Tag Archives for " anxiety "

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 🙂

How Mindfulness Can Help With Anxiety

Blog banner How Mindfulness Can Help With Anxiety

Although Mindfulness practice has been happening in Eastern cultures for many years, it's only recently increased in popularity in the West. Its benefits have been promoted over here by people like Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme.

Despite an awareness of its benefits on mental health, there's still some confusion as to what Mindfulness is. In this post we'll be giving a whistle-stop tour of Mindfulness and some of the different practices you can try.

What Mindfulness is not

It might seem like we're beginning the wrong way round, but we think it's important to start with addressing the confusion that often surrounds Mindfulness. A lot of people mistake Mindfulness as a form of 'relaxation' and it seems as though the two terms are often used inter-changeably.

Whilst feeling relaxed can often be a by-product of practicing Mindfulness, it is not the aim of practicing Mindfulness.

What Mindfulness is

The aim of practicing Mindfulness is to draw our attention to the 'here and now', or, the 'present moment'. All too often, we spend our time thinking about the past (which we cannot change) and/or worrying about the future (which we may have little control over changing).

This quote from Buddha, sums this up perfectly:

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, not to anticipate the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly".

This reference to worrying about things outside of our control, or things we can't change, seems all-too familiar when we look at the negative thinking patterns which feed into anxiety.

But isn't Mindfulness all 'woo-woo'??

When people think of Mindfulness, many may visualise monks sat high up on mountains, gazing over the landscape, and generally 'being all zen'.

Also, social media often portrays a rather 'stylistic' view of Mindfulness where meditating in a minimally-furnished room, whilst wearing designer yoga pants and a smile reserved only for the likes of Buddha, is deemed as a sure-fire way to reaching enlightenment.

Because of this, Mindfulness might seem rather unachievable to the 'average Joe', but in reality you don't need sparsely kitted-out rooms, yoga pants, or incense sticks to get there*.

*Equally, if you do want to use these things in your Mindfulness practice then go for it. We're not saying that these things are 'bad', but what we're saying is that you can start being mindful now without the need for anything else. It's your mind-set, not the material stuff, that'll help you be more mindful.

being more present

Mindfulness: It's not all about the Buddha

Mindfulness-based exercises

We're giving a very brief overview of some different Mindfulness practices here. You can do a Google search which will bring up plenty of results and you can look into them in more detail. If you do pick one or two that you're drawn to, it might be useful to start off with "guided" versions of these, meaning, a recording of someone to guide you through them. There are plenty of these on Youtube 🙂

Sitting meditation

There are lots of meditation apps out there nowadays, so you can pretty much meditate anywhere (okay maybe not, but you get what we mean).

You'll want to find a quiet place to meditate. You can either sit crossed-legged on the floor (you may want to sit on a cushion), or sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and arms resting where they're most comfortable.

The meditation will usually involve you closing your eyes and focusing on your breath; not trying to do anything particular with it, just observing it. During the course of the meditation, your thoughts will inevitably drift to past or future events. The idea is that as soon as you become aware of your mind drifting, you should bring it back to the present moment. Don't judge yourself for losing focus on the present, just keep bringing your mind back to it.

This is hard to do, but remember that it's Mindfulness practice and in order to get better at it that's exactly what we have to do. Two popular guided meditation apps are Headspace and Calm so free to check them out as they'll take you through the process.

Walking meditation

This type of meditation isn't just walking, it's about paying attention to your walking and is therefore done at a much slower pace. If you're worried about other people, you might want to do this in your back garden or pick a spot in the local park which you know is usually quiet.

Some people find this form of meditation easier than the sitting meditation, due to focusing on the bodily sensations that come from the walking. As with the sitting meditation, when you become aware of your mind wandering you bring it back to your breathing and walking.

Mindful eating

Before you scoff your [insert favourite food item here], this isn't just about eating. This is about really paying attention to what you're eating; less hamster and more sloth.

People often practice with a small piece of food like a square of chocolate or a raisin. Whatever the item, it's about paying attention to how it looks, smells and feels before even putting it in your mouth. Once you put it in your mouth the idea is not to chew it straight away either, but to be aware of things like the texture and the taste.

We're not suggesting you eat like this all the time, but trying this exercise will help bring an awareness to your eating that you may not have had before. After all, how often do we really pay attention when we're eating?

Other ways to be more mindful whilst eating could include: eating without distractions around you like the television or your mobile phone; paying attention to when you feel full and to stop eating at that point; and only eating when you feel genuinely hungry.

The body scan

The body scan is best done lying down on the floor or on your bed.

