So… you get a text from a friend who says she can’t make it to dinner after all. You…
a) think she has a better offer and never liked you anyway
b) believe she has let you down and decide to cut her off from now on
c) decide you are an idiot for thinking she would want to spend time with you
d) text her back to say “Ok cool – you will be missed x Let’s catch up next week”.
What if your thoughts don’t match up with what is actually happening?
We all have an automatic way we think about things – it’s like a super-highway which takes us at top speed towards a conclusion or a ‘truth’ based on the meaning we make from a situation. For many of us, these automatic thoughts are unhelpful and result in lowered self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Often the habit is so ingrained we don’t even know it’s happening – the Unhelpful Thinking Style just gets more traction.
Good news is, we can actually change our habits – first step?? Awareness.
We need to know what we have been automatically saying to ourselves and what the patterns are.
Did you pick d)?
If not, take a look at the following Unhelpful Thinking Styles listed here:
Catastrophising: blowing things out of proportion, believing the WORST WILL HAPPEN! …even though in reality the problem is quite small and disastrous consequences are unlikely.
“Should”,“Ought” and “Must”: Oh yeah, nothing quite like putting pressure on ourselves when using these words – they imply we are powerless and not acting out of our own sense of what is right. Exchanging these words for ‘Could”, “Might” and “Will” create a whole new sense of choice and autonomy.
Emotional Reasoning: Just because you have a feeling something will or won’t happen, you believe it to be true. Kind of like knowing the future- and how many of us can actually do that?!
Magnifying and Minimising: Everything someone else does is a-mazing and your input was ‘nothing’ or somehow insignificant.
Mental Filtering: Only noticing the negative parts of a situation and filtering out the positives – “the whole 3 course dinner was ruined by those overcooked beans”.
Jumping to Conclusions: Classic mind-reading here –when we know what someone else must be thinking - and predicting the outcomes accordingly.
Overgeneralising: Taking an instance in the past and saying “you always do that”, “I never get a turn”, or “everyone else has a partner” etc.
Black & White Thinking: Good or Bad, All or Nothing – this type of thinking sees only one extreme or the other.
Personalisation: Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong or even could go wrong! Taking full responsibility for things that aren’t even in your control.
Labelling: Often judgemental statements about self or others based on behaviour in a specific situation e.g “she’s an idiot” or “I’m such a loser” – even when there are other situations where that is not the case.
Some of the unhelpful thoughts we have are a mix of a few of the above styles.
Many of them we have learned (and often disliked!) from hearing our parents use them. Take a look over this list again this time noting which ones you mostly do, and put an M (mum) or D (dad) next to the ones that you’ve heard them use.
So that’s Step One – grow Awareness ✔
Next blog… how to change these unhelpful patterns
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(Don’t worry, you will receive less than one per month)
0414 99 66 13
Try these 3 simple tips to feel better immediately:
#1 Turn up the corners of your mouth
Something you can do anywhere and anytime is turn up the corners of your mouth.
This has the effect of instantly brightening your mood and your outlook, not to mention your physical appearance.
By turning up the corners of your mouth, your body releases neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress as well as lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. When you smile, the endorphins released act as a natural pain reliever and the serotonin released serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter.
When you smile, the world smiles back. Yes, your smile is actually contagious!
And let’s face it (punny!) you are actually better looking when you smile.
Go on, give it a try right now.
#2 Stand in Power Pose
Something borrowed from the yogis, but requiring no training at all, is to stand evenly balanced on your two feet and lift your arms overhead in a strong ‘V’ shape. Hold this for 30 seconds, up to 2 minutes if you can, and feel the benefits straight away.
Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk about this. “Certain ‘power poses’ don’t just change how others perceive you, “Professor Cuddy says. “They immediately change your body chemistry.” Our testosterone and cortisol levels are affected when we adopt a power pose.
This is something you can easily do when you want that boost of confidence from within. Try it first thing in the morning, or before a meeting or even a challenging phone call you may have to make.
#3 Laugh, then laugh some more
Did you know, your body cannot distinguish between real and fake laughter? Anything that makes you laugh or giggle will have a positive impact by unleashing a rush of stress-busting endorphins.
One of the ways to begin a laughing burst is to start clapping in rhythm to “ho-ho-ha-ha-ha”. Sometimes, it is the simple ridiculousness of this exercise that jump-starts a real and contagious belly-laugh that can result in a laughing fit that leaves you uplifted and with a smile on your face for hours afterwards. Great to do with a friend, however odd you might feel at the outset!
