One of the biggest challenges for a therapist is that of setting a good example by following the practices that we endorse. This isn’t always easy! Like all counsellors/therapists I am only human and have my own weaknesses. The “best practices” that I seem to struggle with the most are:
1. Finding time to relax
I tell all my clients about the importance of making time, every day, to relax. Focused relaxation (such as self hypnosis or meditation) is extremely beneficial – just 20 minutes a day can help to de-stress and also to actively realign our conscious and subconscious minds with our goals. Relaxation is also fantastic for boosting confidence – think about it, when did you ever feel confident when you were stressed or tired? It’s good for memory too – how many times have you struggled to remember something only to find it popping into your head once you have stopped stressing about it? A short relaxation session every day will boost your mood, your confidence and your memory and yet so many of us just don’t give ourselves time to relax, and I am guilty of this myself. When I do make the time to do it regularly, it really pays off. And by relaxing I don’t mean having a cheeky nap, or watching TV, or even reading… the most beneficial type of relaxation is where you are deeply focused on relaxing your body and your mind whilst remaining awake and not distracted; and whilst you should quieten your mind from everyday thoughts, it IS beneficial to allow your creative mind to visualise the things that you do want to achieve – a bit like daydreaming. It feels great, so I wonder why we struggle to do it?
2. No negative thinking
The way we think affects the way we feel and behave. This is the basis of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – which is one of the therapeutic techniques I use with my clients. I teach clients to recognise when they are having negative thoughts then to challenge those thoughts and create more healthy and positive thinking. Done consistently, this leads to feeling better about oneself and one’s life. Most of the time I am good at recognising when I am thinking negatively, but I still catch myself doing it. I might call myself stupid and clumsy if I break something; I may criticise the way I look or give myself a mental telling off if I think I have done something badly. It CAN be difficult to get rid of negative thinking completely, but it’s definitely conducive to a much more positive outlook on life.
3. Don’t worry about the future!
Anxiety is a very future focused condition. Most people who feel anxious are worrying about things that haven’t yet happened. Quite often the things that we worry about are unlikely to happen, or to be as bad as we imagine they might be. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop us from predicting a future full of calamity and misfortune. I do it myself – I’m prone to a bit of ‘catastrophising’ as therapists sometimes call it. I’ll be driving somewhere and before I’ve arrived I will have convinced myself that when I get there I won’t be able to find a parking space and I’ll be late for my appointment. Yet once there, I sail into a perfect parking spot right outside where I need to be. Why do we put ourselves through so much angst for no reason? It may be a misguided attempt to foresee the worst, so that we’re equipped to deal with it if/when it happens. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I do recommend to my clients that they face up to their fears – so that they can evaluate them and conceive of what the worst outcome might be (and quite often that ‘worst’ isn’t actually as bad as they’d thought it might be). But then I also ask them to consider the best possible outcome and the most likely outcome too. Thinking logically about our fears in this way can actually reduce anxiety and our tendency to always imagine the worst.
So, now that I’ve confessed to these weaknesses, I am making a promise to myself here and now, that I shall:
– make time to relax every day
– work harder to CUT OUT the negative thinking
– stop worrying about things that probably won’t happen
Wish me luck!