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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.