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Questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively

Excessive worrying feels very debilitating since it gets you stuck in rumination mode. Going over the same thought without dealing with it productively can be a mood killer. The best way forward for those who often find themselves struggling to let go of negative thoughts is through self-awareness. Start actively monitoring your thoughts. More importantly, begin to challenge them whenever they fail to lead you to any useful or creative solutions. Then, if you are new to CBT, use the questions below to help you problem-solve.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively:

Does my thought make sense from a realistic perspective?

Would this thought be considered logical?

What is the evidence for my thought/belief/evaluation?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of believing in this thought?

Would the intelligent and mature people I know agree with my thought? Why?

Am I am being too hard on myself?

Would I think/say the same about/to my best friend?

Am I being reasonable?

Is this situation as bad as I am portraying?

Are people as judgemental as I am imagining them to be?

Am I equating my thought with a fact?

How would I evaluate this situation 2 months from now?

Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?

Is this worry productive?

Is this criticism constructive? What – if anything – have I learned from it?

Am I only focusing on the negative?

Am I basing my thoughts on mind reading?

Am I exaggerating the relevance of this thought?

What is the worst-case scenario? What is the best-case scenario? What is the most likely outcome?

How is this thought affecting my mood?

Is it guiding me towards my goals or is it distracting me from them?

Am I using labels to define the situation in a way that does not do it justice?

Am I being overcritical?

Am I being fair?

Am I problem solving in an objective way?

How could I consider this problem more objectively?

Am I blaming others or myself for things that are – realistically – out of our control?

Have I considered all the facts before jumping to conclusions?

Am I taking things too personally?

How am I assessing my/others’ ability to handle this particular problem? Am I overreacting or being too negative?

It is worth reminding yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. As we tend to negotiate meaning via our internal dialogue, make it work for and not against you. If you display a biased inclination towards perfectionism and self-criticism, for instance, expand your perception investing in a more flexible attitude. Restructure your rigid beliefs so that they reflect a more compassionate and forgiving outlook. Use metacognition as a tool against automatic thinking and learn how to gain more control over negative emotions.

questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively
Challenging negative thinking is a great way to deal with unproductive worrying

3 relaxation techniques for excessive worrying and anxiety

3 Relaxation techniques for excessive worrying and anxiety
Relaxation exercises help you manage stress and deal with anxiety

If you struggle to handle excessive worrying or fear that you might suffer from anxiety, there is a lot you can do to help yourself. There are many ways to manage stress, be it through regular physical exercise, eating healthily, maintaining a sensible work and life balance and/or seeking support from a qualified counsellor. Incorporating relaxation exercises into your daily routine gives you some time to recharge, feel grounded and in control of yourself. It is an excellent strategy to prevent stress-related problems such as burnout, as well as to manage panic attacks.

The best relaxation practice is the one with which you identify the most. Below I suggest 3 techniques I usually recommend to my clients. To find out what works for you, test them out for free on YouTube. You can also purchase some very good audio CD’s at amazon and listen to them on your mp3 player. Make sure you do your relaxation exercises at least 5 days/week. The more committed you are to keeping a relaxation routine, the quicker you will enjoy its benefits.

Here are 3 relaxation techniques for excessive worrying and anxiety:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR focuses on the relaxation of muscle groups, one by one, starting on your toes and working your way up to your face and jaw muscles.

How it works: Contract a group muscle for 5 seconds and then release for 30 seconds while fully enjoying that feeling of relaxation.

Resources: if you prefer guided PMR exercises, I recommend the following:

Audio CD:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation after E. Jacobson: Exercises for Deep Holistic Relaxation, by Carola Riss-Tafiilaj

On YouTube:

Progressive muscle relaxation (WITH music), by Relax For A While

Relaxation Response

The Relaxation Response is a meditation modality that concentrates on breathing, relaxation of the muscles and management of distractive/negative thoughts.

How it works: follow the steps below:

1- Find a comfortable position in a quiet environment.

