How to Manage Obsessive Worry

Obsessive worry can really feel overwhelming. It can feel as if there is simply no escape from constant ruminations and can be like a mental battle. It is as if the more you try to stop it, the more it persists. Well, the good news is that it can be controlled and overcome.

Obsessive worry often goes round and round like a negative loop. Like “thought suppression” the more you try to push it away the more it fights back. It’s rather like trying to hold a beach ball underwater, futile, because as soon as you relax your hold, it pops right up to the surface again. Over time obsessive worry can become habitual. The longer you spend ruminating the deeper into you get. It’s rather like going into a “trance”where you have lost the ability to “undo the spell.”

The only way to overcome it is by deliberately “applying your will” and “changing your behaviour.” In other words, you need to “get out if your head” by shifting your mindset, switching to another modality of experience, such as bodily activity, sensory distraction, ritual, expressing your emotions, interpersonal communication, or learning to detach from your thoughts. Sometimes people with obsessive worry will find they have let go of a specific worry, but will become aware that they are now caught up in a different worry. Sometimes this can afford temporary relief, but the emphasis is on the word “temporary!”

One of the reasons we get so caught up in obsessive worry is that it is in our nature to “problem solve,” if you like, it’s an “evolutionary trait ” something that ensured our ancestors survived, but the seductive pull of an obsessive loop can be very compelling. Often the things we worry about are irrational, or “what if’s” with no answer as such. As we follow the path of least resistance we simply go round and round in a negative spiral. Someone once said, worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere!

Deliberately breaking out of obsessive thinking can appear difficult at first (especially if your highly anxious) but with practice it can be done.

Here are a number of strategies to help you break free from obsessive worry:

1. Engage in physical exercise like running, swimming or something that you will get absorbed in like rock climbing, paint balling or ab-sailing.

2. Practice mindfulness meditation and learn how this discipline can effectively teach you how to let go and disengage. Mindful drawing and colouring can be a great escape.

3. Play powerful and evocative music to release repressed emotions ( emotions such as sadness and anger often underpin or drive obsessive thinking) dance or sing loudly.

4. Engage in discussion with someone about things other than your worries, alternatively confide in someone (sharing your concerns can sometimes lighten the load or help get things in perspective) alternatively find yourself a therapist who can help you manage your worries.

5. Find a distraction that is absorbing such as learning to play the guitar, watch a film or playing a computer game.

6. Turn to sensory motor stimulation by absorbing yourself in activities such as crafts, gardening or even a spot of “retail therapy.”

7. Absorb yourself in a jigsaw puzzle, crossword or word search.

8. Finally, engage in healthy rituals, for example combing abdominal breathing with a chant or positive affirmation that you can repeat, visualise and dwell on to bring about a positive trance induction to dispel the negative trance enforced by the obsessive worry.

Examples of affirmations:

“Let it go”

“These are just thoughts”

“I am relaxed and free from worry”

Until next time

Steve Clifford Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

http://www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Image ref:By Alex (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (2005) by Edmund J. Bourne, PH.D. Appendix 4, How to stop obsessive worry. P428-9, New Harbinger Publications

12 Tips to Improve Mental Wellbeing

The New Joy
When we are talking about mental wellbeing what we are really referring to, is how we are feeling and coping on a day to day basis. For most of us this tends to vary from day to day. If we are feeling unhappy, overwhelmed and struggling with the demands of day to day life, it could be said that our mental wellbeing is not so good. On the other hand if we feel happy, confident, productive and engaged with the world we live in, this is a sign that our mental wellbeing is good. This also tends to suggest that our overall mental health is also good.

Many things can affect our mental wellbeing and such things as loss, relationship difficulties, money worries, work stress and even loneliness. There are also a number of things that may predispose and make us more vulnerable to poor mental health and wellbeing. These include childhood abuse or trauma, social isolation or discrimination, homelessness, poor housing or social isolation or discrimination. Caring for a sick relative or friend, unemployment, long term physical health difficulties and even being the victim of some kind of crime or accident. It could be said that if mental wellbeing is poor over a long period of time this is more likely to result in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

 

There are however, a number of things that we can do to stay mentally well and build our mental wellbeing. These include:

 

1. Taking time to talk to others about our feelings. There really is some truth in the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved,” Just talking something through can help us feel lighter. Sometimes another person may be able to offer advice or a different perspective and this can help. It need not necessary be a mental health professional, a caring friend or family member can provide the listening ear so often needed.

