiality cannot be adhered to and will inform the client before therapy starts. Sensitivity to cultural, ethnicity and religious issues is also important.

Progress and goals for therapy

A skilled therapist will be person-centered in that they will ‘carve’ the therapy sessions into a formula that suits the client’s specific needs and issues. They will set up an initial structure that they can loosely follow with the client in order to achieve the client’s goals for therapy

Qualifications

This is goes without saying. Good therapy involves skill and academic qualifications.

Collaboration

A good therapist works with their client as a team member, not as a leader telling their client what to do. A therapist ideally, should teach their client to become their own therapist so that they may go back out into the world and be self reliant with their new ‘tools’ to deal with life.

Personal responsibility

Good therapy involves the client taking responsibility for their own emotional well being. A client that expects the therapist to do all the work will be disappointed and won’t get the most out of therapy.

Practice what they preach

Therapists are human beings and aren’t immune to the hardships of life. In fact, a therapist who has been through their own turmoil is often a far better therapist as they have personal experience and can relate more to a client’s woes in this way. I use CBT in my daily life and it helps me tremendously but there are times when life gets on top of me and no amount of positive self talk makes any difference. This is normal – we all have ups and downs.

Providing insight

Therapy is wonderful for providing insight. Clients understand themselves better and begin to deal with their problems in a much more effective manner. Their relationships are more rewarding and their levels of happiness increase. Clients also tend to be less stressed and worry less.

Therapy can be the best thing you ever do. Try a few therapists if need be, find one that you feel comfortable with and you will be amazed at the transformation!

Mandy X

What are safety behaviours?

person looking at phone photo

Photo by UltraSlo1

What are safety behaviours?

We all engage in safety behaviours to differing degrees. A safety behaviour is something we do to provide us relief from anxiety. The problem with safety behaviours is that they only work temporarily and our attempts to self soothe end up becoming a repetitive pattern. The safety behaviour inadvertently ends up prolonging the anxiety.

For example: For someone who finds being in social situations anxiety provoking, they might avoid a social situation altogether. This helps them avoid the anxiety but doesn’t deal with the underlying fear. The threat of social situations stays unchallenged. So the avoidance is the safety behaviour but the anxiety will always be there when faced with a social situation. The anxiety of social situations will remain.

Another example of a safety behaviour: Someone who is insecure in a relationship might constantly check up on their partner by texting and phoning their partner. Initially, once they have checked on their partner, they might feel better…but only until the next thing triggers their anxiety and they need to check again. The need to check will not go away and in this way the anxiety is maintained.

The idea is to reduce safety behaviours, ‘sit’ with the anxiety and realise you can cope without the safety behaviour. This is the correct way to reduce non-productive safety behaviours.

Learning to challenge the threat with using a safety behaviours allows us to learn how to cope with the anxiety. Do what you fear – that’s the basic premise.

Be aware of what you do to reduce your anxiety…do you check your phone constantly? Do you avoid situations you fear? Work at approaching your fears and learning to deal with them. This will improve confidence and help you to be more resilient.

Mandy X

 

Give Depression the Bird

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Help break the stigma surrounding depression by taking this anonymous survey: CLICK HERE

For results of the survey: CLICK HERE

Give Depression the Bird

Let’s get one thing straight. Depression is real. It is not something to be trivialized, snapped out of, or sucked up. In fact, trying to do this often makes it worse. I know, because I’ve been there. I would have loved to have been able to give myself a shake and a rueful smile and reset my mind. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just instantly be happy? Like those heat packs you snap, shake and they heat up? Super cool. And totally ridiculous.

Depression appears in many ways, shapes and forms, and no two people get it exactly the same. Not only does this make it hard to treat, it makes it hard for people to understand. It can’t be put in a box like other illnesses and diseases. There are symptoms, but responses to those symptoms vary. It isn’t a disease, so medication doesn’t work as well as we wished it would, although it does work well for a lot of people.

Not only is depression very real, but it is incredibly misunderstood, and surrounded by an almost palpable stigma. People who have depression are labelled. Crazy, lazy, not trying hard enough, weak. It doesn’t matter if the people wielding these words are trying to help or not, they are all labels, and they are stopping people reaching out for the help they need.

The very way we think about, and react to depression needs to change. And it needs to change fast!

When you think of depression what picture springs to mind? I see a girl curled into a foetal position in a darkened room, sobbing. And this picture is what I thought people with depression did all the time. I was so incredibly wrong.

Last year my husband gave me an ultimatum. Be happier or go and talk to someone. And by someone he meant one of those freaky head shrinking people…

I know that sounds harsh, but he was trying to make me see what he did. You see, up until that point I was convinced I was fine. Tired, but fine. I wasn’t crazy. And I couldn’t have depression! Everything I knew about depression said you had to be constantly sad, crying on the sofa, or suicidal, and I was none of those things. Oh I cried a lot, but more often I was irritable and cranky. (Did you know that was a sign of depression? Me neither)! So the couple of times ‘depression’ crossed my mind I quickly dismissed it.

Was I tired? Absolutely! Sad? Frequently. Did I feel like I wasn’t achieving much even when to others I was doing incredibly well? Only every day. But I wasn’t depressed! Heck no. Depression was for weak people. For people who had suffered massive loss or pain in their lives. For people with a rough childhood, or adulthood. I hadn’t had any of that. I grew up in a loving family. I have an amazing husband and a healthy, happy (albeit very stubborn) child, and I have had a relatively pain free life. And yet the more I looked at it, the more I realised the truth.

I was depressed. And I had been for quite a long time.

During a discussion (on why I couldn’t possibly have depression), my husband told me I seemed to be sad from the minute I woke up, till the minute I went to bed. It took me a while to process that. I couldn’t imagine what living with that must have been like. And that was the moment. Right there. That was the moment I decided I was going to be happy. Whatever it took.

