There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public. There are worse things than these miniature betrayals, committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things than not being able to sleep for thinking about them. It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.
The following structure for this group’s discussion was taken from the following CBT book:
Corrie, S., Townend, M. and Cockx, A. (2016). Assessment and case formulation in cognitive behavioural therapy. Los Angeles: SAGE.
‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ (GAD) is characterised by “Excessive worry and preoccupation about a number of events and activities”. The condition is diagnosed when this occurs most days; the feelings of anxiety causing restlessness, easily tired, finding it hard to concentrate, tense, disturbed sleep and affected functioning.
- The belief about the worry is worse than the actual worry
- Worrying is actually a way of coping
- The worry thoughts can centre around ‘what if?’
- When did you first notice that worry was a problem?
- What were the circumstances when you first started worrying?
- Has the worry changed or developed over time?
- Are there any significant worriers in your family?
- Have there been times in your life when things were going really well and how did you cope with difficulties then?
- Is it important to you to know what is going on all the time?
- Can we think about worry differently? As a process without getting dragged into the actual fear, rumination or content.
- Can we alter the way we talk to ourselves about things? E.g. not be so critical, perfectionist or brutal to self, instead be kinder, caring and give yourself a break.
- Can we discover coping strategies?
Some strategies that the group have amongst them were to set a worry time (although this doesn’t work for everyone), meditation, write down the worries and then throw them away. Accept that life is imperfect and uncertain. Actually facing that uncertainty head on rather than avoiding it will see the worry gradually decrease over time. Other skills that the group already employ included the use of poetry, adding a little transition between the days events e.g. to sit in the car for a few minutes after a day at work and going home, and remember that although you may feel anxious, others cannot see your anxiety.
Do you feel that you struggle to make decisions? Do you feel defeated trying to choose a cereal in the supermarket, or tormented about whether to attend your niece’s wedding? We make so many decisions daily, and life is scattered with huge life changing decisions with a myriad of implications. Popping into Starbucks for a coffee alone offers you no less that 80,000 ways to take your caffeine, or maybe no caffeine, or milk, full fat, semi or skimmed, or soya, latte or americano, tall or grande…..you get the picture (!) So how do we cope with making decisions. Or do we not? Or is not making a decision actually making a decision?
First of all in the group we looked at what is it about making a decision that can feel difficult? People said not knowing the outcome, the fear that if it goes wrong it’s all your fault. People also said that a history of making bad decisions makes it hard to trust yourself and so decreases confidence. Overthinking and rumination over the potential ‘what if’s’ of a decision provokes anxiety and procrastination. And a final difficulty cited is that once a decision has been made you may then be tied to the consequences of it, and that is scary.
So, the second part of our discussion was around responsibility-the level at which we are able to accept responsibility probably promotes our decision making abilities.
Taking no responsibility leads to blaming everyone else, whereas taking all the responsibility is blaming yourself for everything.
We had a think about what these two elements look like: Not taking any responsibility manifests in procrastination, always letting others decide, not paying bills, not contributing, not thinking of others, avoidance, not willing to look at oneself, unhealthy coping mechanisms [to escape e.g. alcohol or sleep], and blaming others. Taking all the responsibility conversely involves always making decisions for others, taking the blame for everything, putting others before self, only seeing the negative in yourself, dis empowering others, not trusting others which can lead to micromanagement and bullying. Another direction of over responsibility is taking so much care of others that it can lead to obsessive compulsive behaviours trying to protect everything.
The question was posed to the group ‘Do you actually know what decision is best to make, but fear and doubt are what comes in creating confusion and reluctance to decide’. Interestingly people mostly did seem to concur that they did in fact know what to do, so it isn’t the not knowing that creates a barrier to deciding but rather the implications of the made decisions. People did chat too that as well as not making or avoiding decisions, sometimes they just make very impulsive choices, we talked about whether at times these were self-sabotaging behaviours.
There are some things we can do to help in combating decision fatigue. A study of an Israeli prison parole board showed that prisoners appearing earlier in the day were more likely to receive parole for no other reason than by the end of the day the judges were tired and less likely to have the mental energy to make a decision regarding a prisoner’s release. This study is cited in the New York Times in an article about decision fatigue.
It is no different for us, when we are tired, hungry or it’s the end of the day having already made thousands of decisions, it becomes more difficult to decide. So sometimes putting an important decision off until the morning may be wise, and planning and organising can significantly reduce the pressure of having to make extra decisions.
Building self-worth is a topic that had been requested by the group, so first of all we chatted about what was contributing to low self-worth. Common among the group were themes of feeling a failure, and therefore not trying new things as there wasn’t much point or purpose and feeling undeserving.
The first is to be mindful, to build awareness of your self-critic and negative self-talk. This is a recurring topic in the group, we realise that our minds are very clever at protecting us by always looking out for trouble, but too easily we see it within ourselves which isn’t helpful to us, but the more we are aware and have techniques to deal with this thinking, the better equipped we are to build self-worth. It is good to remember that these are thoughts, not facts. Remember: you are not your circumstance, this was a powerful concept for some people who realised that they had they potential to define themselves by their family situation or health circumstances, so it is empowering to realise this is not who we are.
