Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Two Common Thinking Traps of the Anxious Mind

There are times when our internal dialogue works against us. Sometimes this comes in the form of our core beliefs, but other times it can come from our thinking styles. For someone with anxiety, two common thinking traps tend to have the capacity to influence and reinforce their anxious mind:

  • Catastrophising: the tendency to magnify the situation; to blow things out of proportion. This is really the “what if” kind of thinking that can lead someone into a loop of rumination, as they work themselves into worst case scenario thinking. It is the type of thinking style that keeps you very centered on the future, and what you can’t control. Very often, what started out as a legitimate worry, becomes so magnified that it takes over the ability to rationalize it.
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Very often, we imagine we know what others are thinking and begin to guess at what their actions mean; we become so focused on what it “could mean” that we lose sight of using effective communication, and end up in another all consuming thought loop.

The first step to changing a thinking style is simply to recognize it. Understanding that it has developed as a habit can give us permission to create newer, healthier thinking styles that focus more on the present and on what we know. Allowing our logic to play some role in our thinking will take away some of the power that our emotions have in those moments.

With the overall goal of having flexible thought, we can begin to recognize when we are feeling trapped by our thinking and remind ourselves to “Take a deep breath, focus on the facts, ask for clarification or support.”

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@squillen

 

When to Take the High Road

Yesterday’s post touched on the issue of emotional suppression. As we get better at understanding and processing our emotions, we also begin to realize that sometimes we need to say something to another person about how they made us feel, and sometimes we choose not to. Sometimes, the choice to take the high road is the one that presents to us as the healthier option. Here are some general guidelines as to when to take the high road:

  • if your attempt to communicate is falling on deaf ears. If repeated attempts are not working, perhaps denial has gotten in the way. Dealing with a person who tends to be inflexible in their thinking will often produce the same result as they are not open to hearing it.
  • it isn’t the right time. Sometimes a moment calls for an open conversation and sometimes the timing is off. ‘Sleeping on it’ is always a good rule of thumb in creating enough space for processing.
  • it will only lead to conflict. If we know that someone is defensive or conflict driven, sometimes it isn’t worth the time or energy for the debate.
  • it just doesn’t feel right. When we take the time to reflect on how we are feeling; when we examine the what if’s about speaking up or taking the high road, our instincts will usually guide us in making the decision.

The important piece when taking the high road is to remain committed to processing the emotion surrounding the upset. Perhaps you have brought it to therapy, talked with a trusted friend, taken a long walk to mull it over. When we choose to take the high road it usually comes with a feeling of peace; choosing grace to build upon itself. And when it just doesn’t feel right to take the high road, that is when we pluck up our courage to say something – rewarding the effort and not the outcome, reminding ourselves that we are important too. 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@foxxmd

Emotional Suppression and What We Need to Know About It

There are times when we may suppress emotion. Sometimes that is a learned behaviour from childhood – becoming the favoured way of dealing with things; other times we may avoid recognizing our emotions and we use our defense mechanisms (like avoidance) in order to not have to deal with a painful event. In any event, when we suppress emotion we run the risk of:

  • building resentment. If you are unable to tell someone how you feel, this may build resentment. This type of under the surface anger can lead to having less favourable feelings towards your loved one over time.
  • displacement. If something makes you angry and you struggle to process or deal with it, you may take out that suppressed emotion on the people around you.
  • addiction. When we suppress our emotions, we run the risk of turning to something external to ease the pain.
  • a build up and release. Any time that tears come as a result of an emotion, we consider that a healthy way of releasing it. Build up emotions however can lead to uncontrolled emotion by way of an over-reaction.
  • mood swings or depression. Heavy emotions that don’t get processed sit with us; this can often lead to experiencing mood swings or the symptoms of depression.
  • physical ailments. When we suppress emotions, they can turn inward and create physical symptoms or illness.

We are much better served to lean into simply acknowledging our emotions. Observe the emotion, describe the emotion, not place judgement on the feeling. Perhaps you will say something, perhaps you will talk it over with a friend or therapist, perhaps you will go for a walk. When we simply allow our emotions to be, with the conscious decision to process, we cut down the tendency to suppress the emotion – leaving us with a grounded and secure feeling.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@reisetasche

 

The Wisdom of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and celebrated author. She is someone that naturally exuded grace, simplicity and wisdom. Here are three of my favourite quotes (although it was very hard to choose only three, so I squeezed an extra one in!):

  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – Maya Angelou
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. ” – Maya Angelou
  • “My mission in life is not to simply survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some compassion, some humour and some style.” – Maya Angelou

The themes of Maya Angelou’s advice was about living your best life; to love life; both for its beauty and richness and in spite of its challenges and times of suffering. She was a big advocate in being in charge of your own existence in the world, being both true to yourself and compassionate towards others. As she best said it, “Precious jewel, you glow, you shine, reflecting all the good things in the world. Just look at yourself.” – Maya Angelou

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@scottwebb

 

A Little Reminder About Rest

I love this quote by Morgan Harper Nichols:

“A restful approach to restless uncertainty provides strength and endurance for the rest of the journey.”

– Morgan Harper Nichols

Very often, we seek rest at the end of our day. Our work and home duties completed, kids off to bed, we sink into the couch for a good dose of Netflix, catch up with a friend, relax with a book, take a bath. We reward ourselves with rest.

But what about the days that catch up to us? What about the stressful days? The restless ones? It is on those days that carving out time to rest is essential for our self-care, for those are the days we need it the most. Sometimes it may not seem possible, but it is. It may mean consciously putting every thing aside for some quiet time outside with your face to the sun, or taking 20 minutes for a leisurely stroll in the park. It may mean taking a power nap, or spontaneously calling a friend to meet for lunch. It may mean unplugging for a solid 30 minutes.

