We were due to go away for a weekend break this weekend, just the two of us. Due to unforseen circumstances we weren’t able to go. Instead of getting down about it my husband said we were going to make the best of the situation.
So in the circumstances we had we decided to do some enjoyable things we wouldn’t usually be able to do. On Saturday a dear friend had our daughter for the night and so we got the opportunity to just be us and go out on and date night as husband and wife rather than Mummy and Daddy. I cannot remember the last time we did this. We also bumped into a friend whilst out which was really lovely. Today we went for a really yummy roast dinner and met a couple we really clicked with an enjoyed some great conversation. Later on we got to spend some really nice quality time with our daughter which we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone away for the weekend without her. We feel we got the best of both worlds; some well deserved husband and wife quality respite time and some quality family time. Also if we had gone away we would have probably spent a lot more money than we did just having two nice meals out. We flipped what could have been a negative situation on its head and made the best of the situation and have really enjoyed ourselves. As an added bonus we sold our holiday for a hugely reduced price to a lovely family who are having a fantastic time so it’s a win win situation. By making the best of not going away it has reminded me of the story Dr David Burns (one of my CBT idols) tells in his book The Feeling Good Handbook about a couple who’s luggage got lost when they arrived at their holiday destination. Rather than focusing on how awful it was they turned it into a game of seeing how they could cope having so little. So just like Pollyanna who’s mindset is to always look on the brightside, we successfully enjoyed our Pollyanna Weekend.
It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. I’ve really been missing it. I am thinking of doing a series of regular blog posts sharing how I am using CBT in my own life each day. I’m hoping this will serve as a reminder to those who have already received some form of CBT or introduce new people to the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy. Being a Mummy to a 10 month old baby means that committing to blogging every day probably isn’t realistic, as much as I’d like to. I might manage a daily insightful tweet but even that can be a chore with a baby. Instead I was thinking of doing a weekly blog post sharing in which ways CBT has enhanced my wellbeing for each preceding week. I’d be really grateful for any feedback or suggestions anybody has about this idea. I’m really looking forward to connecting with my followers and a wider audience again.
Burnout is something we are all at risk from. Whether it be working too much, socialising too much, under stress or a combination of everything, getting to the point where we are physically and mentally exhausted is something that we should try and prevent if we can.
Here are my 3 top tips for helping you to prevent burnout:
1. Make sleep a priority not a luxury.
Scientific research links sleep derivation not only to low mood but physical pain too, similar to that experienced by people with fibromyalgia. Sleep deprivation also lowers our immune system and also means we are less able to deal with stress. Sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. If you need extra hours in the day to complete tasks try not to cut into your sleep time as this will make it harder to cope with things the next day. Sleep is like food and water- we need it to survive.
2. Ask for help.
When you are feeling overwhelmed and overworked reach out to others and ask for help. Many of us are hesitant to do this for fear of looking weak or incompetent, or perhaps worry about burdening others. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to find others are willing to help, they are just waiting to be asked. As for looking incompetent, ask yourself if you would feel the same way about someone asking for your help, in most cases you’d likely not think them weak. Sometimes we need to swallow our pride and admit that we aren’t coping very well with the demands of life. It’s surely better to keep swimming with the help of a float than to say nothing and drown.
3. Learn how to say no effectively.
Are you a people pleaser, do you take on too much because you don’t want to let others down? Saying yes in situations where we don’t have enough physical or emotional resources to help others can leave us feeling under pressure or even at times resentful towards the person we’ve said yes to. Learning how to say no is part of learning how to be assertive. There are some great resources online for learning assertiveness techniques such as this Assert Yourself course from the Centre of Clinical Interventions.
Try and find more balance in life by implementing these tips to prevent the boom and bust cycle that can often be a feature of conditions where chronic fatigue is a prominent symptom.
Those three little words. Depending on who says them or in which context, those words can provoke different responses in us. Sometimes we don’t want to hear those words, sometimes we expect something different. I think those three little words are so important. I am referring to “I don’t know”. I think this simple sentence can say so many things about a person. It’s often not the words we want to hear from our therapist. We go therapy most often seeking answers, wanting to be ‘cured’, to have our problems solved.
