My personal wellbeing project

Prioritising wellbeing is difficult.

So far in my blog posts I have been offering tips and tools based mainly on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help you to boost your wellbeing. The tips I write in my blogs are things I have used personally and used with clients.

 

However, I have come to a realisation that even though I use these tools myself, I am not always very good at prioritising my wellbeing and sometimes it can fall off my radar. My own wellbeing can sometimes get a little patchy.

 

I am used to looking after the wellbeing of others. I am less used to looking after my own. I’m guessing that this is familiar for a lot of people reading this too. It is so easy for wellbeing to be pushed further and further down your list of priorities.

 

So, I have made a decision to embark upon a personal wellbeing project and I would like to invite you along for the ride.

 

I am purposefully going to try therapeutic approaches and methods that are different from my own to get a broader look at the things that can help us in our self care and wellbeing.

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I am going to commit to being open minded about methods and approaches that I might not have otherwise considered. (With my training in CBT, a heavy emphasis is placed upon the evidence base and clinical trials, but in my personal exploration I am going throw out my pre-conceptions about what ‘works’ and find out what works for me.)

 

I will blog (and maybe vlog) about my experiences to give you an insight into some different types of therapies and wellbeing methods. Hopefully it can give you a little more information about what is out there and help you embark upon your own wellbeing journey too.

 

As well as taking care of my own wellbeing and helping people to see a variety of different approaches to wellbeing, I hope that I can be helpful in promoting the work of other wellbeing practitioners. I would love to be able to support my fellow therapists, coaches and entrepreneurs to showcase their methods. I’d call that a win-win-win!

 

If you are reading this as a fellow wellbeing practitioner or coach and you would like a blog/vlog about your particular approach, please do get in touch!

Of course, I will be continuing to offer my usual workplace wellbeing sessions based on my training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

 

 

 

Just because it feels true, doesn’t make it true

Emotional reasoning is one of the thinking styles we talk about in CBT that can be unhelpful for us.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start suggesting that we shouldn’t listen to our emotions or that we should make decisions based on only cold, hard facts.

It is a good idea, however, to catch those times when our emotions are leading us to biased (or just plain old incorrect) conclusions.

Emotional reasoning is a biased way of thinking that causes us to believe something just because it feels true. For example:

Because I feel scared, there must be a threat.

Because I feel worthless, I must be worthless.

Because I feel jealous, there must be something going on.

Because I feel embarrassed, other people must be laughing at me.

Because I feel overwhelmed, I must not be coping.

 

Of course it isn’t so bad if our emotional reasoning is biased in a more positive way, such as:

Because I feel happy, things are going well!

Because I feel in love, they are the most awesome person ever!

Because I feel excited, it is going to be amazing!

 

Balancing up our emotional reasoning

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If you notice that you fall into a more negative form of emotional reasoning, here are some steps you can take to balance it up a bit.

  1. Recognise the emotion and name it.
  2. Recognise the thought or conclusion you are making.
  3. Identify if the thought is a fact or an opinion.
  4.  If it is an opinion (spoiler alert, it almost certainly is) call it out by adding on ‘I am having the thought that…’ or ‘I am having the opinion right now that… because it fits the way I feel.’
  5. Identify the evidence.
  6. Identify if there is an alternative way of thinking about it.

 

For example:

  1. I am feeling overwhelmed.
  2.  The thought I am having is ‘I am not coping’.
  3.  The thought ‘I am not coping’ is an opinion.
  4.  I am having the thought that I am not coping because it fits the way I feel.
  5.  The evidence is that I am meeting my deadlines, I had good feedback from my manager and the project is going well.
  6. Even though it feels difficult, I am coping better than I think.

 

If your workplace could benefit from a wellbeing workshop or relaxation session, check out sessions here: Workplace Sessions
You can find details of public events here.
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The Impact of an Emotionally Demanding Job Role

Every now and then in my role as a psychotherapist, a client will comment with something along the lines of ‘I don’t know how you can listen to people’s problems all day’, or ‘do you ever take your work home with you?’

Perhaps you have had similar comments if you work in an emotionally demanding job role? I could imagine people expressing a similar sentiment towards nurses, teachers, carers, social workers, police officers or any job role involving heavy emotional demands on top of practical demands and more routine day to day tasks of the job.

The truth for me is that sometimes it can be difficult to listen to people in distress all day. When you step back and think about it, it isn’t really a ‘normal’ thing to do with your time!

Nor is it really a ‘normal’ thing to see physical injury and pain all day if you are a nurse working in A&E, or to deal with challenging behaviour all day if you are a police officer or deal with high risk situations all the time if you are a social worker.

The kind of situations you are exposed to on a regular basis when you are in an emotionally demanding role are not common experiences for the majority of people outside your particular profession.

But when emotional demands are a part of your ordinary day to day experience, it can be easy to forget that it isn’t really the norm.

 

A biased view

I remember early on in my career when I was a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner with a heavy caseload of people with panic disorder and agoraphobia, I went out one evening to a comedy gig and I was struck by the thought, ‘Wow! Look at all these people who don’t mind crowds!’

It would be easy for me to conclude from my experience at work that everyone has a mental health difficulty and is struggling with anxiety or low mood. Indeed, many people are, but not everyone is!

I can imagine it would be easy to think of most people as being dishonest if you work in the police force, or over-estimating the likelihood of accidents, illness and injuries if you work in healthcare, or any number of other biases we could form, simply through being exposed to similar issues most of the time.

Of course, we can challenge our biases if we recognise them, by taking notice of people, situations or experiences that offer a different perspective. The key thing is recognising your biases in the first place.