There are laughter workshops and even Laughter Yoga classes if you want some serious fun.
So give one, or all of these tips a try and let me know if you feel better immediately!
As Professor Cuddy says, “Our bodies change our minds,
and our minds change our behaviour,
and our behaviour changes our outcomes.”
Have you had those conversations with some people that just leave you feeling confused or frustrated, unheard or misunderstood? You may even feel your conversation was hijacked or that you were somehow judged. Or even worse, you may not know that other people feel that way after a conversation with you!
The art of conversation doesn’t come that easily to everyone, so it’s important to take a little ‘chat check’ and see how you rate. Without realising it, we can easily be stuck in a pattern of being a poor conversationalist. There are unhelpful habits of conversation that you may come to recognize in others or yourself once you are aware of them. Here are a few types you may recognise:
The Thought Completer knows exactly what you were going to say and has the annoying habit of interrupting you and completing your sentences according to what direction he or she thinks you were going. This person hijacks the conversation and robs you of telling your own story. The lesson here is not to assume you know what the other person is about to say – we all have unique experiences to share, so take care not to interrupt.
The Pessimist is the chronic negative thinker. No matter what you say, this person has a negative take on it. Their experience in the past, their opinion on the present and their predictions for the future are relentlessly negative. This person can leave you feeling hopeless and that the world conspires against you. Either that or you feel much less inclined to chat with them in the future. To avoid being like this yourself, remember it is sometimes better to just listen than say something negative.
The Egotist is unable to allow the conversation to revolve around anything but themselves and somehow finds a way to link any topic back to themselves, all while being oblivious to what they are doing. Funnily enough, just when the topic becomes about something unrelated, this person coincidentally has to leave! If you think you might do this, try to listen as much as you speak and focus on the other person and what they have to say.
The Interrogator can be too interested in the details asking questions almost like a detective and leave you feeling grilled and exhausted! In their enthusiasm to learn more about all the technicalities, they can interrupt the natural flow of the conversation and create a frustrated atmosphere. If that sounds like you, remember to keep any questions you may have relevant to the information that is actually needed, be patient and only ask questions in moderation.
The Detached Listener may have heard you, but you’d never know it, as they don’t show any reactions. Whether you are talking about something really exciting or truly sad, this person remains neutral and impassive, leaving you feeling like you might need to be more expressive or just maybe keep it to yourself from now on. If you might be doing this to someone else, remember the other person needs some verbal or non-verbal cues to be sure you are interested in what they have to say. Make sure you add in a nod or an appropriate sound every now and then, to let them know.
The Competitive Storyteller has always done whatever it is faster, harder, longer, and can somehow make your experience sound boring! While this person often has the audience riveted and never forgets the punchline, it is easy to feel outdone and a little skeptical that this individual can have experienced so much more than you, every time. If taking centre stage is very comfortable for you, make sure you listen to others as well and take turns in the storytelling.
The Fixer somehow feels that whenever you speak of a doubt or some indecision, they need to weigh up all your alternatives, analyse the pros and cons, and work it through to the solution for you. This person hasn’t realised that you may not have asked for advice, but were just expressing yourself. If you tend to jump in and be a ‘fixer’ for people, remember to wait until you are asked for your advice or opinion.
Of course, there are other types of conversation destroyers you may encounter as well, but now that you are more aware, see if you recognise some of these in action. You may just tweak your listening skills to become a better conversationalist yourself!
Vanessa Steele, ThoughtMatters counsellor
Fear and Anxiety are normal human emotions we have all experienced when a danger or threat triggered ‘fight or flight’ reactions in our bodies to help keep us safe. But sometimes, these feelings overwhelm us when there is no actual threat to our safety, otherwise known as a Panic Attack.
You are not alone
It is estimated that 1 in 20 people experience Panic Attacks or Anxiety Attacks at some stage in their lives, with many people learning to manage them successfully using strategies and tools we’ll talk about...
What are the Symptoms?...
Symptoms of Anxiety or Panic Attack include:
Make sure you are actually OK…
It is important to know that your symptoms are not caused by a physical illness, so make sure to have a thorough check with a doctor you trust. Being able to rule out any fear that you have a serious illness can be crucial to containing the panic and being able to use credible self-talk. Knowing you are ok will make the next step so much easier.
What to Say to Yourself…
Recognise what is happening to you…
After many panic attacks, most people realize they are unlikely to die or lose control, remembering they have survived other attacks in the past. But this knowledge may be forgotten during a panic attack, because the feelings are so intense that they fear this time may be different.
