As humans, we naturally organise our lives into routines, habits and comfort zones because by doing that, we automatically reduce the likelihood of stress in our everyday lives. We all have our own comfort zones, from that pair of comfy old slippers, to our hobbies, habits and routines and these are what makes our life our own. We choose our friends and our pastimes, we choose what and when we eat and we choose what to belief and think (yes we do). Choosing to change means taking ourselves outside our comfort zone, seeing things from a different perspective and learning new ways to think, feel and behave.
Even change that is considered to be positive, such as a new job or marriage, will still normally hold some degree of stress. How stressful we find it will be determined by our ability to cope with change and our levels of resilience.
People undergoing CBT therapy are actively wishing to change things within their lives, and yet, even though they are seeking change for positive reasons, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this change will be easy because change means learning new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. Not easy for us habitual, controlling, comfort zone loving human beings!
Whether change is imposed or invited, remember:
Accept it – Fighting or denying something that is still going to happen won’t help.
Face your fears – Be Honest with yourself about how you feel.
Talk to the other people who are affected by the change – make sure you are all on the same page as you explore your options.
Do a stock-take of your resources – depending upon the situation, this may be finances, time, skills or the support of others.
Anticipate stress – change is rarely easy, by anticipating stress you will be forewarned and forearmed. If you struggle to deal effectively with stress you can seek help and information through CBT therapy or by attending a Stress Management Course.
Change helps us to develop and grow as human beings which makes change a positive force. There is always a silver lining to every cloud, even if you cannot immediately see it!
Whilst some of us thrive on change and transformation, others will seek to avoid it. Our reaction to change will be the result of our life’s experiences to date. If you have experienced a lot of change in your life and dealt with it successfully, then you will find it easier to confront change the next time. If, however you have always sought to avoid change and found it frightening, confusing and difficult to adjust to, then you will continue to react in that way unless you decide to do something about it. Change is such a difficult concept for so many of us that companies often run change management programmes to help their employees cope when they are undergoing change within their organisation.
The reality is that change is a part of life, whether it be imposed change or wanted change.
Major changes can be difficult to cope with and require the ability to adjust and accept to a new way of being. It is no surprise that major life changes are the biggest stress factors in our life whether positive (marriage, new baby, Christmas) or negative (divorce, bereavement, illness). Imposed change is normally seen as negative because it is something that has been forced upon us. It is not desirable, often unpredictable, and it takes us outside of our comfort zones as it forces us to look at things differently and to adopt new ways of being. It isn’t what we chose or wanted and it is outside of our control and so it is no surprise that we find imposed change to be stressful, upsetting and disorientating.
If you would like some tips to help you manage change, whether imposed or wanted, then please come back Saturday when the second part of this blog will be posted.
Many people find that a huge amount of the stress they experience is caused by ineffective communication. How often do you say: “Yes, I’ll do that, I don’t mind”? And how often do you actually mean you don’t mind?
All too often we put ourselves on the line and over-extend ourselves in order to help somebody else conserve their time and energy! Of course there is nothing wrong in helping somebody because you want to and you choose to. A problem exists when you would prefer to say “no” but find yourself saying “yes”. Stress, anxiety and burnout are common allies of people who haven’t learned how to say “no” appropriately.
In order to be assertive about our needs and wishes, we need to practice effective communication.
Some points to bear in mind:
Think very carefully before agreeing to take something on.
When you want something, know what it is you are asking for and rehearse it first.
Always ensure that you talk from your ‘adult’ self. A child talks “up” from a position of inferiority; a parent talks “down” from a position of superiority; an adult talks “across” from a position of authority and neutrality.
If it is important to you then it matters. Remain assertive, use the “stuck record” method if that helps. This means choosing a phrase that sums up your position and then simply repeating it, in a quiet, authoritive way. This will help you to refrain from becoming aggressive and over-stating your case, or passive and under-stating it.
Listen carefully to the other person and repeat back what they have said (reflective listening).
Be positive – expect a good outcome and you will invariably get one.
Be aware of your body language – try to keep your body and facial expressions relaxed.
Remain polite at all costs and don’t lose your temper!
Major keys to remaining assertive:
Mutual respect for both your needs and the needs of others;
Understanding and respecting each other’s position.
