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5 Ways To Get Organised And Reduce Anxiety

blog banner 5 ways to get organised and reduce anxiety

While this might sound harsh, it's important to acknowledge that we sometimes create our own anxieties. If we can recognise this fact, then that can help us move from a position of helplessness to one of being in more control.

Whether you're struggling with work/school, or keeping on top of things that need doing at home, there are different ways we help ourselves. In this post we focus on ways we can get organised and reduce anxiety.

1. Prioritise

Your 'to do' list of tasks may be ever-growing, and it might often feel that you're constantly working without feeling you're getting much done.

Have a look at your list and see if any of the tasks have deadlines. Ask yourself whether you need to prioritise the tasks which have an end date.

Can other, less pressing, tasks wait until the more urgent stuff gets dealt with?

Are there any tasks on your list which aren't actually your responsibility and need to be allocated to someone else?

2. Break tasks down into smaller steps

You might have things to do which, on the face of it, seem like mammoth tasks. Looking too far ahead at the overall goal may cause you to feel over-whelmed, so one way of dealing with this is to break tasks down into smaller steps.

A very simplified example might be: you have a report to write about staff satisfaction at the company you work for. The report requires a lot of detail and will likely take a considerable time to write.

Thinking about the report is making you feel anxious, so instead you look at the individual tasks you need to get done in order to complete the report. These might include:

  • Doing research on the internet about staff satisfaction in general
  • Interviewing a certain number of colleagues, using specific interview questions
  • Asking staff to complete questionnaires
  • Setting time aside to write the actual report

Once you've broken the overall task (i.e. writing the report) down into these smaller steps, you can then tackle each step separately. That way, once you've completed each step you can feel a sense that you're moving closer towards achieving your goal.

3. Set yourself goals

Setting goals can be a great way of motivating yourself to achieve the things on your 'to do' list. This is where SMART goals come in; you may well have heard of these. Here's what each letter stands for and how it applies to goal setting.

Specific

These are goals which are well defined. You might want to ask yourself things like what you want to achieve; why the goal is important to you; who else is involved; where is it going to take place; and which resources will be needed?

When these things are clearer, this gives you more focus towards your goal and you know what is required to achieve it which can remove a lot of the anxiety.

Measurable

When a goal is measurable, this helps you track your progress and stay motivated. It also means you remain aware of how close you are to achieving your goal.

Achievable

You may want to ask yourself how you can achieve your goal. Do you possess the tools/skills to achieve it, and if not how would you attain those tools/skills? So, instead of feeling anxious that you don't have the skills, you can identify what you need to do to get those skills and go and do it.

Realistic

When setting your goal, you need to be aware of the resources available to you, the knowledge you have, and the time you have to complete the goal. If you set unrealistic goals you may not achieve them and this might leave you feeling like you've failed.

Time-bound

How much time have you allowed yourself to achieve your goal? If you don't allow sufficient time you may not get it done, or you may rush to get it completed and not do it properly.

We've got two more points to add which aren't so much about planning, but more about your mindset.

4. Don't compare yourself to others

We're all different. We all have different skill-sets, different day-to-day responsibilities, and different amounts of available time in any given day.

Therefore, it's futile to look at someone else and perceive that they're achieving more than you, or doing things in a better way.

Don't waste your time focusing on what other people are doing, as this only takes you away on the things you've got to do!

5. Go easy on yourself

There are only so many hours in the day and there's only one of you. You can't do everything.

Use the tips above to help you get more organised and reduce anxiety, but don't beat yourself up if you don't clear your 'to-do' list all at once. There's no such thing as perfect 🙂

Do you have any tips to getting organised? Let us know in the comments!

The Stories We Tell Ourselves: Reframing Our Thinking

Blog banner The stories we tell ourselves

You may or may not have heard of Derren Brown. He's an English mentalist and illusionist who draws upon psychology in his stage and television shows. In one of his stage shows, Miracle, Derren talks about "the stories we tell ourselves" and the power of the mind to evoke change when we make the choice to change those stories.