During a panic attack most people are focusing on the physical feelings they have in their bodies, like their pounding heart, or their dizziness, or their shaking hands. They interpret these symptoms to mean that something dangerous and awful is happening to them. Unfortunately, this only makes matters worse. When you tell yourself you are in danger, you activate the fight or flight response, your body releases more adrenaline, and the physical symptoms of panic get worse. So, instead, remind yourself that you are safe, you are healthy, and This Will Pass. Go on, say it to yourself now.
What to Do…
1. Breathe in – breathe out…
Deepen your breath, both on the way in and on the way out. See if you can simply focus on that breath, listening to it and lengthening it. Check out some
Breathing Exercises here if you want to know a few different ways to focus.
2. Unclench Your Jaw
It’s so easy to hold tension in our jaw and a quick way to begin to relax the body. Drop your shoulders, release your belly. Scan your body and see where any other tension is, check that your tongue and your ears are relaxed (sounds weird I know!)
3. Open Your Hands
This is also called “Willing Hands”. Simply turn up your open hands onto your lap or rest them open beside your body. Opening your hands has been proven to immediately reduce intense negative feelings throughout the body – give it a try right now…
4. Describe something in Step-by-Step detail
Describe the detailed steps to do something you know well (e.g. step-by-step to roast vegetables, count backwards by 10s from 200, how you change the sheets on your bed) . This is a grounding technique that can short circuit a panic attack. You can even describe where you are right now in detail… the floor, the windows,
Getting a Better Understanding of Yourself…
It is important to identify what you are saying to yourself leading up to, and during, a panic attack. Collect a sample of these thoughts and write them down. This may take some practice, because at first it may seem like you are just feeling things, and not thinking anything at all. If you cannot identify what you are thinking, try asking yourself what you believe is happening to you, and notice whether you are judging what is happening as being awful or dangerous.
What would you say to a friend?…
Now, imagine you had a friend who suffered from panic attacks and you had read about panic and discovered it was unpleasant, even scary, but not dangerous. What would you say to your friend next time you were with her and she started to panic?
You need to say something that will reassure and comfort your friend, and help her settle down. It’s just the same when you’re the one panicking – thinking the worst makes panicky feelings worse. Reminding yourself that you are not in danger, and that you can cope with a panic attack, helps you to turn off your fight or flight response and stop releasing adrenaline
Check the Facts…
As I said earlier, it is important to know that your symptoms are not caused by a physical illness, so make sure to have a thorough check with your trusted doctor.
To recap, if you are having a Panic Attack, try this
What to Say to Yourself…
What to Do…
Why not take a pic of this with your phone so you have it on hand if you think you might be heading for a Panic Attack.
Challenging anxious thoughts is a very important part of learning how to manage your anxiety and panic attacks.
If you need more help, contact me at ThoughtMatters 0414 99 66 13 so we can tailor steps you can take to manage and overcome your Panic Attacks.
0414 99 66 13
Some of the above is from a helpful website THIS WAY UP.
Check out THIS WAY UP for more information.
It’s a word that makes people uncomfortable.
It still carries a stigma of fear, sadness and, for some, even shame.
If we were more able to talk about the ‘s’ word openly we could help each other deal with isolation, depression, anxiety and provide support and a road to recovery.
Have you guessed?
Suicide kills almost twice as many Australians as the national road toll each year.
More than 3 million Australians are living with depression and/or anxiety today.
Of those people, more than half will not seek help.
While we can talk about the number of people dying on the roads and suffering and dying with breast and prostate cancer, as soon as suicide is mentioned, many of us look for ways to change the conversation. It can make us uncomfortable because we may be afraid, embarrassed, or feel out of our depth.
R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that we’ve all got what it takes to ask, “are you ok?” and support those struggling with life . Suicide is something that many people consider as a way to make their emotional pain stop. Some people feel suicide is the only way they can escape their situation, however, it can be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It can be daunting to ask someone if they feel suicidal, often for fear that the person may say “yes”. Then what?!
Before you can look out for others, you need to look out for yourself. And that’s ok. If you're not in the right headspace or you don't think you're the right person to have the conversation, try to think of someone else in their support network who could talk to them.
To help you decide whether you’re ready to start a meaningful conversation, check out R U OK?’s four steps
If there is someone you know who seems isolated, depressed, overwhelmed, or behaving differently to their normal self, find an opportunity to ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide. It’s important not to beat around the bush, but clearly ask.
