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Mental Health Real Life Stuff Self Care Uncategorised

Mending the Pessimist

Had you asked me if I were an optimist, up until a very short time ago I would have said “Yes, of course”. I always try to see the best in everyone and in every situation. I go to work each day hoping for a positive experience and I go to bed each night fully expecting to wake up the next day. That’s optimism, right?

But while I always believed my glass to be half full, there was a constant fear I’d knock it over. The more I thought about it the more examples I could find of times when I would be hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

My boss would ask to speak to me and my heart would pound as I wondered what I had done wrong. What shortcoming was about to be exposed? I felt like I wasn’t enough and it was only a matter of time before everybody else would see the truth.

A letter arriving in the post would send my head spinning and my skin would flush with fire. I would be sure it was going to be a bill I couldn’t afford to pay (despite the fact I’ve always been fortunate enough to have sufficient to pay them).

If I was invited out for an evening fear would set in. I’d know I wasn’t going to have fun and I would feel out of place.

Yes, it turns out I am a pessimist, or at least I was. I am now choosing to identify as a recovering pessimist.

I feel like I have been taking antidepressants for so long they have become a part of my identity. Am I predisposed to depression due to being a pessimist or am I a pessimist due to depression, and can I change?

I decided to rewire and retrain my brain. To switch to positive thinking and optimism and to move away from a negative mindset and I found an amazing place to start.

Let me tell you a little bit about REBT.

When I decided that a new way of thinking was in order I did a quick Google Search. This is one of the first things that came up when I typed in ‘can you change from being a pessimist to an optimist’.

So what is it? Well it stands for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy and it’s part of the same family of therapies as CBT.

It is founded on the belief that our emotions are not disturbed by events themselves but our interpretations of those events.

According to the founder of REBT there are 10 cognitive distortions that act as lenses we experience things through.

1. Mental filtering – focusing on negative events rather than any positive outcome.

2. Jumping to conclusions – assuming the worst.

3. Personalisation – Disproportionately blaming yourself when things go wrong.

4. Black and white thinking – All or nothing, good or bad, right or wrong.

5. Catastrophising – believing things to be much worse than they are.

6. Overgeneralization – everything ALWAYS goes wrong.

7. Labeling – I’m useless, I’m a failure etc.

8. Should and Must – This should happen this way, this must not happen!

9. Emotional Reasoning – viewing a situation based on how we felt in that moment.

10. Magnification and minimisation – magnifying other people’s positive attributes while minimising your own.

There are 3 basic ‘Musts’ that cause the distortions.

1. I must do well and win the approval of others or else I am no good.

2. Other people must treat me fairly or else they are no good.

3. I must get what I want when I want it or else I can’t stand it.

REBT uses the ABCDE Method to look at our thoughts and reframe them into more healthy and helpful ones.

A – Activating event. An event that happens in our environment.

B – Belief you have about the event that has happened.

C – Consequence. The emotional response to your belief.

D – Disputing the unhelpful belief.

E – Effect of deactivating the unhelpful belief.

So in my case, one of my massive triggers and fears was making a mistake at work.

A – Going to work.
B – If I make a mistake it will be terrible. I will get in trouble with my boss and lose my job and end up destitute.
C – Panic attacks, crying, being off work sick.

With reflection and effort I’ve got to D & E.

D – People make mistakes all the time and they’re rarely serious enough to result in dismissal. I always work hard and try my best and as long as I do that, the odd mistake from time to time is okay.

E – I am calmer, more forgiving of myself and happier at work.

The ultimate goal in this is to shift your thinking from the three musts to the three types of acceptance, these are…

1. I am imperfect and that is ok. I have worth regardless of my shortcomings.

2. Other people will treat me unfairly at times and that is ok. It does not remove their worth or my own.

3. Life doesn’t always have to go to plan or be pleasant. It isn’t awful and it is usually at least bearable.

So there it is, a very brief summary of REBT. I’ve personally found it really helpful.

If you’d like more information on REBT there is a great course (which I found really helpful) on Udemy that is currently on offer.

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Forward Thinking Mental Health Real Life Stuff Self Care Uncategorised

Stop!

Blue Sky over a path

It might seem strange to be starting with a post about stopping but bear with me…

I have been working on shifting my mindset in so many different ways and the plan was to see what worked what didn’t, and to write about the things that did. To write, not as an expert, but a veteran. To show tried and tested ways to feel better.

I have lots of things I’m going to write about in the coming weeks on my mission to change my thought process and shift my mindset to one that serves me, rather than enslaves me. I have decided however, that rather than writing as a veteran who’s been through it I’m going to write these pages and let them serve as a journal. I will chart my progress and put it out there for all to see. I hope it will be interesting and I hope it will be helpful. The reason I want to do it this way is because what works for me might not work for others and likewise, what works for others might not work for me so if I try something that I don’t find useful it may help someone else.