2- Close your eyes.

3- Relax all muscles starting on your face and moving all the way down to your toes.

4- Focus on you breathing and say “one” in your mind when breathing out.

5- When a thought races through your mind, say “one” in your mind again.

Continue doing that for 10 to 20 minutes.

Resources: if you prefer guided Relaxation Response exercises, I recommend the following:

Audio CD:

Ten Minutes To Relax – Living the Love Response, by Eva Selhub

On YouTube:

Relaxation Response Video Exercise: Meditate with Peg Baim, MS, NP

Visualisation

Visualisation is the practice of using the mind to picture oneself in a calm and safe place. Imagining yourself in a tranquil and pleasant environment helps you relax body and mind, while distracts you from negative and often unproductive thoughts.

How it works: Seat comfortably somewhere quiet. Close your eyes and mentally choose a safe, relaxing place as somewhere clean and calming. Imagine yourself in that place; enjoying everything it has to offer in a serene, tranquil and untroubled way. Feel your body and mind relax while you immerse yourself in that environment.

Resources: if you prefer guided Visualisation exercises, I recommend the following:

Audio CD:

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation & Visualisation, by Sally-Ann Taylor

On YouTube:

Ocean Escape (with music): Walk Along the Beach Guided Meditation and Visualization, by Relax For A While

Self-esteem in practical terms

While we have an intuitive knowledge of what it means to love and accept oneself, it is sometimes a challenge to define self-esteem in practical terms. Naturally, it is a tough concept to pin down without sounding too abstract, to the point that some psychologists, such as Albert Ellis (2005) – also writer and founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy – have questioned its relevance. Even if we do not agree on the power of self-esteem, we are still able to recognize the behaviours that make us “feel good”, confident and in harmony with ourselves.

As it is not my intention to add to the debate or bore you with a long list of synonyms, I have gathered 5 concepts that I consider the pillars of a healthy self-esteem. My goal is to explain self-esteem in practical terms, so that you are able to develop a clearer map of what it entails.

Here is self-esteem in practical terms:

IDENTITY: my self-esteem is high when I know who I am and what I want, my likes and dislikes. Good self-esteem is reflective of my ability to identify with whom I am. My sense of identity allows me to live in accordance with what enhances my character and personality. It also connects me to the here and now and guides me where I genuinely want to be. It makes me feel whole and congruent.

Strengths associated with a good sense of identity: confidence, self-assurance, congruence, autonomy, integrity

BOUNDARIES: my personal boundaries, when safe and active, give me a sense of control and autonomy over myself. When I am able to say “no” to what does not suit me, I prioritise my well-being against harmful interference. My limits also protect my integrity and preserve my wholeness. By honouring my feelings and respecting my boundaries, I confirm myself through my own actions and behaviours.

Strengths associated with healthy personal boundaries: assertiveness, self-respect, independence, reliability

FLEXIBLE VALUES: good self-esteem also relies on my ability to restructure my beliefs to suit my identity. Healthy values adjust to my needs and personal circumstances. When what I believe in is line with whom I am and the choices I make, I am at one with myself. My value are not stagnant or meant to transcend time, but develop along with my own process of change and personal growth.

Strengths associated with flexible values: flexibility, tolerance, kindness, empathy, spontaneity, creativity, open-mindedness, compassion

POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES & VULNERABILITIES: those with a healthy self-esteem are able to recognize their qualities and live at peace with their weaknesses. They display a high level of self-awareness by taking into consideration every single aspect that makes them unique. Above all, they do so without exaggerations and in an unbiased manner.

Strengths associated with positive attributes and vulnerabilities: objectivity, impartiality, maturity, honesty, levelheadedness, self-acceptance

BALANCED JUDGEMENT: the ability to separate from my own thoughts and behaviours and analyse them from a realistic perspective is one of the best ways to show love and respect for myself. Your self-esteem receives a lasting boost when you are able not to equate your worth solely to the quality of your actions, but value yourself regardless of the outcome.

