By Jenny Gould, Nov 21 2020 06:06PM
"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf"
Tel: 07771 881435
Jenny Gould Therapy
CBT, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Coaching
Welcome to my blog
Here you can add some text to explain what your blog is about and a bit about you. You can also add a photo of yourself into the picture frame above.
"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf"
Sudden feelings of panic are very unpleasant - if you’ve ever had what is generally called a panic ‘attack’, you will know that. The first thing to note is that this is not an ‘attack’ in any way. That word is likely to make you feel more anxious and panicky, so call it whatever you like, but don’t call it a ‘panic attack’!
However bad it might feel, panic is not dangerous. You might feel you’re going to choke, have a heart attack or faint, but it is simply an over-enthusiastic stress response. The adrenaline and other stress hormones are released as if your life were being threatened by that lion….but it isn’t. You notice the physical sensations ( e.g. feeling of tightness in your throat) and that leads to a vicious cycle of panicky thoughts and more physical sensations. The feeling will pass (as it always does), and once you give it less importance it immediately seems less threatening.
How to Handle a Panic Attack
No need to be afraid. Flow through it. It will pass as it has before. This will significantly reduce its power.
Move your body. This changes your physiological state.
Tell yourself something positive.
Actively do something else, it doesn’t matter what! Turn your attention elsewhere.
YOUR THOUGHTS AFFECT YOUR FEELINGS - so and try to become aware of all the negative 'instructions' you're giving to your subconscious. What are your most regularly played negative thoughts? That's the first step to taking a rational look at them. Distract yourself, move your body (works wonders for changing your mood) and try to stop thinking and analysing so much. It's not easy, but with a little help you can learn this. You can take control!
Your self-defeating beliefs will limit your ability to deal with difficult times. Try to become aware of your NATS (negative automatic thoughts) when you feel stressed so that we can then challenge them and replace them with more realistic, helpful thoughts. These will help to dissipate those unhelpful irrational beliefs rather than reinforcing them. Start asking yourself ‘How is this thinking helping me’. To be rational a thought must be true, helpful and logical.
Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. Resilience is about keeping going even when things are difficult or frustrating! If you begin to feel negative, do something to change your mood. Think about what works for you.
Challenging and changing ingrained beliefs and thinking habits requires both thinking and acting differently - if we continue to act and think in the same way nothing will change and we keep repeating the same pattern. It takes time and practice, so don't berate yourself for slipping back when you do. Those old self-defeating thoughts (and goal-defeating ideas) will resurface every now and again - but you will gradually get better at it. Listen out for the gremlin sitting on your shoulder, and try to recognise when your mood is becoming negative. Give yourself a talking to - perhaps use a 'coping statement' which will help you - such as ‘it doesn’t matter’, 'I don't think like that any more', 'I'm fine whatever happens' - anything that works for you. Then give yourself a pat on the back!
CBT model of psychology (ABC) explains that our attitudes and beliefs affect our thoughts, which directly affect our feelings, and so our mood. Challenging our beliefs takes effort but is really worthwhile doing. Basically the more rigid your beliefs and demands about the world, yourself and others, the more stressed you will feel. Look out for the ‘shoulds’ ‘musts’ ‘have to’s’, ’ought to’s’.
When you catch yourself thinking ‘I should’ – ask ‘who said so?’ What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t do this thing. Or do you prefer to do it because it fits into your bigger picture? Replace ‘should’ with something more helpful - more of a preference than a demand, e.g I would prefer not to have to do this report, but if it needs doing then I’d better get on with it. Then it’s your choice. We always have choice. If something is boring – try ‘it’s tedious, but I can handle it.’
Remember we choose our thoughts, and since our thoughts directly affect our feelings, we can choose how we feel
When you find yourself feeling upset or stressed, try ‘tuning in’ to find out what’s really going on. Ask ‘why am I really feeling like this?’. When you have found what appears to be the underlying reason, try to address that rather than reacting to the moment.
Our rigid beliefs and demands tend to lead to LFT, low frustration tolerance. We get annoyed easily, find ourselves being judgemental, finding fault, making generalisations etc etc – all of these can be about the world, other people or OURSELVES. Becoming aware of and challenging your thinking will help with this.
Are you constantly working harder and faster, and putting in longer hours? Do you spend almost all of your time thinking about, or doing some form of work? The classic ‘workaholic’ even when not at work is dogged by thoughts and worries about their responsibilities. They become hyper-stimulated and find it very difficult to wind down or switch off. They find it almost impossible to relax, to feel free - they can’t seem to stop.
The driven personality is often known as a Type A Personality. They experience more stress than others and are more susceptible to health problems – you have 40% more chance of a heart attack if you demonstrate extreme Type A behaviour, as follows:
Aggressive or hostile
Fast walking, talking, speaking
Finishes others’ sentences
Does too many things at once
But you can learn to modify this behaviour if you decide to. If you are working long hours – who is making you? Or are you choosing to? For many obsessive workaholics their sense of identity depends far too much on their professional role, and if they are less than outstanding, then they are ‘worthless’. One stressed and unhappy client told me “I don’t know who I am outside of my work any more”. Her work/life balance desperately needed redressing.
Why not take a leaf out of the Type B’s book? Take a more relaxed, more laid back, less urgent and more balanced approach to life. This type experiences less conflict with others and is able to work at a more constant pace. You might expect the Type A to be the more successful, but there is no appreciable difference between the two in this regard. There are several possible explanations for this. Type A’s may alienate others because of their drive and may miss out on important learning opportunities in their quest to get ahead. The Type B on the other hand, might have a reputation for better ‘people’ skills and may learn a wider array of skills. In reality we all have characteristics of both types, but we do tend towards one or the other. However it isn’t set in stone – we can always choose to change our behaviour.
Becoming less driven means taking more time for yourself . Make sure you have a lunch break, perhaps go for a walk, you’ll feel more relaxed and more energised if you do. Don’t work late or take work home as a regular thing – every now and again is fine, but not as a rule. Long working hours does not equate to high performance. If your job requires you to work from home, confine it to one room, preferably one you can shut the door on and walk away from.
Just a word of caution – if you are spending too much time at work instead of at home with your family, perhaps there’s a reason you’re avoiding going home. Be honest with yourself. If that’s the case perhaps you should urgently turn your attention to your home life in an effort to sort things out before it’s too late.
And make it a rule not to work late into the evening otherwise your sleep will be affected. You really do need time to relax and have some fun – to recharge your batteries. People like me see too many clients suffering from ‘burn out’ – where their batteries are not just low, but flat. When that happens it tends to take some time to recover. Your health and well being must be your top priority.
An extract from 'Overcoming Perfectionism' by Jenny Gould, available at www.bookboon.com
It can be very challenging living with a perfectionist, and of course much will depend upon the degree of their perfectionism and your own personality. But there is no doubt that being on the receiving end of their obsessions and their demanding behaviour can be very painful and contribute to a wide spectrum of interpersonal problems. In the end you may decide to end the relationship, but there are some strategies that might help bring about positive change. Most of the following suggestions are aimed at partners of perfectionists, however they will also be helpful if you have a perfectionist in your household or in your immediate family:
Don’t become a slave to their perfectionism just because they want things done their way. For example if they are obsessive about tidiness and order it wouldn’t be right for you to spend all your time trying to appease them to try and keep the peace. Instead offer to help, but don’t allow things to get to the stage where you’re doing all the work just to satisfy their demand for things to be done a certain way.
Don’t take it personally. If you feel relentlessly criticised by your perfectionist, remember that their senses are so finely tuned that they would find fault with the most saintly of people. If they seem to always ignore or discount your ideas or opinions, remember they do truly fear being influenced or controlled by others. That means that they would behave in this way with anyone they were close to. I’m not suggesting you make endless excuses for bad behaviour, however remembering that it isn’t about you can make their actions and comments a great deal less hurtful.
Avoid digging your heels in or acting defensively as this will only cause you to take up opposing positions and exacerbate the situation. Decide what you can tolerate (and perhaps choose to ignore) and what you can’t put up with. Then focus on improving communication and understanding with regard to the latter specifically.
Your opinions are valid! Don’t be tempted to agree with everything the other person says or deny your own personal values, opinions, likes and dislikes. Obsessives tend to spend their lives analysing what is the most logical or efficient course of action, but that still doesn’t mean you should be bullied or shamed into going along with it. You’re entitled to have your own ideas as to what’s important, what’s trivial, right or wrong. Think about it before you agree to do something you don’t agree with - take time to think it over. You may of course decide to agree to it because you care for them, but don’t feel obliged to ignore your own wishes and opinions just to keep the peace.
One thing you can do which can help considerably is to show you are trustworthy, reliable and consistent. Because perfectionists yearn for certainty and predictability, they tend to place a lot of importance on honesty and straight-talking. If you tend to be a ‘people pleaser’ and find it difficult to say what you want and need, this can be interpreted as indecisiveness or a weakness by a perfectionist. It would be well worth learning to be more assertive.
