Tag Archives: fear

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

 

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

 

 

Stop running away

 

stop running away

Stop running away

When life gets overwhelming, it is tempting to want to avoid problems, pretend they aren’t there and numb ourselves with some from of escapism such as alcohol, drugs, excessive spending, illicit affairs and so on.

The problem with this strategy is that avoidance often prolongs the issue that we are running away from, effectively extending our misery. Often we avoid something because we feel it will be unpleasurable – for example – confronting a partner about an unhappy relationship or leaving a job that you are no longer happy in. Running away doesn’t always consist of actively running away – it can also encompass denial and a refusal to tackle life issues.

Examine your attitude to the things you run away from. Instead of fear and avoidance, start telling yourself that embracing and confronting issues head on is where it’s at. Regularly repeat statements to yourself such as, “I am in control and will no longer tolerate unsuitable situations in my life”. “I will not be afraid to change my life circumstances as my goal is to improve my quality of life”. Initial change is scary for anyone but after the initial shock, you will feel the pleasure of knowing you are living a life of integrity and that you are ‘designing’ a life for yourself that is right…don’t settle and definitely don;t avoid out of fear. Be brave, see yourself as a Trojan – someone who isn’t afraid to tackle life and feel alive, even if feeling alive hurts sometimes.

The more you confront issues, the more empowered and confident you will ultimately feel. Don’t fear change, fear staying the same – fear accepting and ‘settling’…that is much more frightening.

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

What’s stopping you?

 

what's stopping you

What’s stopping you?

When you look at your life, do you feel that the life you have is the one you wanted? Often, misery and dissatisfaction comes from the wide gap between how our life really is and how we wished it would be. Thing is, many of us place mental barriers in the way that stop of us from achieving what we’d like to. Let’s see if you are grappling with any of the following:

  1. Negative Filter

If you like to use your ‘negative filter’ too often, you may as well give up now. It is one of the most self defeating strategies that we can use to stop us from getting what we want.

Statements like “It will never work”; “I am too old” or “No one else is doing it” are examples of negative filter. Instead of looking at the possibilities, we focus on all the reason why something won’t work out. As a result we don’t even try. We use negative filter for a variety of reasons. If we don’t even try, we can’t feel embarrassed if it doesn’t work out. So, in the short term we avoid failure but in the long term we remain frustrated and fed up with our mundane lives.

Force yourself to consider possibilities and use the words “Why Not??”

2. Limiting self belief

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re unlikely to be brave in life. Self belief overrides what others thinks and keeps us on the path that is true for us. When we lack self belief, we are easily swayed by the fears and negativity of others. Learn to believe in yourself more. Yes, you may fail – that’s a part of life but failure is just a learning curve, it doesn’t mean YOU are a failure, it just means that what you tried didn’t work. Pat yourself on the back for being someone who tries – you’re ahead of those who are all talk and no action.

3. Fear

This is a biggie. Fear cripples many of us. Squashing dreams and leaving many cowering in the corner instead of living their lives to their full potential.

Yes, we all have fears and life offers no guarantees. Learn to harness your fears so that they don’t control you. The more we give in to our fears, the greater they become. The  key to reducing fear is to face them head on. If you worry that showing your true self will lead to rejection, set up an ‘experiment’. Test it out. For example – reveal something small about yourself that is quirky or particular to you and that you feel someone else might judge or reject you for. See what happens…either they won’t judge or reject you and will have won a small victory over a long head fear OR, they will judge/reject you – I know the second option may seem unbearable but we almost ALWAYS overestimate the threat and underestimate our ability to cope.

No doubt, if your fear did come true you would find the reality isn’t half as bad as the nightmare versions you anticipated in your mind. Get out there and start experimenting – it’s called LIFE.

4. Too much “what if” thinking

There are real problems in life and then there are hypothetical (What if) problems in life. Make sure that you know the difference. A real problem requires immediate attention – eg. the dishwasher has broken down. A hypothetical problem is something like “what if I make a fool of myself and no one likes me at the party tomorrow?”. It is wasted emotional and mental energy engaging with ‘what if’ thinking.