Strengths associated with a balanced judgment: sensibility, clarity, intelligence, rationality, precision, reliability

Depending on your upbringing and cognitive profile, you may struggle to keep the above pillars erect. If you are in need of some support, check my recommended reading on the topic of self-esteem. For professional help, you can contact me to find out how I can help you raise self-esteem with CBT.

Self-esteem in practical terms

Reference:

Ellis, Albert (2005). The Myth of Self-esteem: How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

How to do a DRDT

how to do a DRDT
It only takes a few minutes to fill in a DRDT.

A DRDT, or a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts, is a very useful CBT task designed to uncover and challenge automatic/negative thoughts.

The main goals of a DRDT are:

1- To help the client gain greater insight on what is motivating their negative feelings, such as those commonly related to low self-worth and/or anxiety, as well as unproductive behaviours.

2- To challenge negative and biased thinking.

It is quite common not to be aware of the reasons why you feel “so bad” or demotivated, for instance. With the help of a DRDT, you can target errors in thinking that are fuelling your emotional discomfort. Biased and distorted thoughts are analysed objectively, allowing you to problem-solve more confidently, while adopting a more productive attitude.

Step 1: Create a DRDT

A DRDT or Thought Journal/Record traditionally comes in 6 columns: “Date”, “Situation”, “Feelings”, “Automatic Thoughts”, “Alternative Responses” and “Outcome”. As a DRDT is used to monitor your thoughts on a regular basis, it is worth keeping it light and small so you can carry it around with you.

Step 2: Fill in a DRDT

A DRDT is to be filled in when you notice a change in your mood. If you are watching TV and suddenly start feeling a bit low, get your DRDT out and start filling in the 6 columns with the appropriate information asap. The later you write down your thoughts from the moment you have them, the more likely you are to forget all those important details. It takes little time to do it, not more than a few minutes.

Date: write down the exact date of you thought.

Situation: describe where you were and what was happening/what you were doing when you had your thought.

Feelings: record your emotions, rating them from 0 to 100%.

Automatic Thoughts: write exactly what you were thinking, word by word. If your thought was an image, describe it in detail.

Alternative Responses: add an objective response that challenges the veracity of your automatic thought. The alternative response represents the more rational you, the person you are when you react in a sensible, logical and reasonable manner.

Outcome: detail how you felt and what you did after identifying and challenging your automatic thought.

Step 3: Analyse your DRDT

After you have a completed a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts for 7 days, sit down and take some time to read through all your automatic thoughts.

Are you able to find a common theme?

What cognitive errors can you identify?

What do your automatic thoughts say about you?

Which automatic thoughts affected you the most? 

Which alternative responses caused the greatest change in your feelings and behaviours?

 

For a free DRDT sample, click here

List of cognitive errors

cognitive errors
Learn how to identify cognitive errors in your thinking.

Identifying cognitive errors can help you improve your mood.

In CBT, your thoughts are approached from an objective perspective to enable you to feel more empowered and in control of your moods. Because thoughts are “just thoughts” and not facts, in therapy they are dealt as abstract and subjective entities that may not necessarily reflect the truth.

Here are the 11 most common cognitive errors:

1- All-or-nothing thinking: you see the world in black and white and ignore numerous shades of grey.

Ex.: If this project doesn’t go well, it will be a total disaster.

2- Catastrophizing: you think the worst is somehow bound to happen, again ignoring variations as the possibility of positive outcomes.

Ex.: If I don’t get this job, I won’t be able to recover financially.

3- Disqualifying or discounting the positive: you overlook or dismiss the importance of your achievements as well as small victories as if they were to be expected and not celebrated or taken into consideration.

Ex. So what if I was promoted? It happens to people my age.

4- Emotional reasoning: your evaluations are based on your personal feelings and not on objective reason.

Ex.: If I feel incompetent, it means I can’t do anything right.

5- Labelling: you use a term of negative connotation to describe yourself, a situation or other people as if it were a faithful representation of the whole picture, without proof or analysis of any further considerations.