 

2. Building friendships and relationships with others is an important part of staying well. Choosing positive, supportive and happy people to be around, rather than negative people who are always moaning and critical is very important. Volunteering and helping others can really help to feel you are helping others and contributing to society.

 

3. Staying physically active is a cornerstone to wellbeing. Good diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise all promote good mental health. Reducing reliance on alcohol, recreational drugs  and cigarettes can also help us to feel better about ourselves as we take care of our bodies.

 

4. Taking up a hobby, interest or pastime is really helpful. Doing things we enjoy can help to express how we feel through activity in way that is similar to childhood play. Whether it’s cooking, gardening or DIY, or maybe something more creative such as joining a local drama group. What we do in between the more mundane activities of life can give us a boost.

 

5. Setting some kind of life goal, “bucket list,” or challenge gives us something to aim for. When we begin to reach our goals we can feel positive about our achievements.

 

6. Learn to recognise the sort of things that drag you down. Keeping a mood diary can help us identify triggers. These may be many and can include people, places and events. Sometimes things like lack of sleep, overwork or even eating certain foods can underpin mood changes. Try to be a detective and identify the villains that scupper your wellbeing.

 

7. Take care of yourself. Try substituting the term “selfish” with the term “self-caring.” In other words, looking after you. Take the pressure of yourself, take small steps towards your goals and learn to be accepting and compassionate towards yourself. In other words, speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding as you would a friend you cared about.

 

8. Learn to accept yourself, stop being critical and learn to take yourself and life a little less seriously. Little things like smiling and saying hello to people, as well as valuing the things you do, however small. Learn to be assertive and trust in yourself a bit more.

 

9. Make building your self esteem and confidence a long term aspiration. Appreciating that you are important and that you are, who you are, a unique human being. Stop comparing yourself with others, forget about striving for perfection, identify your positive traits, such as caring for others or loving your pets.

 

10. Take time to read self help books, websites and blogs (such as this one!) to help you build your mental wellbeing change negative beliefs and old unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. Find yourself a therapist who can help you work on these areas, think of them as a mental wellbeing coach.

 

11. If you have mental health problems take an active part in your treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medication and learn to manage it in a way that helps you. Make sure you know about your medication, side effects and the best times of day to take it. Also if you wish to reduce or come off your medication, try to do it as a team with support from your therapist or healthcare provider. Take time to make a crisis plan and tell health professionals, family and others what helps and doesn’t help.

 

12. Finally join a support group or a group associated with a hobby or interest, such as a knitting, reading or art group. Join others for Pilates or other activities. Reach out to others, accept compliments and find time for you.

 

Until next time

 

Steve

 

 

Ref: How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing – Mind                             info@mind.org.uk                                                                                                                                   mind.org.uk
Image:By Bart Everson – Flickr: The New Joy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21362146

Can negative energy give you cancer?

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I believe passionately that mind and body cannot be separated and that one influences the other. As a body therapist as well as a talking therapist, I have seen how stress can manifest in bodily tension, headaches and all manner of ailments. I have witnessed how skin conditions can be exacerbated by worry and how pain can be eased through the power of thought. 
It is not rocket science, there is often a very logical explanation as to how the mind affects the body. For example, you have a job interview or a forthcoming exam and you find yourself experiencing stomach discomfort and you need to go to the toilet. You have a first date and find yourself feeling lightheaded and nauseous. The reason for this is simple, your body is reacting the way it has since prehistoric days. When you have an exam or about to face a new experience that is very important or in which there may be an element of risk, the stress triggers the “fight and flight” response. Your mind tells your body the there is a “threat” and your body responds by preparing you for danger.
At the first hint of trouble the brain sends out chemical messages signalling an impending threat.  The body responds by preparing the either to attack or flee. Nausea signals that the muscles in the stomach are activated to squeeze and relax. It tells the gastrointestinal tract to empty the bowel and we urinate to clear the bladder. We may also vomit and perspire thus ensuring that we have as little excess in our bodies as possible. No need for the body to attend to digesting food while its energies need to be attending to the perceived threat. Our light headed, tingly body and pounding heart all point to blood being diverted to the big muscles of the body preparing us to either fight to the death or run for our lives.
Mind and body working in perfect harmony. Now, the point of this post is really to highlight that while mind and body are one and thoughts do influence bodily reactions; negative thoughts alone cannot give you cancer. This week TV presenter Noel Edmunds claimed that he had developed prostate cancer as a result of stress. The notion that negative thoughts can cause cancer or that certain personality traits make people more susceptible to cancer, is quite frankly, hocus pocus.
Yes, a positive mental attitude and using approaches such as mindfulness to manage pain and discomfort caused by the condition, or to enable us to live a better quality of life while getting appropriate medical treatment is invaluable. Negative thinking would be better addressed through talking therapy and expression of emotions, rather than blaming our illness on our psychological state.
Dr Max, the Daily Mail’s resident psychiatrist in an article on the subject of negative thinking and cancer, goes as far as to say that, ” blaming a cancer sufferer for their own ‘negativity’ is very hateful.” He suggests that these kind of ‘quack’ theories make those with cancer vulnerable to crooks and charlatans who may prey on their misinformed beliefs.
I can really appreciate how people may cling to the hope that powerful thoughts can influence the process of healing. To an extent I subscribe to this view, however, I think we need to exercise a measure of caution. If orthodox medicine is shunned because we believe that our thinking caused our illness and therefore our thinking can cure the disease, then that is such a shame. Complimentary medicine can ‘compliment’ and shape the way we cope with illness and it may also support orthodox medicine, but negative energy and thought alone cannot ’cause’ illnesses such as cancer, however much Noel Edmunds and others would have us believe.
Until next time,

