Steps to Help You Stop Worrying About Things You Can't Change
If you struggle with persistent anxiety, it is likely that excessive worrying is partly to blame. Although you may sometimes feel worrying is beneficial in that it protects us from being unprepared or caught off guard, for a vast majority of people it causes more problems than it solves. There are a number of ways cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help reduce excessive worry. One way is through evaluating the worry, to determine whether it is productive or unproductive.
There's a hard truth in life that some people refuse to accept: We have no control over many of the things that happen in your life and some people who resist this truth are in danger of become control freaks. They micromanage, refuse to delegate tasks and try to force other people to change. They think if they can gain enough control over other people and the situations they find themselves in, they can prevent ‘bad’ things from happening. Although they often don’t think through properly what this ‘bad’ thing actually is.
Some people know they can't prevent things they don’t want to happen happening, but they worry about them anyway. They fret about everything from natural disasters to deadly diseases. Their worries keep them occupied, but ultimately they waste their time and energy, because worrying doesn’t change anything.
If you find yourself wasting time worrying about things you can't control, here are five things that can help:
Look at what you are able to control.
When you find yourself worrying, take some time to look at the things you do have control over. You can't prevent a storm from coming, but you can prepare for it. You can't control how someone else behaves, but you can control how you react to it.
Learn to recognise that, sometimes, all you can control is your response. When you put your energy into the things you can control, you'll be much more effective.
Focus on what you can influence.
You can suggest things to people and influence circumstances but you can't demand that things to go your way. For example; you can give your child the tools they need to do well in their exams and encourage them to revise but you can't make them pass. Or you can plan a good party, but you can't make people have fun.
To have the most influence, you can only focus on changing your behaviour. You can be a good role model and set healthy boundaries for yourself. When you have concerns about someone else's actions, share your opinion, but only share it once. There is no point in trying to ‘fix’ people who don't want to be fixed because the only person who gets upset when your expectations are not met, is you.
Identify your fears.
Have a long, hard think and be honest with yourself as to what you are really afraid will happen? Are you predicting a catastrophic outcome? Do you doubt your ability to cope with disappointment if things don’t go your way? Usually, our worst-case scenario doesn’t happen. However, if it does, you will of course deal with it, you just won’t necessarily like it. There's a good chance you are stronger than you think.
Sometimes people are so busy thinking things such as “I mustn’t lose my job” that they don't take the time to ask themselves “well what would I do if I did?" People avoid thinking their worst case right through to the end, but by doing this, and acknowledging that you will handle it can help get things in to perspective.
Differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving.
Replaying conversations in your head or imagining catastrophic outcomes over and over again isn't helpful. But solving a problem is.
Ask yourself whether your thinking is productive. If you are actively solving a problem, such as trying to find ways to increase your chances of success, keep working on solutions.
If, however, you're wasting your time ruminating, then it’s time to channel your thoughts to become more productive Acknowledge that your thoughts aren't helpful is a step in the right direction.
Learn to think rationally rather than irrationally.
By changing our thought process and what we tell ourselves can help keep us in check. When you find yourself thinking and catastrophising about something you have no control over then it is unhelpful. Telling yourself "people have to think that I my presentation is good at work tomorrow or it will be terrible!" is irrational - because it doesn’t change the fact that people might not like it. However, if you talk to yourself in a more helpful, rational way, such as “I would prefer it if everyone liked my presentation and it will be disappointing if they don’t, however I will of course deal with it” Then it will help you from stop wasting your energy on things you can't control.
There are several questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your worry which should give you a better idea whether the worry is helpful or just background noise that only serves to increase your anxiety:
1) What is your worst case scenario in this situation?
2) How many times before has your worst case scenario actually happened?
3) What steps can you take to reduce any like hood that the worst case might happen?
4) What is your best case scenario in this situation?
5) What is the most likely scenario in this situation?
6) List all other possible scenarios/outcomes in this situation? How would you respond/behave?
7) If your worst case scenario was to happen – how would you deal with it? Visualise this in your mind. How would you respond/behave?
8) Is it productive worrying about this? Is it going to change the outcome?
Most of us have experienced anger at some point in our life; it’s a common emotion and it can range from irritability through to rage.
CBT suggests that anger is an ‘unhealthy negative emotion’ and there is no room for it in our lives - ever. This is because, in general, anger is based on what are called irrational (not fact based) beliefs - that life is unfair and/or someone has violated our internal beliefs about how we think someone ‘should’ or ‘should not’ behave.
Anger can be serious and can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical health and of the mental and physical health of those around you.
As a result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated/disrespected or that others have broken our moral rules, principals, standards or expectations, we then fall into a ‘catastrophising’ trap where we angrily claim that we can’t or won’t tolerate it! This unhelpful way of thinking leads to anger, which in turn stimulates the body's adrenaline response resulting in us behaving in (or getting the urge to behave) in a threatening or aggressive manner.