It’s important to recognize when perfectionism becomes abusive. Although of course it would be ridiculous to suggest that all perfectionists become abusive, perfectionism can set the stage for abuse. If you feel compelled to bow to your partner’s demands out of fear of retribution - physical or otherwise - then this isn't a healthy situation. A person who is a perfectionist does not have the right to impose his or her will on someone in an unhealthy way.
Focus on building your own self-esteem and independence. If you can nurture your own self-worth then you won’t depend on positive feedback from anyone else. You are setting yourself up for a life of emotional turbulence if you rely on the approval or praise of a perfectionist, after all they are much better at expressing what’s wrong, not what’s right! They feel the need to keep their emotions in check in order to avoid feeling vulnerable, which is why they find it difficult to show positive feelings or appreciation.
Being needy or too dependent on a perfectionist is not a good idea - it will make them anxious and may lead to them withdrawing from you. They are more likely to remain close to you (and respect you) if you are involved in your own interests and not putting all your energy into your relationship with them. If you sense you are becoming too dependent then take steps to rediscover who you are, and strive to become a whole person, independent of any relationship. It may feel strange to start with, but fight any feelings of anxiety or isolation, and you have so much to gain. Never give the perfectionist the idea that your happiness depends entirely on reassurance from them – and make sure it doesn’t!
Don’t pressurise them. Any direct confrontation or effort to force the person to change will almost certainly end in failure. Instead it’s more likely to encourage them to reassert their dominance and result in a power struggle. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should silently tolerate the situation. Tell them clearly how you feel and your reasons for asking them to make changes. Rather than making judgemental or demanding statements such as “you must change”, try “I would prefer you to do this because (give reason)”.
Blaming and criticising will not help, and try to avoid exaggeration, ‘always/never’ or ‘all or nothing’ statements. Forget who’s wrong or right, instead focus on being reasonable and looking for solutions. Remember that we can only control our own behaviour, but that when one person changes, it changes the dynamics of the relationship and encourages the other person to change too.
Appreciate and re-enforce positive changes. Show appreciation where appropriate (don’t overdo it) and try to adopt a more light-hearted cheerful attitude. And even if you feel inclined to, don’t deliberately withhold affection as a means of on-going punishment. Better to be up front about what’s upset you and deal with it in an adult way.
(Extract from my book Overcoming Perfectionism - download free at http://bookboon.com/en/textbooks/career-personal-development/overcoming-perfectionism
Stress affects each of us differently, depending on our personality, background and experiences in life, and because we are all unique individuals the symptoms will vary – some will have more physical signs (e.g. headaches, back ache), others more emotional signs (e.g. easily upset, anxious) and others may have a predominance of behavioural symptoms (e.g. shouting, drinking too much). In my experience from working with stressed individuals, those suffering high levels of stress will be able to identify with many of the following signs and symptoms:
• Pain & tightness in the chest
• Tense shoulders, neck
• Vague aches and pains
• Skin irritations/rashes
• Susceptibility to allergies
• Clenched jaw or fists
• Frequent colds or other infections
• Constipation or diarrhoea
• Rapid weight loss or gain
• Changes in menstrual cycle
• Mood swings
• Increased worrying
• Feeling tense
• Drained, no enthusiasm
• Feeling angry
• Feeling guilty
• Feeling cynical
• Nervous, apprehensive, anxious
• Feeling helpless
• Loss of confidence
• Lack of self-esteem
• Unable to concentrate
• Withdrawal into daydreams
• Accident proneness
• Poor work
• Increased smoking
• Increased drinking of alcohol
• Increased dependence on drugs
• Overeating or loss of appetite
• Change in sleep pattern, difficulty sleeping, waking up tired.
• Loss of sex drive
• Poor time management
• Withdrawal from relationships
• Working longer hours, taking work home more often.
• Unable to relax
• Not looking after oneself
So how many of those signs have you experienced in the past month say, and which of the categories do your symptoms mainly fall into? It can also be helpful to try to identify your early warning signs. For example do you notice your shoulders getting tense, feel anxious, or find yourself losing your temper? The key to dealing with stress is to catch it early. At regular intervals throughout the day, take a moment to scan your body for signs of tension. That way you can take some action to prevent it from building up – you can take back control before it escalates.
I’ll be giving you lots of ideas for reducing stress later on.