Before I get to any of the ‘how’ I want to say this… Changing the Habit of a lifetime it’s hard work! It can feel exhausting and it is ok to rest when you need it. Stamina builds over time. Nobody does a marathon in their first attempt at running, they train they build endurance and they keep going on their journey – but when they are tired they rest. The more they train the longer they are able to go between rests.

I’ve always been a very all or nothing sort of person. I would stop at the first set back because what’s the point? I wanted to go from zero to expert in one giant leap and obviously that isn’t the way of the world. What I’m learning now is slow and steady wins the race. You’re allowed an off day and it’s ok to stop, just as long as you remember to start again.

And this brings me to last night. Last night after a lot of good days I hit a wall. My mind was crammed with all the things I’ve been learning, body language, facial expressions, feedback loops, REBT, breathing, tone of voice, the list goes on. I was knackered and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered. I wanted to put it all down and let my head just do what it wanted. I didn’t have the energy to be positive. Do you know I did? I had a glass of wine and I gave myself permission to exhale. I watched some telly with my husband and I cuddled my dog and just relaxed.

Today I feel ready to go again, ready to pick up the tools that I’ve been learning to use and keep going. Life is a marathon not a sprint, so let’s dust off our running shoes and get to it.

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Mental Health Real Life Stuff Uncategorised

Time Out

I was fortunate enough recently to go on a holiday to Wales with JJ, supporting our friend Jimmy, who is Deafblind. I never expected the holiday to be much other than work. It was so much more.

We had a wonderful time and made new friends who I hope will be in our lives forever. The views were breathtaking, the air clean and rich with smells of the country (yes – all of them).  I fell head over heels in love with every hill and valley and with the family that welcomed us into their home. I can’t wait to go back.

The most surprising thing we discovered when we arrived in this little patch of paradise was that there was no phone signal in the house. I didn’t know such places still existed! Our hosts generously offered to hook us up to the wifi but in what can only be described as a temporary lapse in sanity, a fleeting moment of wreckless abandon, I said “No thank you” and went off grid.

What happened next was magic.  I was present, truely present in the moments, in the room and in my head. I was no longer half listening with one eye on my social media. I was learning interesting things about the interesting people around me, I was spending time outdoors and playing wholeheartedly with the children…

I WAS BOTTLE FEEDING BABY GOATS!

BABY GOAT

All of the crap that life seems to constantly bombard us with dispersed and as the week went by the urge to check on what I was missing out on ebbed away too.

According to an offcom study, the average British Adult checks their phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week! I’m one of them.  Phones are fab for keeping in touch but when I think about everything else I’ve been letting in with it…Brexit, War , Crime, Global Warming, Donald Trump, plus the constant media portrayal of perfect bodies, perfect lives, perfect lies… it’s no wonder I’m so overwhelmed half the time.

I realised during that week that my fear of missing out on what the world is doing can be the cause of me missing out on my own life. So I’m putting down the phone, even if it’s only for an hour a day.  I’m getting out there, for a walk, or taking time to sit and write or read a book. I’ll spend more time catching up with loved ones.  I will do something to bring myself more into the world and enjoy these moments while I can.

Thank you so much Mark, Sarah, Joe, Erin and Elliott (and a special mention to my best goat Wicket) for bringing me a bit of peace and a bit of perspective.  I can’t wait to see you all again soon.

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World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a subject very close to my heart and I want to take a moment to acknowledge it, and the importance of speaking out.

That’s why I’m literally speaking out. I write a lot and I know what I say resonates with people in similar situations because they tell me, but today I want to give my words a voice. My voice.

Mental Illness isn’t a dirty word.

Mental Illness isn’t something to be laughed at or ignored. It is no more a sign of weakness than having cancer or the flu or a broken bone. It is something that can affect us all at some point in our life, be it directly or indirectly.

We should not shy away from mental illness, we should talk about it before it becomes too much of a burden to carry and it crushes us beneath its weight. We should help other people by reaching out and asking them how they are and listening to the answer that is hidden behind the “I’m fine thanks” that will invariably follow.

We can recover from mental illness and we can relapse and it’s all part of the journey. It’s all okay. Just know that help is there. Be that help for someone else, reach out if you’re the person needing help yourself. Reach out when you feel yourself slipping, reach out before you fall too far.

Most of all, know this. Whether you have good mental health or whether you struggle, you are perfect, whole and complete. You are beautiful and you matter and whether you feel it or whether you don’t You make the world better by being a part of it.

There are lots of ways to help yourself heal, be it medication or meditation, talking therapies or just writing down the words to get them out keep trying until you get there and then keep trying some more. Take time to do things enjoy, if you don’t know what that is, dabble until you do. Be kind to yourself, love yourself until you start to FEEL that love again.

I want to finish by saying you never know what battle another person is fighting. Be kind because your compassion may be the catalyst that helps another person step back on the road to wellness.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me on my path, if I did it, so can you.

No matter how broken we might feel at times, we are strong, we are beautiful and we are whole.

Keep on keeping on, we’ve got this!