 

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

 

Image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Find your Self-belief

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How many times have you opted to stay in your comfort zone rather than try something new? How many things have you not done because you didn’t believe in yourself? Missing opportunities leaves us feeling regret and erodes our sense of self.

I really believe that all of us were born with infinite energy to achieve things. It takes courage to move out of our comfort zone, but growth happens right on the edge not in the middle. Yes, it may feel scary, but by gritting your teeth and facing your fears of not being good enough you can achieve great things.

There are a number of things you can do to begin to make changes and no better time than the present to do so.  Go out and do something with others, perhaps joining a local choir or club. Many organisations welcome volunteers no matter how little time or experience you have. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do; it also makes us happier and healthier too.

Going for a walk or doing some other outdoor activity can help with self-esteem. Research shows that getting active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

Trying out new things or learning a new  skill can gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.

Set yourself some goals for 2016. Something exciting, new, ambitious but realistic.  Setting goals  and having dreams gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Stop comp airing yourself to others.  No-one’s perfect. Dwelling on our flaws, makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all is the key to improving our self-belief.

If you’ve ever felt there must be more to life? The answer is, there is!  Next time that negative inner voice tries to talk you out of something… say NO.

Make 2016 your year.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                                                 Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                                                                 Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: By Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE (Colours) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tired or just plain exhausted?

 

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With Christmas all but a fading memory, it not unusual for people to feel fed up and fatigued at this time of the year. In Britain it is estimated that at any one time 1in 5 people feel unusually tired and 1in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Essentially, there are two main types of tiredness. There is the type of tiredness that is like a solitary grey raincloud. This is the type of tiredness that is transient. It might seem like it is with us for a while, but it will pass and usually it is the result of a busier than usual few days, several bad nights in a row or as a result of a stressful event you have just passed through.

The other type of tiredness is more like a grey oppressive sky, heavy and unmoving. It is typified by of a chronic loss of energy that accumulates over months. It may not always feel like tiredness or physical exhaustion but it doesn’t seem to shift.

Often the signs are subtle, perhaps hidden behind behaviour traits that might easily be missed such as:

1) Finding yourself constantly checking your texts, emails and phone messages.
2) Difficulty relaxing or switching off.
3) Forgetting about tea breaks or unable to relax over a meal.
4) Piles of unread magazines with articles you must read.
5) Having too much to do that you can’t take a day off.
6) “Switching off,” by eating, drinking or spending too much.
7) Losing yourself in mindless TV.
8) Working harder and harder just to stand still.

All these types of behaviours are signs that you need to stop and take a break. Powerful indicators that you need to take time out and really look at what is important. It is as if you have “over- ridden” the “over-ride” switch. This type of behaviour, whilst aimed at improving our lot, simply puts the rest of our life at risk of failure and leads to what psychologists call ” burnout.”

So what can be done to address the balance?

