My favourite sport?
Jumping to conclusions of course!
Anxiety and Me
My anxiety has a funny way of controlling my brain. Some days it’s there, some days it isn’t and some days it can hit you like a bullet train going 150mph.
Since being diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in 2017, one of the symptoms I’m most aware of is my astounding ability to jump to conclusions (which, by the way, are almost 100% incorrect). All other perspectives fall out the window and all I have left is tunnel vision.
Not having weekend plans? No one wants to hang out with me…
Not receiving praise at work? What I submitted must have been awful!
I often describe mental illnesses as something that feels like there is a poison creeping into your mind. This poison is in the shape of negative thoughts and self-doubt, and it slowly infects each of your rational-thinking brain cells until there aren’t any left.
Talk to me on a day when I don’t feel anxious at all, and of course the thoughts above sound totally ridiculous! But on a day where I feel more vulnerable, it’s easy for them to snowball into the worst-case scenario taking a toll on my mental and physical health.
I hadn’t realised that what I was doing was catastrophising (or catastrophizing for those across the pond). When I found out that what I was doing had a word, I finally felt a bit more normal!
It wasn’t just me who was having these absurd thoughts!
What I’ve learnt is that anxiety is the master of deception. I’ve wasted so many hours creating imaginary scenarios in my head or convincing myself that something bad is going to happen when there really isn’t any reason or evidence for doing so! The result? An upset and stressed-out version of me for no reason at all. Anxiety 1 – Crissy 0.
I knew that if I was going to beat this thing, I needed to get my thoughts under control for my own sanity!
Lessons I've learnt
Lesson 1: Get over yourself
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Ok we aren’t exactly talking about motion here but the same idea applies. If I was going to stop the negative thoughts snowballing, then I needed to think the opposite.
Challenging your own thoughts can be tricky thing but it’s the foundation to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). After all, how am I meant to believe one thing when my brain is literally thinking the exact opposite?
One of the first things I learnt was to just get over yourself.
That woman who was rude to you in the shop? You didn’t do anything wrong, perhaps she’s just having a bad day.
Or your friend not calling when they said they would? They don’t hate you, perhaps they’re just busy!
Too many times have I felt like someone’s actions are the result of my own but it’s important to just take a step back. What makes me think that their world revolves around me?! People have a million things going on in their life that I don’t know about, so don’t take things so personally!
Lesson 2: Time for a reality check
Another lesson I learnt was to be truthful and honest about what I was telling myself. When challenging my thoughts, I find it so hard to believe the opposite to what my brain was telling me, so I decided to stop trying altogether!
If I actually wanted this to work, I needed to conjure a realistic thought instead of flipping the negative thought on its head.
For example – writing this blog:
Initial thought: No one is going to care about your anxiety Crissy… you may as well stop now!
Flipped thought: Everyone is going to care about your anxiety – New York Times here we come.
Realistic thought: Some people might be interested and agree with you! Either way it’s worth writing.
Creating the Reframing Negative Thoughts notepads also helped me get back my perspective. What do I perceive to be true and what is actually true? The more I wrote things down, the more I realised that whatever I was thinking was just a figment of my imagination and not even worth entertaining.
With these two lessons in my arsenal, managing my catastrophic world has been so much easier. I’ve also learnt to be much kinder to myself and to take things on the chin when they don’t reach my expectations or make me anxious.
I used to think it was the end of the world, but I guess that will just have to wait a little longer!