Day 15 – Anxiety and our thoughts

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a passion for helping people who struggle with anxiety. I have dealt with my own difficulties with this in the past so it is important to me to try to pass along some of my own learnings to others. Today we’re going to address how our thoughts are connected to our anxiety.

I’d like to keep this brief since there is a lot of information already on this site in the Anxiety Series. I do feel it’s worth mentioning again though because our thoughts play such a huge role in our anxious feelings. Let’s look at a few of the ways they are linked:

1) Rumination – Yesterday’s topic, rumination, was described as a potential cause of depression but it can also create anxiety. If you’re spending an entire day or evening going over and over again in your mind a small mistake you made earlier in the day, it is likely highly if you aren’t feeling “down,” you’re feeling anxious. I have done this myself. Earlier in the week I accidentally forgot a coffee date with a friend and stood her up! I felt terrible! I apologized of course but it kept crossing my mind repeatedly throughout the night causing a great deal of anxiety until I finally, intentionally, decided to let it go.

2) What If? – There is a post about this in the Anxiety Series. Are you someone that always thinks about the “What Ifs?” What If’s are a huge cause for anxiety, as your mind absolutely spirals considering all the bad things that could potentially happen in a given situation. Yes, bad things can happen and they do happen sometimes. But worrying about every little thing that could go wrong won’t prevent them from happening nor will it give you any more control over the situation. It will only create stress and anxiety!

3) Do you focus a lot on what you don’t want or don’t have? Of course it’s good to have an idea of what we do and don’t want out of life. That helps provide structure and boundaries so we don’t say yes to everything but rather focus on that which really matters. However, if you spend the majority of your time concerned about everything you’re trying to avoid in life or prevent from occuring, you’re gonna miss what IS happening NOW. One of the major struggles for people dealing with anxiety is an inability to live in the present!

Like I said, I am gonna keep this brief. If you are interested in reading more about anxiety, check out the Less Anxiety in 21 Days on this blog. Topics include: types of anxiety, strategies to reduce anxiety, personal stories and more!

Questions? Comments?

Day 14 – Depression and our Thoughts

“Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, in looking clearly at thought processes and gradually detaching from them, offers a wonderful sense of having something practical to work with, as you edge your way towards freedom and chip away at the glue sticking you to those depressive thoughts, which can become a complete circular system, in fact, a prison.”

The above quotation comes an article entitled Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression by Sarah Luczaj and in my opinion describes well the benefits Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can have on depression. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, today we’re going to look at the connection between depression and our thoughts.

Please note: As mentioned in the quote… depression varies in severity from feeling “down in the dumps” to incredibly intense and “prison-like.” If at ANY point, you feel like you want to harm yourself seek help! (Or if you suspect someone you know is feeling that way). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource and their number is:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

This is a tricky one. There are many possible causes for depression (similar to what I described in the anxiety series – Day 2). There is not usually a quick fix. Sometimes we feel down during a difficult season of grieving or relationship problems etc. and eventually it passes but the “time heals all wounds” advice does not work in all cases. There are hereditary and biological causes for depression among others and at times approaches such as therapy, medication etc. are needed to stabilize someone.

However, there are things we can do to prevent depression, specifically related to our thoughts, and that will be the focus for today.

The main concept I want to describe is called rumination. Essentially it’s this: When we mull over distressing situations, interactions, events etc. from the past. It is impossible to move forward with the future if we’re stuck in the past! Can you relate to any of these situations?

  • You have to bail on a friend who you promised you would help with a project. You call at the last minute and cancel and then feel terrible about it, continually thinking about it and feeling guilty for the rest of the night. You can’t seem to let it go.
  • You accidentally offend someone at work. Your words were unintentional but you saw the hurt look on your co-worker’s face and can’t  get it out of your mind. You feel “blue” the rest of the day.
  • You move to a new place and have a hard time making friends because you’re so focused on your old friends. You feel like you’ll never meet quality people like them again and spend the majority of your free time reminiscing about all the fun times of the past. In the meantime, you neglect to invest in community at your new home and are sad that you spend so much time alone.
  • You’ve been cheated on in the past and have been struggling to trust men ever since. You keep replaying the many conversations you and your ex had surrounding the affair and cannot fathom ever being in a trusting relationship in the future. Your dwell on this often, find it hard to concentrate on anything and feel lonely and depressed.

Horrible things happen sometimes. And this is not meant to make big events seem unimportant! However, ruminating on events of the past can make us depressed, unmotivated and feeling stuck.

Here are some thoughts about rumination:

  1. When ruminating, we tend to focus on the negative. Everything that went wrong or could have been handled differently repeats over and over in our minds.
  2. When runimating ,we become stuck in our thoughts taking us away from community. The support of others is absolutely crucial and if we get too wrapped up in our own thoughts and isolate ourselves, we have a higher liklihood of becoming depressed.
  3. When ruminating, we expend a lot of energy replaying events/interactions  in our minds and it can decrease our overall energy.

So… the moral of the story? Leave the past in the past! There is nothing you can do to change it, even though we lead ourselves to believe on some level that obsessing over things gives us more control. It’s not true.

Continue going over the faulty beliefs talked about in Day 3 and try to create more balanced thoughts. This will help a lot. (Are you noticing a theme throughout the series)?

Till tomorrow… :)

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