I started researching depression, and working out what made me tick. I found ways to head my bouts of sadness off at the pass, to make sure I focused on my responses to different situations, and how I could react to them differently, and I used any hacks I could to make sure each day I was choosing happiness over sadness.

Scientists have proven that just like paths in a forest, the pathways of the mind can be worn in, the more traffic they get. And when sadness has been your companion for a long time, then those paths of sadness are the well-worn ones. They are straight and wide, and you are comfortable there in an odd way, because it’s familiar. The happiness pathways by contrast, are like little deer tracks. Narrow, precarious, and easy to fall off.

The biggest key to battling depression is to make sure the path that’s getting the most traffic, is happiness. Ever heard the expression ‘fake it till you make it’? Well, that’s how I started. When I woke up, and whenever I thought about it during the day, I smiled. It wasn’t a true smile. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t want to smile, but smile I did.

Some days I even pushed my mouth upwards with my fingers, all the while wanting to cry. I must have looked as crazy as I felt. But you know what? It got easier. I got better at it. And I started feeling happier.

Your body is a pretty amazing thing. Did you know that every time you smile your brain releases feel good neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin? Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever, serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant, and smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.

Smiling literally makes us happier.

Smiling is one of the most well-known, and easiest to implement, of many ‘happiness hacks’ out there. My books ‘Finding Happy’, ‘Choosing Happy’, and ‘Keeping Happy’, due out mid-2017, will focus on discovering many other hacks, and implementing them in your life. Some are great for people with clinical depression, others are better for people who struggle with sadness, but all the books will be available for free on kindle when they are first published.

I was lucky. Thanks to my amazing husband I was forced to face my sadness before it became the crushing force that so many people have in their lives. I still had the energy (most days), to work on myself, and to focus on choosing better ways. Many people don’t. And this is where medication helps. Because when you can’t move off your bed, can’t shake the feeling of despair and overwhelming sadness, and you think about death far more often than you should, choosing to be happy is just not an option.

Medication provides your mind with enough space to see those fraudulent thoughts for what they are- thoughts not facts, and to look at options to help you heal. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not without its side effects, but it does provide relief from the worst symptoms of depression.

Medication is not the only thing you can try either. There are the talking therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is a type of psychology that helps people change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is practical and involves self-help strategies. And research suggests that if you do 13 or more sessions it can work just as well as medication for some people. You can even do CBT at home.

Even things like routines and goal setting, eating healthily with lots of omega 3 fatty acids, getting enough sleep, walking in nature, and challenging negative thoughts can help with depression. Exercise (yes the dreaded E word), can even have similar effects on the brain as anti-depressants.

There are so many options out there for anyone suffering from depression or sadness, that sometimes I think just diagnosing depression is the hard part. It certainly took me long enough (5 years I suspect..) and even then it was only my husband intervening that really pushed me to see it- and fight it.

These are some of the main symptoms of depression. How many did you know? Some people get a few, some get them all. Everyone is different. But they are certainly not as cut and dried as I used to think.

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, or self-harm
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Beyond Blue says ‘you may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, you’ve felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and have also experienced several of the signs and symptoms listed (on their page).

Depression symptoms can also be caused by conditions such as thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency, and other medical problems. Make sure your doctor does full blood tests to rule these and many other things, out first.

Recognising I had depression was a turning point in my life. I’m smiling as I write this, and I can see the myriad ways in which I’ve changed over the past year. I choose to laugh when my daughter does something silly instead of scold. I’ve learnt ways to make myself happy on a daily basis-before the sadness and apathy take hold, and I’ve learnt how to block that annoying voice in my head that wishes me anything but the peace and happiness I so desire.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where I have to remind myself to smile. Where I chant my mantra like an actual crazy person to stop my mind turning over conversations that haven’t happened, and futures that will never be. I still have to think about my reactions, swallow my retorts, and examine my thoughts, to see if I can choose a happier path, but it is getting easier and I am getting better at it all the time.

Because I refuse to live my life in sadness. I refuse to let something as intangible as depression steal my laughter, my dreams and my love of life, and turn them into endless days of melancholy.

I choose to be happy!

And I desperately want you to choose happiness too.

I know life sucks sometimes. There are usually patches where it sucks a lot! But when you’ve had depression or even been ‘down’ for an extended period of time, I think we forget how to focus on, and choose those things that make us happy. We forget to try. Because being happy doesn’t necessarily come naturally, and as spontaneously as people make out. You have to strive for it, search for it, and grab it with both hands when you find it.

But you don’t have to do it alone. If 350 million people worldwide (almost 5% of the worlds population), suffer from depression, how many of those around you do you think may also be silently struggling?

Please, if you, or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out and talk to someone. There is help out there. And for every person who says #ihavedepression another person will find the strength to seek help. And slowly but surely depression will become just another cold to be cured.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. Even though I’m scared of what people will think. Even though it’s taken me a month to hit publish. Even though I don’t want to be labelled. More than anything, I want to give people the courage to choose happiness for themselves. Someone did it for me, and I hope you can do it for someone you know.

I would love to hear your thoughts on depression (whether you have it or not), as part of research for my upcoming books. Please complete the anonymous survey, and then share it on your Facebook or Twitter page, to help raise awareness, give depression the bird, and #endstigma for good.

If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, there are some wonderful organisations who can help – even if you want to remain anonymous. The sites below will give you information on depression, hotlines to ring to speak to people who know what you’re going through, therapist directories, and self-help activities you can do at home.

Hold onto hope. You are not alone, and you can beat this!

This is a guest post written by Heidi Farrelly. You can find out more about her here: Heidi Farrelly