Here are a few pointers:

1) Start the day with a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation or a fifteen minute walk.
2) drink more water, adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits.
3) Set “boundaries”- learn to say “no.”
4) Take time to disconnect from technology, put away your phone, lap-top or tablet.
5) Discover your creative side, take up a hobby or other activity that has nothing to do with work.
6) Finally, slow down, get support and re-evaluate your goals and priorities.

Make this the time to put the spring back in your step.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image:By Evgeny Galkovsky aka ZheGal (vk.com/limon_kiosk) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why Self-Esteem Matters

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What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the way that you think about yourself. If your self-esteem is low, the thoughts you have about yourself are likely to be negative and you are likely to focus on what you think are your weaknesses.

Having low self-esteem can affect every area of life including work, personal relationships and your ability to socialise. Tackling low self-esteem and boosting positive thinking can really improve your sense of well-being and your mental health.

Here are a few tips you might find helpful.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. You will nearly always home in on their strengths and that will make you feel worse about yourself.
  2. Stop putting yourself down. Every time you that it will erode your self-esteem.
  3. Listen out for compliments, learn to accept them and say “thank you.”
  4. Find an affirmation, a statement such as, “I am confident and competent,” write it down and read it every day.
  5. Read everything you can about self-esteem, devour books, blogs, websites, etc, and make improving your self-esteem your mission in life.
  6. Avoid people who are negative and put you down, instead mix with people who are positive, confident and supportive.
  7. What do you like about yourself, however small? Kindness, friendliness, reliability, etc. note these down.
  8. Make a list of your past successes, however small, like learning to ride a bicycle or playing a musical instrument. Write these down.
  9. Try to do more of the things you love, rather than the things you think you ought to do.
  10. Finally, be true to yourself. Respect yourself, live your life, not a life dictated to you by others.

Begin to make these positive changes today – Good luck.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                     Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: By Samael Kreutz from Concepción, Chile (Broken Heart) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why does my brain freeze when asked a difficult question?

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I remember as a child hating maths and dreading the weekly maths lesson at junior school. There was I, a chubby eight year old in short trousers and a grey school uniform. It’s one of those abiding childhood memories that continues to haunt me. Maths held no joy for me as it was the setting for weekly ritual humiliation. There I’d sit, in the same chair at the same desk in rows with the others, sun streaming into the classroom window while I’d long for the ground to swallow me up. I’d feel sick the evening before in apprehension of this lesson.

Here we were, learning multiplication tables by rote. The teacher, a stern elderly lady with grey hair at the front of the class chanting a monotonous rhythmic dirge, “Two seven’s are fourteen, three seven’s are twenty-one, four seven’s are twenty-eight…” This boring chanting seemed to go on for ever. Or at least I hoped it would.

Then the moment of dread. “Clifford, you, boy! What are six eights?” Frozen to the spot, my school uniform boiling hot in the rays of the sun from the window. My tummy turning, eyes watering- I just wanted to run. “Well, boy?” She would exclaim. My brain in complete lockdown seemed to fail on me. Desperately I tried in vain to find the answer but in the end I blurt out some random figure. I now wait for the ritual humiliation to begin. A titter from the back soon turns into a chuckle, followed by laughter from what seems like the whole class. “On the chair”, she commands. I duly obey and go rigid waiting for the moment the ruler smashes into my leg, stinging. Children laughing. Once again my prediction had come true.

Now as an adult not only can I see the wrong in this sort of ritual punishment and gratuitous violence dished out in the name of education, but I can understand fully why I reacted as I did and my mind went blank. Some fifty years later as a psychotherapist who specialises in trauma, I now know all about “fight and flight” and our evolutionary response to threat.

I want you to imagine the scene; you are alone in the jungle and a wild animal, a tiger appears from the vegetation. You hear the rustle and see the leaves move. At once you spot it. Do you think to yourself, “I wonder if that is a male or female tiger?” or “I wonder if it is hungry?” No you don’t. Furthermore your brain switches off the thinking part. It does so deliberately, instinct kicks in and you make a grab for the nearest tree and climb up quicker than you have ever climbed in your life. You see, if you stop and think you are creating a delay, precious time when either you could attack the predator if escape. In other words, stop, think, equals lunch!

Looking back, if only I could have acted as my instinct was telling me? I would have leapt out of that sunlit window or broken down the door to escape. Still, that’s all ancient history now.

Until next time. Steve

 

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                     Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

image ref: By Contributor(s): Queensland figaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons