2019 has been a difficult year for me. Rewind back to April and I was was a completely different person. I was nervous, anxious, depressed and completely incapable of handling day-to-day “normal” life. There were many times when I wanted out, and I would get mad at myself for waking up and surviving another day. Eventually, though, it just got too much for me and I was forced to take myself to the doctors, where I was put on medication and referred to have CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) therapy through the NHS.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
Coming back to today – a cold December day far too close to Christmas – and I’m feeling more like myself again. Mentally I’m feeling quite stable, and I put a lot of this down to the CBT therapy that I’ve had over the past 6 months.
In this blog post I want to talk about the things I’ve learned from CBT. From working on myself for most of the year I’ve learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. These are the things that help me get through the day when it becomes a bit much.
What I’ve Learned From Having CBT Therapy
Self-care, self-care, self-care. Yes, that’s also the title of one of my favourite Mac Miller songs but it’s also really important for everyone. Sometimes, we need to be selfish and make a decision for ourselves – the decision being to be kind to yourself and setting time each week to check in on yourself. I have learned to treat myself more like a friend than an enemy for the most part. I need to rest when I’m tired, I need to praise myself when it’s due and I need to make allowances for anything I don’t do so well. Giving myself 15 minutes a week to just stop and think about how I’m doing has allowed me to reflect on my week and focus on where I am. If I’ve had a bad week then I look at what I can change to make myself feel better – do I need to eat better? exercise? or even just have an early night? I have figured out what I need to do when I feel anxious, and for the most part these little self-care rituals really help.
Behaviours are the easiest things to change. Depression runs in a cycle. You feel bad, so you do nothing, and therefore have less energy and want to do less – this runs on and on. When you catch depressive feelings it’s important to action something, to change behaviour to combat this before you delve further into the cycle. Yoga, reading outside or even walking to the shops is something I find helpful when I’m feeling low because it takes my mind off things and it’s good to get up and do something, even if it’s something small. I always feel proud of myself after too because I’ve achieved something.
CBT techniques help me to separate my thoughts from my true self and realise that they’re just passing thoughts that I don’t have to engage with if I don’t want to. We sometimes get so caught up in our thoughts that we believe them to be true, but they’re just opinion, not fact and certainly not something we should take as the truth. When I have a thought that’s bothering me I will write it down to get it out of my head straight away, it makes it seem less scary that way and I can go back and think about it properly later. The majority of the time I realise that this thought was completely untrue or I was just overreacting in the moment.
There are a bunch of CBT techniques that have really helped me, so let me know if you’d like me to write about these in another post!
Planning and setting achievable goals is important. I have started to schedule in the things I want and need to do throughout the week. This helps me to get everything done, even the things I don’t want to do, and still have time to chill and enjoy myself. I feel really good when I tick off my planned tasks because I’ve been productive and done something that directly helps me. The key with this is to create a balance of work, chores, socialising, relaxing, night-time routines, sleep and hobbies. Having a set plan also reduces my anxiety because I know what I’m going to be doing that week. When it comes to actually carrying out these tasks, there are of course times where I CBA and would rather do something else completely – I remember to stick to the plan, and not my mood in that moment. I never regret doing that!
TIP: If you’re going to do this, please don’t forget to make your week realistic and don’t set yourself up for too much at first! It’s a good idea to start small and build yourself up.
I need a routine. Actually, it’s not just me, we all need a routine because our body and mind love it! It is recommended that we go to sleep at the same time every night and wake at the same time every day so that our body is used to this pattern. Even eating at the same times each day can help. For me, I have found a night-time routine to be the most effective. I have these little rituals every night where I use my essential oils, maybe light a candle or dim the lights, read or listen to a podcast that makes me feel relaxed. I put on fresh pyjamas too. All of these things make my body realise it’s time to sleep soon and I start to wind down. I’ve also been putting my phone on night mode so that blue light doesn’t affect me so much.
Has CBT Therapy Helped Me?
CBT has helped me in a huge way, but it hasn’t solved all my issues. I think my low self-esteem is something that I really need to work on as this seems to be the root of the majority of my anxieties and negative thoughts.
I still have my down days, or down weeks sometimes and this is normal for everyone. But what’s important is that I keep going and trying my best. That’s all I can do!