Making rest an important part of our day, regardless of its tone, builds our resilience; providing strength and endurance for the rest of the journey 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@anynieel

 

Tools of Change; Post 5

In our final post on the tools of change, today we explore practice.

We have come to the time of fully putting our desire to change into action. And that will invovle practice. If it is a habit we are trying to break, or a new lifestyle we are trying to adopt, the more we practice new habits directly affects the reinforcement effect. If it is a challenge we are faced with that inevitably brings change, we must practice a new way of being, of adapting. During these times, we can practice self-care, practice asking for help or support, practice our conscious decision to seek joy despite our feelings of grief or sadness.

If we are faced with a situation that requires our action (finding a new job, moving into a better suited space, deciding to date again), we can practice putting our end goal to task by following through on our smaller tasks that need to happen in order for our objective to be met.

Practice, practice, practice. As a quote from Shawn Allen reminds us, “Skill comes from consistent and deliberate practice.” And with that comes a greater sense of self, a well earned feeling of accomplishment, and the rewards that are inherent in the process of navigating change.

Our tools of change have included actualization, direction, self-compassion, connection and practice. I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it as it has stood as a wonderful reminder that change, despite it inevitability, can be met with courage, faith and a sense of renewal.

 

 

Tools of Change; Post 4

In our toolbox so far, we have actualization, direction and self-compassion and today’s post is about connection.

When we come to the realization that something needs to change and we’ve gathered both information and courage, one element that will help us to put our plan into place is the connection we have to others. We are a relationship species and the need for our village moves well beyond childhood.

Because change almost always inevitably brings with it the fear of the unknown, leaning into our support circle can help create the necessary bridge to something new. We can spend time with others as a distraction, we can align with people who share the same goal, we can share our vulnerablities as a way to feel encouraged. This is why support groups are often instrumental for people in not only achieving their goal but in sustaining it. We can be quite determined to change on our own, but sharing our journey with our loved ones helps us to feel supported and cared for.

In difficult times in my life, where change was inevitable and I knew instinctively I could only go through it and not around it; I never felt alone. Knowing that I was walking with friends and family helped me to navigate the fears that naturally presented themselves. The connection we have to others is a tool of change that we can add to our growing tool kit. Tomorrow’s post will feature the last element in our tools of change series. 🙂

 

Tools of Change; Post 3

Moving right along in our series of tools of change, today we look at the importance of self-compassion. 

The graces we afford to others we often don’t grant to ourselves. When we falter, create a blunder, or don’t accomplish something quickly enough (according to our own standards and expectations), we have the tendency to be hard on ourselves. This is the critical time in the element of change, as we can easily fall into the “I can’t do this” trap; our core beliefs begin clamouring for space as they sense an opening to appear.

What is needed as a tool of change is self-compassion. Kristin Neff, an expert in the field, has this to say about self-compassion:

“You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness.”

When we begin to have the same compassion, caring and empathy for ourselves as we do for our loved ones, we begin to recognize the importance that change offers us. With self-compassion, we increase the likelihood of success – of braving the storm, of creating a healthier habit, of facing a fear. We can see ourselves as our very own ally in our quest for change.

To visit Kristin Neff’s website: https://self-compassion.org/

Tools of Change; Post 2

Yesterday we started a 5 part series on the tools of change – the elements necessary in order for us to move towards changing something. Our first tool of change was actualization, today we look at direction.

Our ‘aha moment’ brings us to a crossroads. The old way we were doing something, the relationship that just isn’t working anymore, the health issue that isn’t going away – all bring us to choosing a new path. It can feel comfortable to stay at the crossroads for awhile, and many do. But the urge to choose is still there – do I stay on the familiar path? The one where I know what to expect or do I seek out the new path and see what lies ahead?

Perhaps the best guide as to direction is knowledge. Our fears will often keep us from being curious – but there is no risk to curiosity. Gathering information for change tends to increase our sense of confidence and agency; it allows us to feel as though we are in the driver’s seat of our own life.

Another important variable to direction is to share your realization with trusted loved ones. Vulnerability will always help to cement your realization, and the encouragement that you receive from those you love will bolster your decision to move forward. It is okay to ask for help. 

We need movement when in the process of growth. Albeit slowly, it is an important element to feeling accomplished.

Realization and direction – two important tools for change.

 

Tools of Change; Post 1

Most of us to some degree fear change. We love our comfort zone, we find safety in the familiar. And yet we also tend to inherently know when change is necessary in order to move forward, to challenge ourselves, to live to our highest potential. This week we will focus on the tools of change in a five part series; exploring what needs to be in place in order for personal growth to be optimized.  The first tool of change to be explored is actualization.

In order for us to change something, we must first acknowledge it. Denial and avoidance can be very strong – despite advice or concerns from others about something we are engaging in or ignoring, we will blindly defend our choices and behaviours until we are ready to face what is not working for us any longer.

Self-actualization begins with a desire to be open to the possibility of going beneath the surface; of pushing past the desire to avoid. It is why people come to therapy. Actualization is found in the ‘aha’ moments, it is found in our ability to be vulnerable, it is inherently felt. It can often be accompanied by tears as grief is part of the process. Leaving our comfort zone is difficult and we will most likely feel as though we are losing something along the way.

Once actualization has occurred, there really is no going back. We can remain in limbo for awhile, contemplating the opposing forces of courage and fear, but our recognition of the issue is now a felt sense and our inner desire to challenge, to grow and to accomplish will keep reminding us that the only people we can truly change is ourselves. It comes with the realization that we can be brave – stepping forward towards a new way of being. A new way of knowing 🙂