Challenging negative thoughts

Chapter 4 of Owning It by Caroline Foran discusses the Negativity Bias, which Foran defines as “the way in which negative experiences weigh more heavily on the brain than positive ones.”

The exercise provided at the end of the chapter entitled ‘Cognitive Restructuring’, is designed to help you look at your negative thoughts logically and reduce your belief in “unhelpful thoughts”, in other words, to give your thoughts a fair trial. It consists of eight steps and as I list them out below, I’m going include my own situation that this exercise helped me with immensely just yesterday.

Step 1: Identify the situation

I’m going to a show in the city centre by myself. I feel sad (pathetic) going by myself. I’d rather go home and be in my comfort zone. I’m going to have to rush from work, plus I have no idea where or if I can get food beforehand. I probably won’t enjoy it.

Step 2: Analyse your mood

  • Dread
  • Sadnessdownload (6)

Step 3: Identify the automatic thoughts

  • I’ll end up with an empty stomach all night
  • It won’t be enjoyable
  • I’ll stand out like a sore thumb
  • It’ll go on too long
  • It’ll be mad late by the time I get home

Step 4: Find objective supportive evidence

  • It used to take me up to an hour to get into the city when I went to college in the evenings from work
  • I don’t know where I can eat – there are no food places around the venue

Step 5: Find objective contradictory evidence

  • There is a restaurant down the road from my office, according to my co-worker, and I can always have snacks if worse comes to worse
  • I’ve seen people attend shows solo plenty of times
  • Shows usually go on no longer than three hours
  • Traffic is clear at night so I’ll be home quickly
  • There will be a break halfway through the show so I can decide if I want to stay or not – I’m not a prisoner!

Step 6: Identify fair and balanced thoughts

  • If it’s not enjoyable, I’m not obliged to stay
  • Ninety minutes is plenty of time to get food and get into the city
  • I’ll more than likely be home at my usual time when I’m out with friends
  • Who cares if I’m alone?

Step 7: Monitor your present mood

  • Calmer
  • Less tense

Step 8: Create positive affirmations

  • I am confident
  • I am a good time-keeper
  • I make good choices

It turned out that the show actually started later than I had originally thought so I had plenty of time to get food in a traditional fish & chips restaurant nearby and made it in to the city with plenty of time to spare, so much so that I had to pass time. This exercise really helped me, though I was afraid to admit it at the time. I didn’t feel dread anymore, instead my anxiety settled as I looked at the situation from every angle and it no longer seemed scary.

And yes, I had a great time!

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Social anxiety – friend or foe?

Social anxiety is not a term I use lightly. I understand that it’s not just a matter of dreading going out on a particular night or outing. According to Social Anxiety Ireland, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) can be defined as:

“…the persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which one is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others, and where exposure to such situations provoke intense anxiety.”

Some level of anxiety in social situations is normal, I know that, but for me it’s more complex than that.

Yesterday, I had two birthday celebrations to attend. One started at 3.00pm and I had planned to simply drop in for an hour. The next was at 7.00pm. I ended up attending neither of them.

The first birthday celebration I justified cancelling because it was at least a 45-minute drive from my home and it felt pointless because I wouldn’t have been able to stay that long.

The second one I cancelled on very last minute. My sister could see how much I was dreading it and suggested I cancel, otherwise I would spend the whole time leading up to the party in constant dread and anxiety. She told me to accept my anxiety and to not apologise for it. Thankfully both my friends were cool about my cancellations, but I’m not sure either of them know of my anxiety, or if they do, they certainly don’t know how bad it is. Believe me, I’m still beating myself up.

Perhaps my social anxiety isn’t as bad as other’s, but it can be quite debilitating. My fiancé wishes he could cure it for me but I think what I really need to do is accept it and not see it as the enemy. I’m starting with this book:

Book

According to Foran, trying to find a “cure” for anxiety is pointless and will only worsen your symptoms. Her advice, as I mentioned above, is to accept it as she did and say: “alright, anxiety is something I’m dealing with, it’s not fun, but it’s here, and the more I resist it, the more it rears its ugly head.”

I admire her attitude and look forward to exploring her method of “befriending” my anxiety, which I’ll be sharing here and will hopefully help others who are in the same boat. As Foran puts it, it’s time own it.

#365_Today #134_K

K is for Kitty!

K is for Kitty

Motivation against depression: falling into a rut

Falling into a rut seems inevitable when you have depression, but when do we stop and realise that it’s gone too far? Gradually you stop exercising, stop going out as much, basically you withdraw from everything that used to bring you pleasure. I’m in a rut, unfortunately, and I’ve known this for a while. As you already know I stopped exercising, stopped meditating and stopped writing. The last one especially is very sad because I used to write non-stop and now I’m lucky if I write once a week. However, the one thing that’s really highlighted the severity of my rut is that I’m not reading as much.

“You’re still reading that book?”

This was a comment from a co-worker the other day as he passed my desk and saw Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth sitting on my desk, as it has done for the past couple of weeks. Everyone in my office knows that I read constantly and that I set goals on Goodreads, and they always ask what my new book is every time they see me reading something different (not always obvious when I have my Kindle). It’s not that I’m not enjoying the book I’m currently reading, I absolutely love Veronica Roth and her Divergent series. Carve the Mark is brilliant and yet I can’t motivate myself to read it as much as I would normally do. It’s one thing for my writing to fall on the back burner, but reading is something else.

A Reddit user said he reads at least 50 pages a day and I used to stick to that, though a lot of the time I surpassed that mark.

I’m determined to finish this book, I’m about three quarters through. I doubt I’ll finish it today, but perhaps tomorrow. I’m afraid to check my Goodreads reading challenge to see how far behind I am. Do I really have to force myself to read again? It’s a sad reality but another hurdle I have to conquer. After all, I can dwell on the fact that what used to bring me pleasure has sunk into the abyss of my depression…

…or I can just read.