Ex.: I am an idiot, she’s a gold-digger and our marriage is a farce.

6- Magnification/minimisation: you judge yourself, others and the world around you emphasising the negative and reducing or ignoring the value of anything positive.

Ex.: Getting a promotion is what is expected of someone my age, while doing the same job for years means I am incompetent.

7- Mental filter: you focus on a negative aspect to formulate judgement.

Ex.: Dinner was mediocre, because my chocolate mousse didn’t rise.

8- Mind reading: you think you know what goes through other people’s minds without talking to them first.

Ex.: She thinks I am unsuitable to lead the team.

9- Overgeneralization: your interpretation is based on a broad and simplistic evaluation that exceeds the scope of the matter.

Ex.: (Because she is not interested in me) I will never date anyone I like.

10- Personalisation: you think other people’s negative behaviours are related to you.

Ex.: He left the pub early because he finds me boring.

11- “Should” and “must” statements: you have prescribed and inflexible views of yourself and others and exaggerate the importance of your own expectations.

Ex.: I’ve made a silly comment in today’s meeting. I should never open my mouth without being sure of what I am about to say.

Reference:

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behaviour therapy, basics and beyond (2nd ed.) New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Were you raised by a narcissistic mother?

If you believe you were raised by narcissistic mother, the following questionnaire will help you gain insight into the issue.

To find out the probability of your mother being a narcissist, answer “yes” or “no” to the questions below. Once you have completed the questionnaire, count your “yes” answers and read the score interpretation comments at the bottom of the page.

1- Do you struggle to feel like an adult and a competent woman in your mother’s company?

were raised by a narcissistic mother
Find out if you were raised by a narcissistic mother

2- Do you feel under pressure to live up to your mother’s expectations and standards in order to be accepted and/or valued by her?

3- When in your mother’s company, do you often feel responsible for how she feels?

4- Does your mother treat you differently (e.g., politely, affectionately) in front of other people?

5- Is your mother jealous of you?

6- Does your mother have a habit of questioning and/or discarding and/or invalidating and/or ignoring your skills and achievements?

7- Do you feel you cannot count on your mother for emotional support?

8- Do you struggle to make your mother understand your feelings?

9- Is your mother hard – if not impossible – to please?

10- Does your mother ever show genuine regret and apologize for treating you inappropriately?

11- Do you believe that your mother does not know the real you?

12- Do you feel false and/or insecure and/or inadequate in your mother’s company?

13- Do your mother’s moods tend to fluctuate with great intensity and frequency?

14- When taken over by antagonistic feelings such as anger, shame and insecurity, does your mother abuse you verbally?

15- Does your mother use emotional blackmail to get what she wants from you on most occasions?

16- Does your mother make you feel responsible for her happiness?

17- Do your mother’s attitude and values seem not to evolve with time?

18- Do you often feel forced to meet only the needs and wants of your mother?

19- Do you find it hard to associate the image of your mother with that of an emotionally stable and secure adult?

20- Do you struggle to see yourself as an independent entity from your mother?

21- Does your mother reject or ignore your interests when they do not reflect her own?

22- Do you find it difficult to connect affectionately and emotionally with your mother?

23- Does your mother only accept your skills and achievements when recognized by somebody else?

24- Does your mother use your skills and/or natural talents and/or important moments of your life for self-aggrandisement?

25- When involved in family disagreements, does your mother always come out as the victim of some great injustice?

26- Does your mother not value you for whom you are, but for what you have to offer?

27- Are you embarrassed by your mother’s attitude and behaviour in front of other people?

28- Is your mother disappointed and/or makes you feel guilty for not doing what she wants?

29- Does your mother consciously ignore your feelings?

30- Does your mother expose and/or humiliate you in front of other people?

 

Score analysis:

1 – 5: It is unlikely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

6 – 9: It is somewhat likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

10 – 19: It is very likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.

20 – 30: It is extremely likely that you were raised by a narcissistic mother.