What if thinking leads to negative filter, fear and lowered self belief – learn to dismiss those thoughts. Say to yourself – “There I go again trying to find certainty and plan ahead”. What if thinking won’t change the outcome. Deal with issues as they arise rather than worrying about something that might never happen.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? I like this question because it removes many mental barriers that we create for ourselves. Live a life that is brave and open minded. See yourself as a winner who is experimenting with life. You will be happier for it. Rather try and fail than live a life full of regrets.

Mandy X

Why setting goals is a good thing

 

goals photo

Why setting goals is a good thing

When you set goals and work towards them you place yourself in the minority of people that ‘do’ instead of just talking. Everyone wants to be successful and progress but many aren’t prepared to make the effort. Actions, not words are key to attaining goals.

Setting goals show that you are taking responsibility for your life. You are putting objectives in place instead of hoping they will appear or that someone else might give them to you. People who don’t set goals tend not to take responsibility for themselves and often don’t end up achieving the things they want to.

Setting goals for yourself also shows that you are willing to take risks and that you believe enough in yourself to give it a go. I have found that many clients who find it hard to set goals are often the ones who feel unworthy.

Realising the importance of goals is another good motivator. If more people knew and understood that their hopes, dreams and plans, all their aspirations and ambitions, are dependent upon their ability and their willingness to set goals, far more people would create goals for themselves. Many people chug along with no goals and no sense of purpose and this can increase levels of depression and anxiety.

Setting goals shows that you are willing to take risks and see what happens. We all fear failure and rejection but when we try,and even if we fail, we often realise that we cope far better than we thought we would and that in itself can improve our confidence and self efficacy.

We also fear criticism from others but you know what, you don’t have to tell anyone about your goals. Only if you want to. When you set goals you help yourself to conquer fear. Instead of allowing your thoughts to create fear of things that might not even happen, setting goals shows you are committed to finding a better life for yourself, showing that you aren’t prepared to settle out of fear. It’s impossible to succeed without failing.

Set yourself a few goals – they can be small or big, short term or long term but they will give you a sense of purpose and improve mental resilience for smaller set backs as you can comfort yourself knowing you still have your ultimate direction to aspire to. Goals add perspective.

Mandy X

Coping with social anxiety

 

social anxiety

Coping with social anxiety

Do you dread the idea of having to socialise? If you do, join the club! Many people get anxious in social situations, worrying that they will embarrass themselves somehow or not measure up to the people around them.

Cognitive behavioural therapy works well for people with social anxiety as it looks at people’s fears as well as the probability that these fears will in fact take place. More often than not, the fears we have never happened yet we still worry endlessly about what might go wrong. The anticipation in itself can be hell.

A useful technique is to visualise everything going well. It is also very effective to talk to yourself in a positive manner. Say things to yourself such as “I am good company, why wouldn’t people enjoy being around me?”. You may not believe these thoughts/statements at first but it is important to replace self doubt and self criticism with more positive statements. Behaviour that is warmer and shows you as more approachable then follows.

More often than not, it isn’t the situation that stresses us out, instead it is our perception that causes anxiety. If we imagine we will embarrass ourselves and we focus on our insecurities we are far more likely to feel anxious and dread the situation. We can challenge our perceptions though – any time, any place. We always have that choice.

Ask yourself what you are thinking – grab the relevant thoughts. Then ask yourself if there is another way to look at the situation. Would someone else see it differently?

Look for a revised, more realistic version of your original thought.

Example:

I don’t want to be here.

Why don’t I Want to be here?  I don’t want to be here because …?

People will look at me and know that I feel uncomfortable.

And that is bad because?

Well, people will know something is wrong with me…

And what is so bad about that?

People will think I am crazy…

And what does that say about me?

Well, it says that I am crazy.

Become an expert at identifying your assumptions and negative thoughts. Be as specific as you can when identifying a thought and become a thought detective asking yourself questions such as:

Where is the evidence for this thinking?

How do I know that my thoughts are true? Is is fact?

What other explanations could there be?