Don’t start off by saying “ You’re not thinking about doing something silly, are you?” Show the person you respect them and care about how they are feeling by saying something like “ Are you ok? I’ve noticed you are under a lot of pressure/ feeling low/ aren’t participating in things at the moment. Are you feeling suicidal?” or “Are you thinking about harming yourself?”
If the person isn’t suicidal, they simply say “No”, and are usually clear that that isn’t an option they think about. They do not feel offended and the conversation moves on quite naturally after that.
If the person says “Yes”, it is often accompanied by a sense of relief that they are able to talk about how serious their pain is, and the first baby step on the way to keeping them safe.
If you do know someone who is suicidal, stay with them, or arrange for someone else to be with them until you are able to get professional assistance from a doctor, counsellor or other mental health professional. Call Lifeline anytime on 13 11 14 if you need support with this.
Many people worry that asking the suicide question may put ideas into the person’s head. According to Lifeline, it is simply not the case. In fact, it’s a question that Lifeline telephone counsellors are trained to ask each caller as part of their mission to achieve an Australia free of suicide.
Read more about how to ask someone "Are you OK?' here
“Are you OK?” Ask the question, have the conversation. You may just save someone’s life.
0414 99 66 13
How do you know when it would be helpful to talk with a counsellor? Many people don’t even know what counsellors do, and what types of things we can help with.
Some of the reasons people see a counsellor include; not coping, feeling ‘stuck’ in difficult relationships with others or yourself, divorce or separation, death of a loved one, a traumatic event, parenting issues, addictions, coping with a serious illness, carer burnout, workplace distress, the list goes on...
Here are just a few of the feelings you may have which could be helped by visiting a counsellor… stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, confusion, resentment, shame, anger, grief, loss, depression...
What happens in a session? Our first session generally begins with a quick overview of what confidentiality means, then a check in with how you are feeling coming into the session. In a few moments, you will find you are able to begin the process of unburdening some of your problems, fears, frustrations, pressures and complications. Often, the first session uncovers some priorities and goals, which we continue to explore and finesse as the work progresses over the course of the sessions.
At ThoughtMatters, I take a caring, person-centred, empathetic approach, avoiding judgments and assumptions, and really ‘ hearing’ what you have to say, while respecting the unique perspective and individual values you may hold.
A counsellor is bound by a code of professional conduct to ensure confidentiality is maintained. This security, as well as knowing this therapeutic relationship is separate from other relationships in your life, allows you to speak freely and honestly.
Professional counselling provides a structure and framework to assist you to work through the issues that matter most to you. Professional boundaries are established to ensure you feel safe, respected and supported throughout your journey.
Your counsellor is trained to assess important safety aspects such as suicide risk, family violence or risk to children, and provide support or professional referrals to get help where it is needed.
Talking with a counsellor is very different from talking with a close friend or family member.
While talking with someone close about a problem is something we can sometimes do successfully, there are many situations or issues you may have where talking to a counsellor may be a better option.
Often, the issues and concerns that people share with their counsellor aren’t things they are comfortable to share with a friend.
While a friendship is an important part of a support team, friends have their own opinions, beliefs, prejudices and values, which may colour their advice. Friendships can have an imbalance in power, status, or reliability, which can make you feel compelled to follow their advice for fear of being judged.
Friends may also find it difficult to maintain confidentiality, or be completely honest for fear of hurting feelings and harming the friendship.
Talking with your counsellor is not like a normal two-way conversation where your friend may relate shared experiences or personal stories to make you feel less alone. It is the one-way dialogue you have with your counsellor that keeps the conversation focused on your story, your issues and your goals that ultimately helps you find your solutions.
There is a high chance you know other people who have successfully seen a counsellor about some problems or issues that worried them. Many Australians see a counsellor at some point in their life, but fewer people talk about it.
If you are reading this, and you have already been helped by seeing a counsellor, there may be opportunities in your life where you can encourage someone else to reach out and get help for themselves.
The connection you make with your counsellor - the quality of the therapeutic relationship - has been proven to be the most important factor for a positive outcome, which means you will be looking for the right ‘fit’ with your counsellor.
Remember, you don’t have to resolve your difficulties on your own. Make an appointment to speak with a skilled listener who is bound by professional ethics of confidentiality and trained to support you to get through these difficult times.
If you are facing an emotional challenge, want to improve a relationship, reduce your stress or anxiety, or get out of feeling ‘stuck’ in an overwhelming pattern, this is the time to make an appointment.
* Call for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if it’s something we can work through together.
0414 99 66 13
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.