Last week I shared my story of conquering my mental health by having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that helps change your thoughts and behaviours to be more positive. This week, I want to share some of the skills and techniques I learnt throughout my treatment and advise others on how to deal with stress, anxiety and depression.
Firstly, I want to give you a bit of background into what was causing my low mood and what led me to getting professional help. All my life, I’ve known to have a bad temper, get easily frustrated and be stubborn at times – but what disabled life isn’t hard and frustrating? I initially put it down to childish behaviour and teenage hormones. But then going into my twenties, I continued to come across rude and angry towards carers. By 2016, I had come to the conclusion that I’m unable to find the perfect carer and instead have to find alternative ways to deal with the difficult situations that occur with carers. In addition, I had a poor experience at university which led me to have less confidence and low self esteem when it came to employment and making future relationships. Plus I was in the process of finding a council property and was struggling to cope living in my current accommodation and stressed over trying to find a suitable property for me.
I would like to share 6 CBT techniques I learnt during my treatment and skills I picked up when researching CBT while waiting for my therapy sessions to begin:
Fight or Flight Response
Stress is not just in the mind but in the body too. The Fight or Flight response is essentially helping your body prepare to fight or be freed from danger. This was first established during cavemen times when they would either fight an approaching tiger or run away from the threat of the tiger. In modern times, it is seen in dangerous or stressful situations such as a car accident, being bullied or attending a job interview. If you are in one of these situations, you will have physical reactions such as palms sweating, heart racing, tense muscles or dry mouth. Your body is simply preparing you to face or flea a situation.
Unhelpful Thinking Habits
Throughout our lives, we tend to get into unhelpful thinking habits. We might favour some over others, and there might be some that seem far too familiar. They very often occur just before and during distressing situations. Below is a table with 12 unhelpful thinking habits. Have a look and see which ones you identify with. The blue italic text gives an example of alternative thinking. For me, the most common habits are Mental Filter, Judgements, Emotional Reasoning, Mind-Reading, Mountains & Molehills, Catastrophising and Critical Self:
There are three types of communication styles; Passive, Aggressive and Assertive. Being assertive to people is the best style as you are able to express your opinions while respecting other people’s views. Here are descriptions of each communication style:
Therefore next time you are confronted with a difficult situation, such as a carer making a mistake. Clearly state your concerns, express your feelings then ask the person how you can equally resolve it, all in a assertive manner.
This technique is similar to the unhelpful thinking habits. When we have negative thoughts, we react with negative emotions and actions. However, one way to resolve this is to come up with an alternative responses to the situations. A way to do this is to record a daily thought diary, jotting down particular incidents that caused negativity or friction and find better ways to deal with them. The more you do this, the more alternative and positive ways you can find to cope with difficult situations. The diary has 7 columns:
This skill relates to the assertiveness techniques. An “I” statement is where you express your feelings when trying to resolve a problem or reject an offer or favour politely without causing aggression or offence. For example:
Saying it like this means your clearly stating what you want, expressing your feeling and finding a way to improve the situation, all while not putting the blame on the other person.
A lot of the time, we focus on the negative parts of our lives and forget that, despite the challenges we all face, there are still positive aspects of our lives. A great way to grow our positivity is to create a positive thinking diary. Every day you should make a note or list of positive things that have occurred in your day. The things can be big like “I got a promotion” or small like “I baked cookies today”. The style I’ve been writing is in 3 columns:
Overall, since having CBT treatment, I’ve found my mood has improved and my confidence has lifted. However this is a continuous process and the more I use & practise these skills, the easier it will be to cope when dealing with stress, anxiety or depression.
If you, or someone you know, feels they could benefit from CBT treatment, then visit your GP and they can refer you to a CBT specialist.
To find out more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and get tips and advice on coping with mental health issues, visit getselfhelp.co.uk
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