Is it helpful for me to think this way?

What would someone else say/do in this situation?

The more able we become at disputing our negative thoughts, the less intense the negative associated emotion will be and the more adept we are at looking at what we are telling ourselves, the better we become at discovering our core beliefs- these are ideas that lay the foundations for our negative thoughts and the most common ones I have come across are: I am  not love-able or I am not good enough.

See if you can figure out what your core beliefs are. They often take the form of a “if this..then that” statement. Eg. if I socialise, no one will like me.

The next step is to try find real life situations where we can test out our core belief. Start with a small experiment. Again – more often than not (I have assisted many clients in putting together behavioural experiments to test out beliefs) we find that our core belief is not true. When this happens, our need to believe and hold on to a core belief that limits us lessens. It loses it’s power as we prove to ourselves the exact opposite of what we thought.

Repetition is key – keep challenging, keep looking for evidence and keep setting up situations where you can test out your core beliefs (also known as “rules for living”.)

Tips for a healthy happy life:

Keep a balanced routine and healthy lifestyle

Develop a good social network – the key to contentment!

Develop a good professional network

Expect slip ups, failures and down days.

Don’t let fear get the better of you and remember that we often all feel anxious when we are out and about. especially on down days. Don’t be hard on yourself and stop the high expectations. Learn to live simply and never take life too seriously.

Mandy X

 

 

How to cope with anxiety

 

worried photo

 

How to cope with anxiety

Tension and anxiety are very common problems. The symptoms of anxiety are basically the same as fear although anxiety often has a less clear reason behind it. When you are in real danger you can usually do something about it whereas with anxiety it may often feel as if you can’t do something about it then and there.

Our bodies evolved and learned to react rapidly to immediate danger. As hunters and gatherers, a lion would create an immediate fear response. In the modern world we no longer have to deal with lions and other predators but when we feel unsafe, the same reactions still occur-fight/flight or freeze.

Some people who have a sensitive nervous system may be bothered by anxiety more than others. Typical reactions to stress involve a shaky feeling, feeling short of breath, feeling sick and so on. Although anxiety is unpleasant it is important to remember that the feelings associated are not dangerous or harmful.

Your thinking can make you more or less anxious. Our automatic thoughts naturally lead to feelings and these feelings determine our behaviour. Therefore the more anxious our thoughts, more stressed out we feel. Thoughts are not facts and can always be challenged.

How do anxious feelings start and how do they get out of control?

Here is an example:

Mrs Smith was alarmed to find herself feeling dizzy while waiting at a bus stop. Then she noticed her heart was pounding and her legs felt as if they were giving way. Because symptoms came out of the blue, she was terrified that she was about to collapse, or even die, and she went on feeling frightened until safely home. After that, just thinking about going out made her feel nervous and sometimes brought the dizzy feeling back.

How to cope with anxiety

Learn how to relax yourself physically. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can help reduce anxiety and relax your body. Calming the body physically will make it easier to calm yourself mentally.

Controlling upsetting thoughts

The type of thoughts which make anxiety worse are often difficult to spot, because with repetition they become automatic. Negative automatic thoughts come and go too rapidly for you to realise what is happening. The first thing to do is to pin down those “automatic” thoughts. Write them down somewhere and keep a record of how often they happen and what triggers these thoughts. Once you find out what type of thought makes you feel upset, you will need to spend some time finding out why this idea sets you and whether it is realistic or not. Always look for the evidence you’re thinking.

Often it turns out that these thoughts have little or no truth when they looked at more closely. The next step is to work out a different and more realistic ways of thinking about the same things and to practice using this different way of thinking every time you catch a frightening and/or automatic thought. As with relaxation, this may seem difficult at first but it will gradually become easier and more natural.

Summary:

  • Anxiety is the same as fear but without real danger.
  • Both anxiety and fear have two parts – physical and mental.
  • Anxiety gets out of control when upsetting thoughts increase body tension and vice versa.
  • You can learn to cope with anxiety by using relaxation and by controlling/challenging upsetting thoughts.

Mandy X