We all have negative thoughts at some time. Often we can be our worst critic, and we would never dare to say those things to somebody else.
When suffering anxiety, negative thoughts (as well as feelings) can overwhelm us. However, the thoughts themselves aren't in fact the issue, after all thoughts are just words, they are not the truth.
However, we tend to see them as real, true, and therein lies the problem. The more frequent the negative thoughts, the more we believe them. Often, our reaction to these thoughts is to try and ignore them or to try and push them away; and the more we notice that they are there, the more worked up we get.
Negative thoughts can make us feel stressed, anxious, depressed and hopeless. However, they can be overcome.
Remember to take care of yourself in the run-up to Christmas this year. Many of us find it a busy and stressful time of the year. We can spend so long writing lists, ploughing through crowded shopping malls and thinking of what everyone else wants for Christmas, that we spend little time nurturing ourselves and ensuring that our own needs are met. Follow these tips for a sure way to simplify things:
1. Start and plan early. It's still not too late in the day to get organised. Make a list of all the things you need to do before Christmas, and make sure you don't leave too much to the week before. Make a list of all the things you need to do, allocate them to certain days, and don't give yourself too much to do in one day or it will seem too daunting. Decide what is most important and do those things first. Perhaps there are things that aren't necessary? Could you get away with sending a few e-cards instead of writing out cards to everyone? And remember to delegate as much as possible to even out the workload!
2. Learn to say no. It's the time of year when we can get invited to many different parties. Ask yourself if you want to go to them before you accept. This counts for the work party as well (they are not usually compulsory!) We may feel we have to attend a Christmas work do, but do you really want to go? Maybe you're one of the lucky ones with great colleagues, but I can remember some pretty awful work do's in the office I used to work in, having to watch my line manager do the pogo, and trying to make small talk with people I wouldn't choose to spend a night out with. If you don't want to go, make your excuses and spend the evening doing what you want to do.
Picking yourself up after the festive season can be hard for many of us. If you've had the pleasure of enjoying partying with friends, drinking and eating to excess, the thought of going back to work can be quite depressing. Let's face it, Christmas itself can be stressful: first you have the stress of all of the Christmas shopping before Christmas, and then you have the cooking, and having to put up with relatives that you would rather not see. Some people can feel very isolated at Christmas if they don't have family or friends to celebrate it with. Plus, the weather can be a gloomy, cold and wet, the days are still short and the summer seems so far away.
Most of us end up with extra weight to get rid of over Christmas, which can make you feel disgruntled about your fat gain. Even if you have a regular exercise routine, getting back into it can be difficult, especially with the extra weight you are carrying, which can slow you down. Add to this the fact that we can often make New Year's resolutions such as abstaining from things that we love, like alcohol, and promises to go to the gym every morning. But when the cold reality sets in and we find it difficult, we can often give up and then feel a failure.
Psychological research can help explain how our mood can dip at this time of year: Prof Ed Watkins (director of the University of Exeter's mood disorders Centre) explains that "depressed mood is often exacerbated by a percentage of a gap between how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. These actual-ideal discrepancies are highlighted at this time of year. Some people can also negatively compare how they are now with what they used to be able to do or what they hoped they would have achieved by now and this can lower their mood."
So how do we get our joie de vivre back?
1. Get active. Prof Watkins advised that being more physically active can help beat the January blues. There is much research to support the fact that physical activity is not just good for the body, but also great for the mind. If you take part in an activity with another person, it can be even more beneficial. Why not join RED January (RUN EVERY DAY in January), who have partnered up with Mind this year to encourage people to do an activity every day of January in order to boost their mental and physical health. Whether you decide to run, walk, skip, gallop or swim, give it a go, whatever your level of fitness. Just choose a level that is right for you, even if it's five minutes. Activity outside can be even better for you, as you then gain the benefits of the sun as well.
That might sound a bit crazy, but it’s actually true, so bear with me while I explain...
Have you ever wondered why you get given a small plate when you go to an all you can eat buffet? They’re obviously trying to force you to eat less, but it works. Research by Cornell University has found that people tend to over serve themselves when using larger dinnerware and under serve themselves when using smaller ones. However, it’s not just size that matters, increasing the colour contrast between your dinnerware and both the food and background (the tablecloth, place mats or other) will further increase the tendency to under serve yourself with a small plate.
It seems that our brains perceive the food as being bigger when it is presented on a small plate, and when there is greater contrast between the food and the plate.
Further, this also affects how full you feel: eating out of a small bowl or plate will trick your brain into thinking you are eating more than you really are, and will make you feel fuller quicker.
Yes, our brains can really be tricked into feeling full!
It’s not just what you eat, it’s also about how filling you perceive that food to be...
I still consider myself reasonably young at 46 (despite my teenage daughter insisting otherwise)! Yet recently I have become aware of many women around my age experiencing some kind of hormonal changes that seem consistent with the peri-menopause.
A doctor of mine likened the peri-menopause to having an old banger. When you have an old banger, it might work one day, and then the next day you might have trouble starting it, or it might break down on the way home, yet it might start again later. In the same way, hormone levels can be all right for a while and then suddenly go awry, causing symptoms.
Therefore, when you're going through the peri-menopause, symptoms can come and go, and your hormone levels can go up and down, so blood tests can show normal levels of your oestrogen, progesterone and FSH. Therefore, GPs really need to go on symptoms rather than blood level results to diagnose the peri-menopause.
The average age of a woman going through the menopause (i.e. cessation of periods) is 52, and most women will start experiencing changes in their hormone levels - the perimenopause (or should we call it the 'old banger' stage) in their mid-forties.
It's well-known that women can expect to endure physical symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, tiredness, sleep problems and reduced interest in sex for a start. However, there is also the mental health changes: many women can experience depression and anxiety. In fact, anxiety and depression are often one of the first symptoms of the peri-menopause, making it difficult to know what the cause of your symptoms is.
Some women feel less of a woman when the periods cease, or can have a sense of bereavement about no longer being fertile. It can also bring home the fact that you are getting older. There can also be other changes going on in your life. If you have children, they may be at the age where they start to be more independent, or leave home, and you can start to feel redundant. You can also find yourself having to look after elderly parents, adding to all of the stresses and responsibilities.
Help for menopause symptoms
Your GP can offer HRT, as well as antidepressants/anti-anxiety drugs to help with the symptoms.
Author: Maria Hancock
Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness and NLP Practitioner with Psychology degree and MSc.
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