Simply put, anger is about a perceived lack of control over a situation, person, thought, belief or feeling. I write perceived because, as with all of our feelings, beliefs and thoughts, it doesn’t matter whether they are actually real or not, what matters is that we believe them to be true.
As shown (right), there are many things that might trigger anger and because we are all unique, the triggers will be different for each of us. However, anger is not all bad since it can be positive force or a negative one, depending upon how that anger is used and the type of behaviour that is chosen to express it. Used positively, anger brings forth change, it gets people thinking, changes views and opinions and it promotes discussion which in turn leads to action and change. The acceptable way to use anger to promote change is to convert the frustration behind that anger into assertive action. Assertive action is an appropriate and acceptable method for putting your views, wishes and opinions across.
Aggressive anger, on the other hand, is not good for anybody. It seeks to diminish the person you are angry at and at the same time diminishes you by making you feel bad. Even if you are able to justify your anger to yourself, you still have to convince other people that your behaviour is acceptable and that is not an easy task if your behaviour is inappropriate.
So how do we convert anger in our everyday lives? Some examples:
Let’s say a work colleague is rude to you, instead of being rude back, try politely explaining to that person that you feel they are being rude and that you don’t respond positively to rudeness.
Anger is sometimes a result of feeling threatened. If we feel insecure we over-defend ourselves by fighting back. A more appropriate response would be to ask ourselves why we feel insecure, and seek ways to dealing with it.
When somebody cuts you up next time in the car, try to empathise with them instead of cursing them. Try rationalising the situation by considering that their journey may be more urgent than yours. Or maybe normally they are a good driver but today, like all of us, they had a brief lapse in concentration.
Golden rule: Think first before you respond. Anger is a primitive emotion that we use without thought. If you are able to think first, respond second, you are a long way towards conquering your anger.
CBT is about challenging negative thoughts, seeking to change them into neutral ones and allowing positive thoughts to follow. Affirmations are a very powerful tool that can be used to help achieve those changes with a great number of challenging issues such as: Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem, Phobias and OCD. Affirmations are often under-valued and this is probably due to a lack of understanding about how they work and how they can be used to greatest effect. Firstly let’s take a look at how they work.
How Affirmations Work
Consider, for example, somebody who has a lack of self-confidence. He will have, running around his head, all his NATs (negative automatic thoughts) relating to his low levels of self-confidence. The sole purpose of these NATs is to constantly remind, re-affirm and reinforce the feelings surrounding his lack of confidence. This internal voice repeats negative statements to the self, such as “I am no good at talking to people”, “I’m rubbish at learning new skills”, “I can’t get anything right”, etc are all examples of NATs. These subconscious thoughts are very good at consistently reminding the desperately under-confident individual just how useless he is in the confidence stakes, and what is really important is he believes them!
Now let’s take a look at somebody who has successfully used affirmations to help him overcome his lack of confidence. He has chosen several positive affirmations that he uses frequently to habitually remind himself that he can realise whatever he wants to achieve by telling himself: “I know that I can master anything I want to” and he has built up faith in himself by replacing negative statements with positive statements such as “today I am willing to fail in order to succeedtomorrow” and “I have complete trust in myself”. Our newly Mr Confident is happy in his thoughts because he has consciously replaced his subconscious NATs with positive thoughts. Sounds easy right? It is as long as you stick at it and have faith in it.
Rules For Effective Affirmations
Choose affirmations that resonate with you. They must ‘ring true’ in order that you can believe them of yourself. In other words be authentic with yourself by not trying to tell yourself something you don’t mean. If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, don’t use it.
Repeat them when they matter. If your affirmation relates to confidence, then remind yourself before encountering a situation that will require confidence, for example before an important meeting: “I have all the tools I need to succeed”.
Remember that affirmations are most effective when you are feeling relaxed and your ‘guard’ is down, as the more relaxed we are, the more receptive and accepting we are to new thoughts, feelings and ideas.
Try to record them and play them to yourself so that you can listen to them – a good time to listen is before sleep and while you are asleep as your subconscious will still hear them and again, be more receptive.
Affirm your belief in affirmations and start using them today!
If you would like a free mp3 downloaded affirmation, please leave a comment and by clicking on the speech bubble above and then going to the resources page.