Why Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors are Controlling Your Life & How to Take Back Control AND your Life
Lions, Tigers and Bears Oh My!
Some days feel like they don’t hold a candle to Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness, Sadness, Fear, Trauma, Panic and the list goes on…talk about…Oh My!
If you’re reading this right now, it’s likely that you know that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Despite how others especially on social media these days may make it look like it sometimes.
You may be battling with some serious mental health issues and although having support is great, sometimes you just want to be heard and understood and feel like You Are Not Alone.
How to Do Anything When You’re Battling with Your Mental Health?
Sometimes, no matter how much you want to do all of this awesome stuff for yourself and your future, the idea of even getting out of bed in the morning is a bigger goal than you really care to achieve sometimes.
We are all going to hit hills and mountains along our path. Sometimes we carry those with us for so long that all we really end up doing is standing in one place, asking ourselves how much longer we can carry everything before it all just falls and crushes us to smithereens.
We are barely able to move forward on even ground with everything that we are carrying, forget climbing over or breaking through anything.
Heck, with everything that can weigh us down, some mornings, we’re just trying to freaking stand up and maybe take one step forward.
So What Do We Do About It?
One of the first steps to even begin to unpack all of the baggage that can lead to anxiety and depression and a lot of other mental health struggles is to simply just start to observe our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Although, here at The Wave we are big proponents of positive thinking followed by taking action towards our goals, we cannot effectively do this until we allow ourselves to be honest.
We must start by simply observing ourselves to even begin to figure out where the heck we are at and therefore also what our next step would Actually be.
Does Positive Thinking Really Work To Get Rid of Anxiety, Fear, and Depression?
It doesn’t matter how many times you say to yourself you are going to be a millionaire in the mirror, if you don’t get up and get to work you are not going to make any money, no matter how many post it notes you have stuck around your mirror..
You first have to start with where you are and where you want to be. This includes our barriers (often our negative thoughts) as well as related feelings and situations and to start working to put those into a reality that we can move forward with.
Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors…Oh My!
The Thought, Feeling (Emotions) and Behavior cycle diagram below sums this vicious cycle up pretty well.
As you can see, this process is not linear.
Our Thoughts, feelings/emotions and behaviors all feed off of each other (We like to think of this as a flesh eating bacteria, there’s a cure if you catch it in time, but the whole process is pretty ugly) and tend to go around and around and around.
How do we stop this vicious cycle of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior from controlling our lives?
The first step in this is to identify what the heck is happening. If we’re all just running around feeling and acting (more often reacting), without any, oh I don’t know stopping and asking WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?, we’re all going to be in some really deep sh**!
So the first step is identification which takes a Serious Reality Check. Or what I like to call ‘Stopping & Thinking,’ which often results in us asking ourselves… “WHAT THE HECK AM I THINKING?”
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Exercises to Stop this Vicious Cycle.
Working with a professional whether that’s a counselor or coach can be extremely helpful in guiding you through this, but for now here’s a great Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tool to get you started.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems, including anxiety, depression, PTSD and even self-sabotage.
It’s called a CBT 3 Column Thought Record and it can be a great way to encourage observation and tracking.
Essentially, it’s 3 columns tracking:
- Situation (Where were you? What were you doing?, etc.)
- Thought (What thoughts/images went through your mind?)
- Feeling (What did you feel?)
How to begin…
To start, pick one situation a day to focus on and if you don’t have time to do this in the moment, you can complete it more descriptively at the end of each day.
It can be helpful to just jot down what you’re going through, thinking and feeling in the moment (maybe keep a little notepad and pen handy) and then you can dig a little deeper into it when you have time.
I also like to track feelings on a 1-10 scale.
This enables us to also give our feelings a little reality check of their own.
The highest score on the scale is 10.
Soo…If you thought a situation on Tuesday was a 10, but on Wednesday that feeling has gone to a level you didn’t even know existed, then Wednesday is a 10 and Tuesday was maybe closer to a 7.
Warning Label: Don’t be too hard on yourself, believe it or not, this is a hard task for the most observant and emotionally intelligent person to complete.
Identifying the difference between a thought and a feeling can be difficult.
I’ve had very intelligent client’s tell me, “I was thinking I was anxious.”
Although I’m sure they were thinking that. It’s important to clarify what the actual thought was that they were originally thinking about in the first place.
For example, I was thinking that… “I will die right here at my desk crying into my salad, because I will Never get out of this soul crushing job,” and that resulted in feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, etc.
Sometimes this thought is pretty far in our subconscious especially if our mental health issues have become second nature to us.
So give yourself a little leeway, but if you get stuck reach out for help. Whether that’s to professionals like us (Call Us!) or just a good friend that can help give you a little out of your own head insight.
Now once we’re at a point where we start to successfully observe our thoughts and feelings related to specific situations. We can then start to identify terms like “can’t,” “never,” “always,” “forever,” in our everyday verbal vocabulary as well as our “unexpressed internal only would ever say to myself vocabulary.”
Once we know that this type of unrealistic thinking exists we can then start to change it.
The types of changes that you will make here are likely to have a big impact on your success whatever your goals.
How Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors Play a Role in Mental Health Issues
Below are some different Thought, Emotion and Behavior Cycle Diagrams related to some of the most common mental health issues.
These thoughts, feelings and behaviors are out there all over the internet, in other people’s heads and more importantly in our own.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Do one of the below cycles resonate with you?
Cycle of Depression
Cycle of Anxiety
Cycle of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Cycle of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues and are looking for a little help along the way Or feel that you are seeking a higher level of care, please feel free to reach out to us. If we can’t help, which is unlikely, but if we can’t, we will help you find someone who can.
We are here for you, because YOU MATTER!
If we can be of any help here at The Wave, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We look forward to talking with you soon!
Victoria Schmick-DiStefano, LMHC
Utilization Review Director