He explains that we often carry negative stories around with us, likening them to a suitcase full of bricks, and that they can have a lot of power over us if we allow them to.

What's happened can't be changed

We're not suggesting that you should try and convince yourself that whatever experiences you've had haven't happened. Far from it. They have happened, and that is your starting point.

You cannot change what's happened, but we've talked before about how changing your thinking can impact on how you feel. Therefore, if you change how you think about your experiences it's highly likely that you can change how you feel about them.

Changing your thinking

We should start by saying that we're not trivialising people's experiences and we recognise that this approach isn't appropriate for everyone. For example, if you've experienced a significant trauma then you may need specific forms of therapy to address these difficulties.

Some people might need to work through their experiences and the feelings associated with them before they're ready to change how they think. It might be that counselling can help you to do this.

So let's assume you're at a stage where you're ready to consider changing  your thinking. Whilst this might sound overly simplistic, you do have a choice about whether you change your thinking; we all do. Essentially, you can choose to think of events in ways which are helpful or unhelpful to you in the present.

Below we've given a brief example of a client where we've seen a shift in their thinking. This person is a fictional client who has been made up from the details of a number of different clients we've worked with. However, the change in thinking relating to past life events is something we've witnessed in many of our clients.

An example: Lauren

Lauren was a woman in her mid-30s. She was married with two children and worked as a secretary in an accountants' office. She was reasonably happy in her marriage, but often felt distant from her husband and children.

Lauren came to therapy because she'd been physically and psychologically abused by her mother as a child. Her mother had long since passed away, but Lauren felt unable to let go of what had happened and had carried the abuse with her.

Part of therapy involved Lauren exploring her experiences and her feelings about them; something she'd not done before. There were also discussions of what she wanted for her life in the present and for her future. Lauren said she wanted to be able to let go of what had happened and enjoy her life in the here and now.

Towards the end of the therapy, Lauren reported that she felt "lighter". Whilst she acknowledged that her mother's actions were wrong, she now viewed her mother as someone who'd had her own struggles and wasn't capable of demonstrating love to herself let alone to Lauren and her siblings.

It's worth emphasising that Lauren's acknowledgment of her mother's difficulties was not her way of making excuses for what her mother had done. It was the start of a shift in Lauren's thoughts about those events and it enabled her to begin re-writing her story.

The shift in thinking

The story Lauren had told herself for many years had been one where her mother was "cruel" and unloving, and that she (Lauren) was the victim of that cruelty.

Lauren acknowledged that she had gone through a terrible experience; there was nothing that could change that. However, instead of viewing herself as a victim of her mother's abuse Lauren now saw herself as a strong resilient woman. One who was able to demonstrate love to her own children despite the negative experiences she'd gone through because of her mother.

Through her therapy, Lauren had processed what had happened to her. She'd then made the choice to let go of her "old" story and reframe it in a way which empowered her to appreciate and enjoy her life in the here and now.

If it's so beneficial to change our stories, why don't more people do it?

Change is difficult; even if it's change which moves us into a more positive place. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves are comfortable, even if they're painful, because they're what we know and changing them means moving into the unknown.

Also, we often attach our identity to our stories so if we change them we may feel we'll lose our identity. However, we're more than just those stories or experiences, and we can choose not to allow them to define us.

To slightly rephrase a quote from Confucius:

"The man who says he is, and the man who says he isn't...both are correct".

Our minds are powerful and are good at keeping us in a place where we feel helpless; however, we can choose how to use the power of our minds. Therefore, why not use them to move us to a place where we stop the past from holding us back and move forward in the present?

Like we've said, it's not always easy and it's not always simple. But, it can be done because we've seen many clients do exactly that.

Have you managed to change your mindset about something? What impact did that have? Comment below.

7 Ways To Tackle Low Self-Esteem

blog banner 7 ways to tackle low self-esteem

There's a lot of information out there about the symptoms of low self-esteem. It can lead to people withdrawing from social situations, focusing on the negatives, and being unable to take positive feedback (i.e. compliments) from others.