The idea of the body scan is to bring attention to how you feel in your body. You can start at the top of your head and move down through to your toes, or vice versa. Spend some time on each part of the body, paying attention to how it feels. Is it tense? Have you got any aches or pains? Whatever you observe, do this without judgment and without a wish to change it. Acknowledge however it feels and move onto the next part of the body.

There's a chance that you may fall asleep during this practice, and that's okay! If you feel yourself nodding off, perhaps move your body slightly just to bring yourself back to the exercise and continue with the body scan.

Yoga

Some people may not immediately associate yoga with Mindfulness, but we'd say it's a form of Mindfulness as part of the practice is to be mindful of the breath and the feelings in your body as you hold it in various positions.

There are plenty of good yoga videos available on Youtube. You might not want to start with this one, though.

How Mindfulness can help with anxiety

As we've talked about in previous posts, worrying about things which are outside of our control is likely to increase our levels of anxiety.

Mindfulness aims to keep us in the present moment because ultimately that's all we have, and therefore worrying about things which have happened/have yet to happen is a waste of mental energy.

It's worth repeating that Mindfulness is a practice, so it's not about being 'perfect' or getting it right all the time. The key is to bring our minds back to the present moment as soon as we become aware that they've drifted. Don't beat yourself up over your mind drifting; there should be no judgments in Mindfulness practice.

We hope this post has given you a good 'starter for ten' in terms of exploring more about Mindfulness. Have you got any other suggestions of Mindfulness practices that we've not listed here? Let us know in the comments 🙂

12/09/2018

The Process Of Negative Thinking

Blog banner The Process Of Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts can be tied to many things; our core belief, our past experiences, thoughts about the future, body image, going to new places, meeting new people and so on. We’re very good at focusing on the negatives, whether real or perceived.

We've used this analogy with our clients:

The 'hook' of negative thoughts

Imagine you’re sitting in a small row boat, floating on an ocean of negative thoughts. The thoughts are swirling all around the boat, making it bob up and down.

You cast your fishing rod over the side of the boat, and seconds later you have your first bite. You find the negative thought provides very little in the way of fight as you haul it into your boat.

As you examine the negative thought it seems to grow; getting bigger and bigger. Not only that, but more negative thoughts are now jumping onto the boat of their own accord. The more negative thoughts you explore, the more the others seem to launch themselves from the ocean.

Your boat is now heavily laden with negative thoughts, riding low in the water, and still the thoughts jump on board. In no time at all the boat starts to sink and you find yourself floating in the ocean.

Each negative thought you grasp to stay afloat takes you deeper down and you start being pulled towards the bottom of the ocean.

what happens with negative thoughts

The process of negative thinking

It might sound like a dark analogy, but it holds a certain truth in how a lot of us think. A negative thought enters our mind and instead of merely acknowledging it and letting it pass, we hook into and start analysing it.

This process of analysing only serves to create more negative thoughts. It enables “what if” thoughts to form, and then we start making assumptions. Some of these assumptions may be based on past experiences, while others may just be things we've concocted during the analysing process.

It's rare that any thoughts within this style of thinking are based upon actual facts. Let’s face it, our mind lies and creates infinite possibilities. It thinks of worse-case scenarios, magnifies situations to make them seem worse, and disables our ability to think clearly, rationally, and be pro-active in taking action.

Like the 'boat' example, you may have a worry which initially starts as a small, niggling worry. As you explore this worry it opens up a map of possible destinations, all of which become increasingly worse in their outcome. You start feeling more stressed and anxious, and as you turn the worry over and over in your mind more worries come to the surface.

How can we address negative thoughts?

Can you see the problem with this style of thinking? When we concentrate on the worry, it makes it increasingly bigger. A small worry may be a real worry which therefore needs attention, but ruminating over it will not resolve the problem.

So what can you do instead? What might help your thinking or your situation? The next blog post will address this. See you then!

Can you relate to the analogy of negative thoughts above? Let us know in the comments 🙂

Mastering Your Fears

Blog banner Mastering your fears

Hi, it's Jo here for today's blog post 🙂

I remember since I was a teenager, I'd struggled with my self-confidence. As I grew up I often avoided doing things because I feared the potential outcome.

In my mind, it would all end horribly so I shied away from challenges or new situations.  

One day, when I was 19 years' old I headed for the self-help section in a well-known book shop. I looked through various brightly-coloured books, each promising to "change my life". Then, I came across a rather unassuming book. It didn't particularly stand out and it was smaller in size than the others, so it was almost lost on the bookshelf.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

The book that I chose sticks in my mind to this day, even though I no longer have it. It was called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers and I suspect that most people have heard of it.

My anxiety is something I've had to keep in check to ensure that my negative thoughts don't take over. The lessons I learnt from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, as well as those from my client work, have played a huge part in how I approach my own anxiety and face my fears now.