There are often three major MUSTs involved when we feel the emotion of anger:-
1) I have do well, be perfect, outstanding and I have towin the approval of others otherwise it will be awful. I can’t stand it if I am no good and have toalways be faultless and people have tothink I am right all the time!
2) Other people should do the right things or be a certain way and they should lead their lives according to my principals and beliefs. They should treat me well and be kind and considerate at all times otherwise they are horrible and no good.
3) Lifemust be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience. I must not have any hassle or else it will be unbearable and unfair.
Anger is expressed in different ways. It can be acted out immediately by shouting, throwing or breaking things and more seriously it can result in physical violence. Different people express their anger in different ways. Some suppress their anger and then act in a passive aggressive manner by sulking, withdrawing, being obstructive, giving dirty looks, ignoring someone, manipulating people or situations, withholding information and making excuses. A person who behaves in this way might not always show that they are angry, but underneath they are.
At other times anger is suppressed and then released in an aggressive burst. This can feel an instant relief but in the long term this is destructive and can lead to other emotional problems.
The Anger Cycle
Some people tend to become angry very easily (sometimes called a "short fuse") and some have problems controlling their anger. Anger has consequence which often involves hurting other people, usually their feelings, but sometimes physically.
After an angry outburst, we often think very critically of ourselves and our actions, leading us to feel guilt and shame which might result in our withdrawing from others, not wanting to do anything
How CBT Can Help
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) takes the view, that there are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to a situation - which is determined the meaning we attach to it. If we have a tendency to view a situation in a negative, unhelpful way, based on interpretation rather than fact, then it can lead to negative emotions; such as anger.
CBT suggests that it’s not about like or dislike/positive or negative, it’s about rational. CBT doesn’t suggest that you are required to ‘like’ it when someone does or says something that you don’t happen to agree with, it just helps you to take responsibility for the reaction to your thoughts and respond more rationally to it.
CBT argues that because we are human, at times we are going to feel ‘annoyed’ but anger is a pointless, destructive, unhelpful behaviour which destroys our own lives and the lives of the people around us.
So if you need help with Anger Management - Contact Ashford Counselling today.
No one enjoys feeling jealous or insecure, even though jealousy is an emotion that almost all of us will experience at one point or another. The problem with jealousy isn’t that it comes up from time to time, it’s when we don’t get hold of it. It can be frightening to experience what happens when we allow our jealousy to overpower us or to shape the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us. That is why understanding where our insecure/jealous feelings actually come from and learning how to deal with them, in a healthy way, is key to happiness in so many areas of our lives.
So, why do we get jealous?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of studies have shown that increased jealousy tends to correlate with low a self-esteem driven by our critical inner voice. This inner voice is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others and is at the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behaviour. The critical inner voice is not an actual voice that speaks to us, it’s best described as self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that exists in all of us and stop us from achieving our goals. Many of us are unaware that we have a critical inner voice because it comes so natural to have self-critical thoughts about ourselves.
This inner voice can fuel our feelings of jealousy by filling our heads with critical or suspicious commentary. In fact, the reality is; what our critical inner voice tells us about our situation is often more difficult to deal with than the situation itself. A rejection or betrayal from our romantic partner is painful, but what often hurts us even more are all the terrible things our critical inner voice tells us about ourselves after the event. “You’re such an idiot. Did you really think you could really love you? You are going to end up all alone. You should never trust anyone again.”
There tend to be two types of jealousy – romantic jealousy and competitive jealousy. And whilst they do overlap it can help us to understand how both can have a negative impact our lives.
It’s a basic reality that relationships go smoother when people don’t get overly jealous. Concern over ones relationship is healthy whereas jealousy is destructive and unhealthy. The more we get a hold of our feelings of jealousy and make sense of them, separate from our partner, the better off we will be. Remember, our jealousy often comes from our own insecurity - a feeling like we are doomed to be deceived, hurt or rejected. Unless we deal with this feeling in ourselves, we are likely to fall victim to feelings of jealousy, distrust or insecurity in any relationship, no matter what the circumstances.
These negative feelings about ourselves often stem from our early childhood experiences. We often take on the feelings our parents or caregivers had toward us or toward themselves. We then, unconsciously, replay, recreate or react to old, familiar dynamics in our current relationships. For example, if we felt cast aside as children, we may easily perceive our partner as ignoring us, or we may choose a partner who’s more elusive, or even engage in behaviours that would push them away.
The extent to which we took on self-critical attitudes as children often shapes how much our critical inner voice will affect us in our adult lives, especially in our relationships. Yet, no matter what our unique experiences may be, we all possess this inner critic to a certain extent. Most of us can relate to carrying around a feeling that we didn’t want to have. Often, lurking behind any jealous/paranoid feelings towards our partners, or a perceived third-party threat, are critical thoughts toward ourselves. Thoughts such as, ‘What does he see in her?’ can quickly turn into ‘She is so much prettier/thinner/more successful than me!’ Even when our worst fears become a reality and we learn of a partner’s affair, we often react by directing anger at ourselves for being “foolish or unlovable”
Our critical inner voice then tells us not to trust or be too vulnerable. It reminds us we are unlovable and unsuitable for a romantic relationship. It’s that nagging voice that plants the seed of doubt, suspicion and uncertainty. “Why is she working so late?” “Why is she choosing her friends over me all the time?” “What is he even doing when I’m away?” “Why is he paying so much attention to what she’s saying?”
