Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Stress and anxiety are normal and frequent features of our lives, so does this mean we all need therapy? no, but it does mean that when the anxiety is prolonged and we feel we are not coping well, counselling/therapy might help us gain perspective and to help us get back on track. Before we dive straight into therapy though, let's first look at some evidence based techniques for helping.
#1 Avoiding black and white thinking
Black and white (or dichotomous) thinking occurs in us all at some point- the trick is to notice how often it happens and whether this is causing you problems.
A relationship has gone wrong, boy is shunned by girl, for example. Boy thinks: 'I am unloveable, my relationships always go wrong and I will never be happy'. This is a very clear black and white scenario. Whilst it is important to note that the situation is uncomfortable and not pleasant for anyone- our thinking at a time like this can be highly 'vulnerable' i.e. it is not a good time to make decisions and sweeping condemnation of our worth and value as a human being! What would the counter argument be?: 'This relationship has gone wrong and I may want to address how I approach these relationships in future but then all people have failed relationships of some sort- and they still find someone to be happy with'.
#2 Allow yourself to deal with sadness
This may seem like a strange suggestion but we feel sad for a reason and it may well be that trying to deny it, hide it, push it away, only makes it worse. A better idea, therefore, is to acknowledge and accpet it, 'something sad and upsetting has happened and it is natural for me to feel upset, emotional to express sadness by crying'. Even something as awful as grief for the loss of a loved one comes and goes and some days will be better than others. You deserve self-compassion, so be good to yourself- treat yourself as you would a friend who was going through the same experience. You do not need to 'pull yourself together' or tell yourself 'you should be over this by now'.
#3 Take physical activity
Take it like a pill! like a dose of a drug, because that is what physical activity provides as an intervention for looking after our mental health. This may well be the last thing you feel like doing when you are anxious about and absorbed in a problem, but do it anyway... even though comfort food and hiding away seem more attractive, evidence around physical activity and its mood lifting ability has been mounting now for many years. Even if it is literally a five minute walk around the block (you can always return to the hiding away after) the trick here is to go and do it when you really don't feel like it- especially when you don't feel like it. Walking is of course highly accessible and needs no preparation or equipment, except shoes and even those are optional...