 

Losing compassion?

A friend recently told me of an experience with a healthcare professional who made a rather blunt and uncompassionate comment about the prognosis of her health problem. This was a number of years ago and the professional has no doubt forgotten ever having made the comment but it was something that caused a great deal of fear for my friend for many years.

Of course, we are all human and we will all make offhand comments from time to time. Perhaps this professional was simply having a bad day. However, when you encounter the same problem hundreds of times at work, it can be easy to forget that it is perhaps the first time for the person with the problem.

For the clients who come to see me in my role as a psychotherapist, I actively remind myself that their appointments are a really big deal! Particularly at their first appointment; they may have been nervous about it for days.

Of course, you don’t need to have experienced something in order to empathise with it, but I believe that experiencing therapy as the client has been a helpful reminder for me to be more aware of what it is like in the other chair.

The importance of compassion and empathy is not lost on the vast majority of people working in an emotionally demanding role. I would like to hope that for most of us, we do show compassion, most of the time.

But what if we feel like we can’t? What about when the emotional demands become overwhelming or exhausting? If you are finding it increasingly difficult to empathise in your job role, it may be a sign of compassion fatigue.

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Compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a term used to describe the negative emotional cost of caring for others – something synonymous with emotionally demanding job roles. Compassion fatigue may look like stress, emotional exhaustion or burnout but it can also include symptoms of secondary trauma.

You can find more information about compassion fatigue from the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project here: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/index.html

And a great blog about preventing compassion fatigue from Good Therapy here: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/the-cost-of-caring-10-ways-to-prevent-compassion-fatigue-0209167

 

How to reduce the impact of an emotionally demanding role

In my view, one of the key things for us if we are in an emotionally demanding role is to be in touch with our own emotions. If we are avoiding our emotions, numbing out or unable to recognise how we feel it will be more difficult to manage our own emotions in a helpful way.

Self-care is also key. Spending time building our emotional resources, engaging in enjoyable activity, taking breaks, using relaxation and connecting with others is important to maintain your wellbeing when the emotional demands on you are high.

Use grounding techniques throughout the day while you are at work. Grounding is a simple and effective way of re-connecting with the present moment and it doesn’t need to take a lot of time to do, so it can be easy to fit in even on a busy working day.

Allow others to care for you. When you are in a helping role, you can often get used to putting other people’s needs before your own. Maybe you see yourself as the helper and find it difficult to accept help from others? I know this was true for me and it took me a long time to accept that I sometimes need a bit of help too. It may sound silly, but by asking for help I learned that help… actually helps! We are all human and it is OK to seek out help and support. Even if you are usually the helper.

Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion isn’t simply about letting yourself off the hook. It is about developing an attitude of kindness, wisdom and forgiveness towards yourself. It is about acknowledging that you are human, recognising your needs and developing an attitude of acceptance towards yourself. If you are not used to showing yourself compassion, this can take time and regular practice. You can find some helpful resources to get you started here: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Self-Compassion

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If your workplace involves a high level of emotional demands, you can find out about wellbeing workshops in the Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees areas here:

Workplace Sessions

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

 

Failure or Fail-yeah!

So this is me at my first relaxation class today…

..and here is everyone else!

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Yep, just me then!

Epic. Fail.

It is probably fair to say that most people don’t like the idea of failing or enjoy the experience of failing. It is probably even fairer to say that we all fail at something from time to time.

So how can we bounce back and turn failure into fail-yeah?
Ditch the dwelling

When you dwell on past failures you are usually trying to learn from the experience or to motivate yourself to do better next time. The problem is that this doesn’t work!

When we think repetitively about something that has already happened, we tend to think ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ , ask impossible ‘why’ questions and then criticise or berate ourselves for getting it wrong.
We zoom in on the negatives because they represent a threat (and our fight and flight response loves zooming in on a threat) and all we end up ‘learning’ is that we are not good enough end up feeling less motivated than ever.

 

How to ditch the dwelling

Grounding yourself back in the present is a good place to start.

Notice where you are, what you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
This helps your brain to know ‘that was then, and this is now’.

Watch out for hindsight bias

This is a bias in which you imagine you could have foreseen an event before it happened.

You might mistakenly believe you had the information or experience that you have now. You might think something like ‘I really should have seen the warning signs’ or ‘how did I not see this coming?’

You are not a fortune teller!

You can only work with the information and resources you have at the time, which is what you did.

Remember the context
People can often take on 100% responsibility for an outcome when there were far more factors at work.
What were they? Be fair to yourself.

What did you gain?

This isn’t about putting on rose tinted glasses but it is about seeing it from a more constructive perspective.

If your relationship failed, did you learn that you could do things on your own you didn’t realise you could do?
If you failed an exam or dropped out of a course, did it give you more time to understand it fully or give you an opportunity to take stock of what you really want?
If nobody attended your first relaxation class, did you gain a bit of time to write a blog post or learn what to do differently next time!?
Re-frame

If you try more things, you are bound to fail at some of them.
Are you a failure or a trier?
If you go on dates, you are bound to encounter rejection.
Are you bad at dates or a person who is open to the possibility of romance?
Does everyone who succeeds actually have to fail a few times first?
Which way of viewing it is going to result in you feeling better, trying again and ultimately succeeding?

 

And if you don’t fancy trying any of that, you can always read the sign above your head…

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All the people at my relaxation class today gave me an awesome review!

If you would like to find out more about relaxation sessions or wellbeing workshops for your employees, you can check out workplace sessions for Bradford, Calderdale & Kirklees.