Here's a few ideas of how you can go about mastering your fears:

It's not the situation, but your thoughts about the situation

I've talked before about the power of negative thoughts and how we can challenge them. Remember, the way we feel about any situation is not related to the actual situation. It's related to our thoughts about the situation. A

A thought is not a fact.

Example: You have to give a presentation in front of a few hundred people at work or school/college. Here are a couple of different ways of thinking about the situation:

Thought 1: "I really hate speaking in front of people, I'm bound to muck this up and look stupid".

Thought 2: "I get nervous speaking in front of people, but I'll do my best and it'll probably give me more confidence to do it again".

So, which thought do you think is more likely to trigger feelings of anxiety, and fears about going through with the presentation?

Hopefully you answered with Thought 1! Even with Thought 2 the anxiety and/or fear may not be completely absent, but that's okay. It's natural for new situations to make us feel nervous. The difference is, Thought 1 is more likely to make you feel far worse and possibly pull-out of doing the presentation altogether.

fears and anxieties

Can we be totally free from our fears?

You might be thinking: "But surely, if we're challenging these negative thoughts then we want to try and get rid of our fears completely??".

In an ideal world, yes, it would be wonderful to be free from fear. Or would it? Actually, fear is a healthy emotion. It protects us; keeps us alert to danger, even psychs us up for something important (e.g., a competition). What we don't want, is for our fear to reach such levels that we avoid experiences which are good for our growth and personal development.

Is mastering your fears about being courageous?

It's good to try and challenge the thoughts which trigger our fears/anxieties, so that you get into the habit of challenging them more. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative, so we have to effectively retrain our brains to think differently.

However, that there are times where we just have to take a huge breath and walk straight through our fear. Sometimes we have to do this to prove that we can do it and come out the other side.

As Mark Twain said, courage isn't about being free from fear; it's about moving forward despite the fear.

What sorts of things have you done where you've faced your fears? Tell us in the comments!

Watch our video about mastering your fears

4 Ways To Support Young People With Anxiety

Blog banner 4 Ways To Support Young People With Anxiety

We decided to do a question-and-answer style format for this blog post to pick Alan's brains, as he works with many children and young people. Here, we talk about ways to support young people with anxiety. Without further ado, here goes!

What are the most common reasons for young people feeling anxious?

Unfortunately, there seem to be many things which make young people feel anxious.

  • They may feel judged by others due to feeling negative about their looks or body image;
  • Some may believe that they need to look a certain way, and compare themselves to others;
  • Young people might fear not being liked, or not "fitting in" with their peers;
  • Some young people experience bullying which can make them fearful of going into school;
  • There may be pressures on young people from their school to perform to a certain standard;
  • Young people may put pressure on themselves to perform well at school, for fear of failing their exams;
  • They might feel uncertain about their future (e.g., university, employment);
  • They may worry about moving to new schools/colleges;
  • Outside of school, young people are often concerned about parental illness/separation, death of others or their own death.

What do you think influences young people’s levels of anxiety?

Social media and media in general, which presents images of unrealistic ‘ideals’ that young people can never achieve. Also, the media tends to place value on people's image and the attainment of material things rather than health and being happy for our internal qualities.

Although young people's forums on the internet can be useful places to share experiences, they can also make them feel worse when they see others suffering and cannot do anything to help them.

helping young people with anxiety

What impact do these anxieties have on young people?

  • A lot of the young people I work with talk about isolating themselves from others;
  • They may remove themselves from school, which might affect their grades and further increase their worries for the future;
  • Many young people may stop communicating with family or friends;
  • They may feel unsafe in society and might experience suicidal thoughts, and/or use negative coping strategies such as self-harm and/or using illicit drugs;
  • They may present as angry and/or frustrated because their anxieties prevent them from doing the things they want to do.
  • What ways can others support young people with anxiety?

    1. Help them to question their thinking. Are their thoughts actually beliefs? Help them to challenge their thinking and find the evidence for it;
    2. Sometimes people think the best solution is to remove the young person from the source of the anxiety (e.g., school). In fact, there needs to be more of a balance to ensure that the anxiety is addressed and not avoided;
    3. Encourage the young person to build on their strengths and positives rather than focusing on the negatives. None of us are perfect, but focusing on their flaws will only keep them in negative thought patterns;
    4. Encourage and support the young person to do more things they enjoy doing. This can help to build confidence and distract them from their negative thoughts.

    We hope you've found this post on supporting young people with anxiety helpful. If you have any other ways of supporting young people then feel free to leave them in the comments.

    Also check our video on supporting young people with anxiety below.

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