Through our work with clients we often see a link between their low self-esteem and their levels of anxiety.

Where does low self-esteem come from?

Low self-esteem can stem from any number of situations or events.

Perhaps people in your family or teachers at school said certain things which made you feel inadequate. On the other hand, you may not have been told anything directly. It might have been the way other people treated you which led you to believe you're not "good enough".

Stressful life events can also have a negative impact on self-esteem. You might have lost a loved one or experienced a serious illness, and this can all take its toll on our perceptions of ourselves.

Low self-esteem and anxiety

In a previous blog post we explained a technique for how to figure out your negative core belief, which is a 'global belief' you may apply to yourself as a person. If you have low self-esteem this core belief might be something like "I'm a failure" or "I'm not good enough".

A negative core belief can impact on many aspects of your life. For example, if you have a belief of "I'm not good enough" this may cause you to avoid situations such as meeting new people or trying a new hobby due to the anxiety invoked by each situation.

Think about the prospect of meeting new people when you have a core belief of "I'm not good enough". Examples of the thoughts you might have are: "No one will want to talk to me", "I'll end up standing on my own", or "I'll make a fool of myself in front of people".

Such thoughts aren't going to fill you with much confidence. If anything, they're likely to make you feel anxious about going into that situation. We've said this before and we'll say it again: It's not the situation, but our thoughts about the situation which cause us to feel a certain way.

The impact of low self-esteem

The example above highlights how much of an impact low self-esteem can have. It can stop us from meeting new people and trying out new experiences.

We can end up isolating ourselves because we don't feel we're good enough to be with people, and we have no confidence in our ability to succeed in new situations.

The problem is, the more we avoid these new situations the more our low self-esteem is reinforced because we're not challenging the thoughts which feed into our fears.

7 ways to tackle low self-esteem

Here are seven ways you can tackle low self-esteem. You may find that some work better for you than others. That's fine; stick with the ones that work well!

1. Challenge your negative thoughts

Thoughts are not facts, but we give far too much weight to them. They're our beliefs about ourselves or a given situation which are likely to have been influenced by past experiences.

Check out our blog posts herehere, and here for ways to challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs.

2. Make a list of all the things you're good at

We can't possibly be good at everything, but we need to focus on what we're good at rather than beating ourselves up for things we're not so good at.

Make a list of all the things you're good at, together with the qualities you like about yourself. Having these things down in black and white can help you appreciate them more.

3. Surround yourself with positive people

Unfortunately we may know people who tend to (consciously or unconsciously) reinforce our low sense of self-worth. They reiterate how difficult everything is rather than helping us look for ways to address the problem.

When we're feeling down on ourselves, we need people around us who are in "our corner", who will help us get out of the funk we're in and encourage us to dust ourselves down and move forward.

4. Don't be so hard on yourself

No one is perfect and no one gets everything right all the time, and that's okay!

We may make faux pas in social situations, we might make mistakes at work or not do something to the standard we expect of ourselves. Lower your expectations to more realistic levels.

Accept that you're human and you're fallible, just like everyone else on the planet!

5. Don't take on too much

Often, people with low self-esteem take on more and more responsibilities in an effort to prove to themselves that they have worth. In fact, when you take on more than you can handle you're not valuing yourself.

Be more assertive and learn to say "no" sometimes. Constantly saying "yes" will only give people the signal to keep coming to you, and overloading yourself will only lead to burn-out.

6. Feel the fear and do it anyway!

We talk about this in our post here. Sometimes, the best way to give our low self-esteem a kick up the backside is to face our fears head on.

Pushing through the fear can have a hugely positive impact on your sense of achievement.

7. Seek external support

Friends and family may mean well when offering support, but perhaps they miss the mark or say things which aren't always helpful. Having someone who is outside the situation, with an impartial perspective, can be beneficial when working with low self-esteem.

If you feel it might be helpful, consider seeing a Counsellor to help you explore your low self-esteem and how you can improve it.

What things do YOU do to help you feel better about yourself? Comment below 🙂

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