However, I think “I don’t know” is one of the most powerful sentences one can hear or say. For me it represents above all one of the most important qualities in a therapist: integrity. I think it speaks volumes about a person who is comfortable enough to admit they do not know something, has the integrity not to lie, to be truthful and honest. To be content enough with their own level of knowledge to admit when they do not know something shows confidence in their current abilities, it says to me that they are enough. I would much rather have somebody tell me they do not know something than try to pull the wool over my eyes or grab at straws trying to come up with an answer that makes them sound competent. Nobody has all the answers and that is ok. The realisation that we do not know something can be the catalyst to discovery of new knowledge or even prompt us to ask new questions, it can put us on new pathways. Nothing new would ever be discovered if nobody admitted they did not know something. I think saying “I don’t know” as well as being honest, can be liberating, it stops us having to try and “fake it” to pretend we know, when we don’t. The response “I don’t know” frees us of that certain type of stressor, the one we often put on ourselves – to always look like we know what we are doing. Human beings are fallible, we make mistakes, we are imperfect and flawed, and so is our knowledge and that’s ok. So next time you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know something but want to give an answer other than “I don’t know” perhaps wonder whether in fact I don’t know is possibly the best answer of all.
You may or may not be familiar with the concept of problem solving. It is an approach that can be applied to many problems in life, both practical and interpersonal (relationships with other people) ones.
There are 5 basic steps to problem solving and I beleive that from my experience it is the 5th step – evaluation, that most people forget to implement.
Here are the 5 steps:
1. Define your problem.
2. Brainstorm solutions.
3. Review and choose the most appropriate solution.
4.Put into action chosen solution.
5.Evaluate your progress.
I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered people who are ploughing away, often very diligently for weeks or months and never evaluate their progress. A good analogy is a diet for weight-loss. You wouldn’t stay on a diet on which you aren’t loosing weight. However, if you don’t weigh yourself you won’t know if you are losing, maintaining or gaining wait. Whatever your solution make sure you measure your progress. If after you have evaluated, things are not going to plan then you are in a position of awareness and can either make some adjustments or perhaps try a different solution on your list. It’s the same as this age old saying………….
So next time you are working on a solution, remember to evaluate your progress so that you aren’t using up your energy on something that is not actually helping you.
If the idea of CBT was to help people by teaching them to ‘think positive’ then cognitive behavioural therapy would not exist. CBT definitely is not about positive thinking. I promise you. This is a huge misconception. Actually in my opinion the cognitive (thought) element CBT is about teaching people to think factually, realistically, logically and reasonably, whilst taking into account feelings and behaviours. A few months ago I needed CBT therapy after going through a difficult time. I said to my therapist. ‘Things in my life at the moment are shit’. She agreed, there was no refuting the fact that in the current circumstances, things were ‘shit’ this was not a thinking error, or distortion. The amount of trauma I had and was continuing to experience and having just been diagnosed with several medical conditions and not long having been in hospital culminated in a state of what most people would agree was shittiness (does that have one or two t’s?). However, if I had just broken a nail but everything else in my life was relatively ok and then said ‘things in my life at the moment are shit’ this would be an example of a cognitive distortion, namely overgeneralisation and catastrophising. You can read more about cognitive distortions in this article from Harley Therapy. Nonethleses, in both of these situations, being told to ‘think positive’ would have absolutely no effect whatsoever. It’s as much use as telling somebody to fall in love with a washing machine, it just isn’t going to happen. CBT is about whether you believe or ‘buy into your thoughts’. We are all in the habit of believing our own thoughts, unfortunately we cannot always be relied upon to think logically or factually. We often engage in emotional reasoning ‘I feel bad therefore things must be bad’ or ‘I feel fantastic therefore everything is fantastic’. Yes we do get it right sometimes, but as in the case of depression, or OCD we cannot always trust the validity of our thoughts. So if we can’t just ‘think positive’ what do we do? We QUESTION our thoughts, we challenge them, we change our behaviour. Overtime this process can actually lead to a change in the type or frequency of the thoughts we have, hopefully they will be more realistic, and as a bonus more positive. This is what CBT is really about. It’s not about thinking positive. However, sometimes when things are shitty we need to learn to accept that, and that is a whole other blog post in itself, so I shall sign off now.
In this video I talk about some of the reasons I think people have a bad experience with, or don’t like CBT. It touches on various things such as the way CBT is delivered, people’s expectations and cognitive behavioural therapy for chronic pain and chronic illness. I’d be really interested to get people feedback on it, and wonder if anyone who has had CBT can relate to any of the issues that I address.