Category: <span>Anxiety</span>

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

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.

10 tips for better emotional and psychological health

It is definitely worth striving for better emotional and psychological health.

Everyone knows the benefits of exercising and a healthy diet for maintaining well-being.  Connecting good health solely to our physical condition is a common behaviour in Western culture. Looking after oneself from a psychological and emotional perspective tends to be overlooked or completely ignored. Until something more dramatic happens, as an episode of depression or intense anxiety, we act as if our cognitive and emotional health did not require much of our attention and care.

The facts contradict the merit of such attitude, however. Depression has recently been found to be the second major cause of disability worldwide. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the cost of anxiety disorders comes close to one-third of the country’s total expenditure on mental health related issues. Even though the statistics are quite alarming, most people only recognise the value of looking after one’s mind and emotions when already affected by a mental health problem.

Thankfully, it is never too late to invest in your well-being. If you believe to have been neglecting you mental and emotional health, here are 10 tips for better emotional and psychological health:

  1. Stimulate your intellect: when was the last time you challenged your brain? You can activate those grey cells with some inspirational reading. Diversify your knowledge reading about topics you have never read before. Put down those crime novels and get out of your comfort zone with some highbrow books.
  2. Keep sound relationships: as social beings, we tend to live healthier and longer lives when socially active. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation have been linked to depression and late onset dementia. As we grow older, however, we tend to prioritise other areas to the detriment of our social lives. Dedicating time and effort to keep your
    better emotional and psychological health
    Small changes in behaviour can improve your mental and emotional health.

    relationships going does not only brighten your mood, but it also stimulates your cognition.

  3. Practice self-acceptance: a high level of self-esteem relies on your ability to love yourself unconditionally. When you accept yourself the way you are and leave at peace with your weaknesses, you are less likely to develop a problem with self-criticism, perfectionism, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
  4. Relax body and mind: progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, you name it. There is so much out there for you to try. Take some minutes of your day to unwind, restore your energy levels and feel in tune with your body.
  5. Appreciate stillness: stop for a moment and allow yourself to just be. You are a ‘being’ after all, so do your thing. There is nothing wrong in just enjoying the moment. Nothingdoism is the new ‘me-time’. Resist the temptation to get distracted by excess doism and learn how to appreciate an undisturbed and serene existence. Does the idea of being able to enjoy life’s small pleasures sound appealing to you? If you would like to apply that wonderful concept into your own life, take some time to notice the here and now. Look around you. Open your eyes to that multi-coloured sky and take some minutes to process what you see and feel.
  6. Learn how to let go: feeling too attached to an idea or thought can get you stuck on rumination mode. If your thinking is not leading you to any productive solutions, it is time to let those thoughts go. If you find it hard to get distracted or focus on something else, write your worry on a piece of paper and throw it away.
  7. Rely on your creative potential: you do not have to be a born artistic talent to unleash your creative potential. Personal creativity goes beyond the artistic realm. You can use your own resourcefulness to think of new ways of approaching life. What about taking a new direction, or investing in a different lifestyle? When existence becomes a repetitive re-enactment of a series of long-standing habits, a little imagination can help you make positive changes happen. Even if you do not feel comfortable with the idea of adopting an unfamiliar line of action, acting ‘as if’ you feel confident can give you a taste of what you are truly capable.
  8. Invest in personal growth: doing volunteer work, extending your qualifications, taking an active role in your community, spending more time with friends and family, getting motivated to do what you truly love, getting rid of bad habits, introducing healthy habits, the list goes on. Embrace your humanity and reconnect with yourself, others and the world around you.
  9. Keep a mood journal: keeping a daily record of your moods is an excellent way of gaining greater insight into your feelings. Connecting good and bad feelings to certain thoughts and behaviours will allow you to understand your motivations and control your moods more effectively.
  10. Do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: there are times that finding professional help is the best choice to implement some healthy changes into your own life. CBT is renowned for its excellent results in the treatment of a wide variety of problems. As you go away from CBT with a new set of problem solving skills, you are better equipped to deal with future challenges.

Taking care of yourself also involves monitoring your psychological and emotional health. You can increase quality of life by raising your awareness about the importance of a sound relationship between body and mind. Prioritising one over the other or dismissing the value of your own feelings altogether can have a profound impact on your general well-being. To prevent finding out about this simple truth the hard way, be proactive. Practice self-love by taking care of the whole of you, from head to toe.