For those of us who are familiar with how jealousy works, knows that, all too often, these thoughts slowly start to sprout and blossom into much larger, more engrained attacks on ourselves and/or our partner. “She doesn’t want to be around you. There must be someone else.” “He’s losing interest. He wants to get away from you.” “Who would want to listen to you anyway? You’re so boring.”
These jealous feeling can arise at any point in a relationship and in an attempt to protect ourselves, we may listen to our inner critic and pull back from being close to our partner. Yet its catch twenty two because we tend to feel more jealous and insecure if we know on some level we’re not making our relationship a priority or actively going after our goal of being loving or close. That is why it’s even more essential not to blindly act on jealous feelings by pushing our partner further away.
While it may feel pointless or illogical, it is completely natural to want what others have and to feel competitive. However, how we use these feelings is very important to our level of satisfaction and happiness. If we use these feelings to serve our inner critic, to tear down ourselves or others, that is clearly a destructive pattern with demoralizing effects. However, if we don’t let these feelings fall into the hands of our critical inner voice, we can actually use them to acknowledge what we want, to be more goal-directed or even to feel more accepting of ourselves and what affects us.
Its okay, even healthy, to allow ourselves to have a competitive thought. It can feel good when we simply let ourselves have the momentary feeling without judgment or a plan for action. However, if we ruminate or twist this thought into a criticism of ourselves or an attack on another person, we wind up getting hurt. If we find ourselves having an overreaction or feeling haunted by our feelings of envy, we can do several things.
The unhealthy negative emotion of jealousy is that it is based on what are called ‘unhealthy irrational beliefs’. Which are, more often than not, based on a false interpretation of any given situation. When we start to experience the feeling we then tend to catastrophise about how ‘bad’ things are and our inability to ‘cope’ if our worst case scenario were to be true.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can help you understand your thought process when jealousy strikes and you’re subsequent unhelpful behaviour that follows these thoughts. CBT can help you turn any unhealthy irrational beliefs, into healthy, fact based, rational thinking. CBT also helps you understand, if our worst fears are actually realised, then although we won’t like it or be happy about it, we will of course be able to deal with it.
Once we get into January and February, it can seem awhile since we felt some warm sunshine. We are in the depths of winter and the spring time and summer holidays can seem a long way off. We still have a little while before the spring equinox, when the clocks go forward and the days begin to get a bit longer. Although we can have those lovely crisp winter days when the sun shines and there is a blanket of frost, the UK can have many of those grey days that linger on and on and we barely see the sun for weeks on end.
Many people find that they suffer with SAD (seasonal effective disorder) particularly at this time of year.
What is SAD?
Sad can feel like depressive illness. It is thought to be most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter. This can affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite.
Symptoms of SAD are wide ranging and can include feelings of feeling ‘down’ or depressed, lack of energy, problems with concentration, anxiety, loss of libido, relationship problems and sudden mood changes.
You may feel you need to speak with your GP who can give you the best advice, but he following information may also be helpful to you:-
There are many simple things you can try that may help improve your feelings, these include taking walks out in the natural light when you can, making your home as light and airy as possible. Taking regular exercise can often lift your mood, along with a healthy balanced diet.
Talk to your family and friends about SAD, so they understand how your mood changes during the winter. This can help them to be more supportive and understanding.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) takes the view, that there are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to a situation - which is determined the meaning we attach to it. If we have a tendency to view a situation in a negative, unhelpful way, based on interpretation rather than fact, then it can lead to negative emotions such as depression or SAD,
The ABC of mindfulness
A is for awareness - Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing - what’s going on in your mind and body.
B is for "just Being" with your experience. Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.
C is for seeing things and responding more wisely. By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices.
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.
Some people call this awareness 'mindfulness' and you can take steps to develop it in your own life. Good mental wellbeing means feeling good about life and yourself and being able to get on with life in the way you want.
You may think about wellbeing in terms of what you have: your income, home or car, or your job perhaps. However, evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on wellbeing.
Becoming more aware of the present moment means noticing the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that you experience, as well as the thoughts and feelings that occur from one moment to the next.
Mindfulness, sometimes also called "present-centeredness", can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better.
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
Awareness of this kind doesn't start by trying to change or ‘fix’ anything. It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.
How mindfulness can help
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh many things in the world around us that we have been taking for granted.
Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us.
Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: 'Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?”
Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better.
How you can be mindful
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
Even as we go about our daily lives, we can find new ways of waking up to the world around us. We can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.
It can be helpful to pick a time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
Similarly, notice the busyness of your mind. Just observe your own thoughts, stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It's about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event and not an objective reality that has control over us.
You can practice this anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or thinking about potential future worries/problems.