I know I said I would do a week-by-week post update about my CBT course to let you know how mental health professionals of the NHS are helping people to tackle these problems. However, so far (and I have attended 3 of 6 sessions) it has been – for me at least – little more than a recap of techniques and ideas within the book I have already read (Melanie Fennell’s Overcoming Low Self Esteem) and those I am currently practising (through Russ Harris’ The Confidence Gap.
I don’t like repeating myself so I will merely give a summary up to this point and explain how it has helped.
This started off with summarising what CBT is – for those who had had no experience previously and an explanation of the “fight, flight, freeze” that is part of biological nature and therefore, our psychological evolution. As explained by Harris in his book, paranoia and negative thoughts are a perfectly natural part of being human. We simply cannot enforce positive thoughts into our minds all of the time.
We live such busy lives and we feel we have to be on the go all the time. Unfortunately, we forget that we need to recharge. We need to unhook ourselves from our stresses. We need to exercise for our physical and mental health. Most importantly we need me time, something that I know I have been guilty of doing too often. Being self-employed, it is tempting to work every day – but with reduced hours – when I have nothing else to do. And that’s what I have done sometimes. We also went over a few breathing exercises.
How this session helped: I’ve never needed to force myself to watch a film or go on the xbox to wind down but since this session I have deliberately set aside time for me to watch a film, on my own with a bottle of beer and just relax.
Unhelpful thinking patterns was the majority of what this was about. And if I had a middle name it would be “unhelpful thoughts”. This really went over the sort of issues that both Fennell and Harris went through to challenge negative self-beliefs or to unhook ourselves from self-punishing thoughts. I won’t repeat myself because this is something I have covered in great depth at the end of last year and the beginning of this year when I summarised the exercises from Fennell’s book: all or nothing thinking, personalising, catastrophising, ignoring the positives, I should’ve/shoudln’t have… and how to challenge them.
How this session helped: I’d been having negative thoughts about my current career path in the week leading up to this so it helped to remind me of how unhelpful the “catastrophising” has been and to remember to positives – remember how miserable I was in my last job and living in that area.
Something else I know a lot about, Rules for Living was the main focus here; this seemed more aimed at people with OCD in varying degrees, something I certainly do not suffer from, yet it was still helpful by encouraging changing certain rules into guidelines. Specifically, I am talking about the general rules for living such as “I must always perform at 100%” and changing it to “I will try to do my best but recognise that everyone has off days.”
The second half focussed on relaxation techniques that I found incredilby helpful.
How this session helped: My head is still very noisy with all the thoughts going around inside it and I didn’t realise quite how much until we began the relaxation exercise. It was a wonderful experience and I should do it more.
So I have three more to go and I’ll give a similar summary of those sessions at the end of the course.
If you live in the UK and feel you would benefit from one of these course, I can strongly advise you to try them out. They are free (unless privately supplied) because they are paid for through your NHS contributions. The only stipulation is that you must live in the area of the Healthcare Trust that you are applying to go on the course.