Tools to help change your thinking
This section is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It will guide you through established techniques to challenge negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviours that may be making you feel low and anxious.
Step 1: What is Negative Thinking?
When we feel stressed, low or anxious it can be hard to see the world in a positive light. Often we start to expect the worst to happen and take more notice of our problems. This is known as Negative Thinking and it can make us feel even worse. However, there are things that you can learn to do that can help. These are explained in the Negative Thinking leaflet (on the right).
Many people think that they are the only person who feels like this. However, there are some pretty common ways in which people start to think when they are feeling low. These are described in the Thought Traps leaflet which you can also download from the right. Have a look and see if you recognise your most common thought traps.
Step 2: Challenging Negative Thinking
You can use the Thought Trap Diary (downloadable from the menu on the right) to help you keep track of your thoughts, see how they affect your mood and how you can challenge them. Challenging your thoughts just means asking yourself questions about them, such as "what is the evidence for this thought?". It is simple to learn and as you practise it, it becomes more effective.
Step 3: Managing Anxiety
Breathing and relaxation exercises are really good ways to let the body know that everything is okay and to return to a calm state of mind.
Distraction is also an effective short-term technique that can help reduce anxiety quickly. There are different types of distraction that you can try. It is difficult for our minds to focus on more than one thing at a time, by using distraction techniques we are simply moving our attention away from our worry or fear and paying attention to something else, see the leaflet on Distraction on the right for more information.
Positive self talk is another strategy that we can use to help us get through anxiety provoking situations. It helps us to break stress up and involves focusing on positive rather than negative statements, again the leaflet on Positive Self Talk on the right provides more information.
Step 4: Doing More
When things are hard, it is easy to start avoiding doing fun things and also avoiding tackling problems. Sadly, this just makes us feel worse. We miss out on enjoyable experiences, to-do lists pile up and over time it just gets even harder to tackle the things we have been avoiding.
Many people use ways of coping that can make problems worse in the long term. For example, drinking too much alcohol or seeking reassurance all the time.
The Getting More out of Life leaflet discusses these patterns. It can be useful to keep a diary of what you are doing to get a better understanding of how this is making you feel. The downloadable Activity Schedule can be used to do this.
You may also find the following information useful: