A CBT look at crooked thinking and being the cause of our own upsettness.

New evidence based practical science says that when stress becomes a disorder, it ‘causes a shift in thinking’ – as if you had put negative crooked gloomy glasses on, and view the world through them instead of with rational thinking skills. Often, when people become stressed to the point where it is an actual disorder, they don’t realise what is happening to them. Anxiety can very quicky become normalised in someones life. Check out this post to see if this applies to you…

thinkingwomanbubblethoughtWhat is your self talk style? Perspective is everything.

Do you over-think and over-feel and over-react to everyday life? Do you write it off as the pressures of modern life, or think that you are just a ‘worrier’, or that it’s ‘just how you are’, or maybe you put it down to a physical illness that has you feeling run down?

The stress disorder checklist: ask yourself the following questions about how you feel and behave:

  • Are you tired a lot of the time?
  • Do you get emotionally and physically upset more often than you used to?
  • Do you think you ‘over respond’ and don’t cope well with situations?
  • Are you constantly worrying, with thoughts buzzing around in your head?
  • Are you physically more incomfortable than you used to be, with more instances of a racing heart, over breathing, overheating, shakiness?
  • Are you prone to self criticism?
  • Are you prone to cricising others and their behaviours?
  • Do you often feel like a victim, and that things are being ‘done to you’?
  • Do you have self sabotaging behaviours that you know don’t make sense?
  • Do you get ill more than you used to, with headaches, or cold sores, for example?
  • Do you often feel apprehensive for no particular reason?
  • Do you sometimes feel helpless and hopeless?

If the answer to many of those was yes, it’s time to take the situation seriously and take steps to nip anxiety in the bud and even reverse it – before it takes over. It’s not just you. You’re almost certainly suffering the classic effects of stress. It’s totally fixable – and you don’t need to feel ashamed or ‘broken’, there are a lot of people in the same boat – it simply is what it is, and is an actual disorder, just like diabetes is.

So, what to do? The new movement of psychology doesn’t just focus on ‘illness’ or disease and sickness models of ‘fixing what’s broken’ – and it doesn’t believe that all anxiety or depression is a chemical condition which needs to be medicated and analysed for years – it looks at what makes human beings happy, and it believes that we can literally learn wellbeing.

selftalkcartoonPractical well being starts with figuring out and managing HOW YOU THINK. The basic theory is that it is not particularly an event in your life that causes your upsettness, no matter how challenging – it’s how you interpret and process the event that determines your emotional response. The event influences you – but it’s your style of thinking that will ultimately determine how you respond. If you learn to think realistically and in proportion to events, you’ll be a calmer happier person. You will develop new coping skills to use no matter what life throws at you. It can be life changing.

Just look around at the other people in your life that face the same (or worse) challenges, but handle it in a different way and continue to take enjoyment out of life. And set about learning their skills of perspective.

Is your perspective ‘off’? Check out these classic bad thinking habit examples:

‘I can’t cope…’, ‘Everything is too hard…’, ‘She’s a horrible person, she’s so jealous of me…’, ‘How dare he behave like that’?!… ’, ‘That would never work out, so there’s no point in trying…’, ‘Nobody really respects me…’, ‘There’s too much to do, I can’t manage…’, ‘This is AWFUL…’, ‘If only I was beautiful my life would be amazing…’, ‘If only I was slim everything would be so different…’, ‘My colleagues are so selfish….’, ‘My boss made my head explode!…’, ‘I’m not nice…’, ‘I can’t bear it!!…’, ‘I’m not good enough…”.

Do you recognise anything there? You don’t decide to think these thoughts, but they can become hardwired over time and lurk and linger, controlling your moods and behaviour, controlling the quality of your life. Without deliberate awareness you may not even realise you’re having them.

Think about this: if you accept these kind of dramatic lurking statements 100%, no wonder you feel anxious. But absolute negative statements like those are generally distorted, irrational, and illogical – even though they might be based on bits and pieces of evidence and half truths. And they only serve to make you unhappy, and catch you in a trap of a vicious circle of negativity.

'think about thinking..'But it’s okay, those thinking habits can be dismantled, and new healthy rational thinking can take their place. Change your mind, change your mood.

Set about examining your thinking habits in situations you find difficult – write things down and examine your self talk – take the thoughts on on one by one, challenging and disputing their veracity.

‘Thought stop’ and reframe – asking the following questions of your bad thinking habits:

  • What is the evidence for this thought?
  • Is there any evidence against this thought?
  • Am I getting things out of proportion?
  • Is that a bit dramatic and unhelpful?
  • How does accepting these thoughts and beliefs make me feel and behave?
  • Has thinking this way been helpful in life so far, or a poison?
  • What would I advise my best friend if she was thinking this way?
  • What is the rational calm alternative view of this situation?
  • What is it more true to say?


Extra tips:

Socialise: extremely happy people are extremely social, but unfortunately stress disorders often cause us to withdraw from people – so, tolerate your discomfort, and fake it til you make it, until it becomes comfortable and is something you look forward to again. No matter how you feel, make it your business to exploit your ‘people resources’ regularly – whether it’s coffee with old friends, or making new friends… be around people, enjoy people.

Diet and exercise: the old cliché of following a good nutritious diet and exercising regularly to manage adrenaline and combat stress is a cliché because it’s true! These are immediate and practical things to address.

Relax: too often, we put family and work ahead of ourselves – but being ‘positively selfish’ pays dividends and will have a positive affect on everybody around you, think of it as putting the oxygen mask on before you put them on your family, you’re no use without it – make a plan to regularly indulge in pursuits that you enjoy, and that you know relax you and make you happy. When we relax, the body produces relaxation hormones that combat and neutralise the effects of the dangerous stress hormones that cause physical harm to us.

Breathe: learn ‘belly breathing’ exercises, as the body overloads on oxygen when it is fearful which causes physical distress. It’s a beautiful little tool that can help you to return your body to balance. (Put your hand on your belly – take a long slow deep breath in through your nose, feeling your belly go in – hold the breath for a few seconds – let the breath out long and slow…. – and repeat several times.)

Learn acceptance and live in the present: sometimes life is hard and challenging and we can feel overwhelmed – develop new habits of knowing what you can control, and what you cannot control. Break your problems down into managable ‘things to do’, and set about doing them. And accept that which you cannot control, and gracefully lump it – and choose to focus on what is good and wonderful in this amazing world.

Remember: you are good enough. You are a fallible human being and can only do your best. You are okay.

Think about thinking – think better and be happier. Walk around this blog to begin the work. Work it….


2 thoughts on “A CBT look at crooked thinking and being the cause of our own upsettness.

  1. This was a great help to me as I’m going through a sad time as my 87 year old Mum is in hospital with a broken hip It’s All so hard to deal with Thanks for wise words on how we think


  2. Thank you very much for taking the time to study this critical aspect of human behaviour. It is helping me to take better care of myself, and even more importantly understand and be able to verbalise my late brothers situation and tragic death. I keep returning g to your words. Thank you .

    Rachelle Maxwell


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