Secondly we talked about changing the story; Whose version of the story about you are you listening to? Some people discussed how situations they had previously seen as a failure they could now see opened up very different avenues for them in life, more of a change of direction and a different story than a failure.
It’s important to understand and choose your own story, for some the idea of being the hero of your own story is a transforming way to navigate and anticipate life’s events emphasising the control we have and the choices we hold over how things go if we can visualise ourselves doing well or differently than we may have coped previously.
Put some realistic positive affirmations in there and challenge other voices-Why should the prosecutor have all the evidence!
Thirdly, don’t compare and despair! Avoid the comparison trap and don’t fall down the rabbit hole! This can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety and negative feelings, and generalisations e.g. ‘If I fail, I am a failure’. From the group discussion, this seems like a popular belief to reduce self-worth, so learning the difference between failures being part of life but not an identity is crucial.
This is enhanced by the fourth tip, to ‘Channel your inner Rock Star’. We each have our own strengths, no-one is successful at everything, therefore it is important to develop and recognise your own strengths, that’s what makes you special and unique. Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish for it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”.
It’s important to be realistic with our aspirations too, for example, I’m likely to satisfyingly succeed at improving my swimming fitness to 20 lengths a day, but to aim for gold at the next Olympics might just cause me more upset and stress than it’s worth.
This final and fifth tip we really like: Organise your day around self-care. We considered how we generally try and slot this stuff in, and what would it look like to actually prioritise the following:
- Social time
- Do unto others and self-compassion
- Be of service
- Do what gives you a meaningful sense of purpose
- Forgive-reduces bitterness and resentment which leads to negative thoughts
“The more someone does something in their life that they can be proud of, the easier it is for them to recognise their worth”.
We did an exercise where each person wrote a list of some of their perceived strengths and perceived weaknesses-but they had to draw a heart around both of them. People actually saw how their weaknesses could also be strengths, and vice versa, like Geoffrey Bain, an occasional guest to our group, says, bright spots have dark spots.
Today we looked at fun games from our childhood. We discussed games we used to play in the school playground like ‘British Bulldogs’ which we assume would not be permitted or acceptable in the present day on the grounds of health and safety! We also compared children’s playparks from the past to the modern today. In the past if you were unlucky enough to fall off park facilities you would most likely tumble on to a ground of hard grass, sand or gravel thus creating a lot of scuffed knees. In the present day things have thankfully changed regarding safety with most playparks now using protective wood or rubber that can lessen the impact of a child falling.
We went on to discuss board games from childhood: These in included;
Ludo, Frustration, Cluedo, Mouse Trap, Battleships, Connect Four, Operation and Spirograph, just to name a few.
An art session in this group is normally very relaxing. This session we went for traditional drawing and sketching, leaving aside the glitter and glue on this occasion (fun though they are!)
Group members spoke about really being able to switch off through art and just be in a different space for a while really focusing on something, hopefully people were also able to enjoy the process without worrying too about the end result and just get absorbed in the creating rather than stress about perfection which can sometimes be a barrier to just getting stuck in. It was nice to see people being able to relax while doing this.
A big topic to discuss today; as more people are speaking about how they feel about gender we thought we would explore what our gender means to us-is it important? Do we think it is a spectrum? How much is it really connected to physiological factors?
We began by looking at fashion in the West throughout the last century to see how assigned roles for men and women informed clothing and how this changes as the years go on…and those who defied the cultural fashion norms of their day. Please click here to have a look: Fashion and Gender
What we noticed from the pictures was that the predominant fashion for men was a suit, and this didn’t really change for many decades, although a cardigan became a casual substitute for a jacket, the tie was still worn. In the 70’s though with the arrival of Glam Rock, suits began to take on a much more colourful, glittery, lacy and all in one form. Meanwhile Punk was doing something very different and introduced gender neutralised styles as men and women wore the same clothes and hairstyles.
In previous generations, apart from those who deliberately went against cultural norms it seemed to be men in suits and women in dresses.
The group discussion touched on the debate of how much is nurture or nature and observed how from a very young age a child learns what is for boys e.g blue and trucks and what is for girls e.g pink and dolls. Though it was noted that what this looks like for us today was not the same stereotypes of three or four centuries ago; think of the flamboyance in the royal courts of men’s fashion.
People talked about how it is helpful to organically be able to find your way through your gender as a child to enjoy your gender or to have the choice to maybe not feel so connected to it. Some people shared experiences either received or observed of sometimes ‘progressive'(?) parenting of forcing children to play with non-stereotypical toys for their gender, and the removal of a chosen and enjoyed toy because it was ‘gendered’. We also spoke again, as we have previously in this group about how certain qualities are attributed to being masculine to feminine-when maybe it’s actually just human! The group acknowledged that maybe gender can be a bit more fluid and doesn’t have to be placed rigidly in categories of jobs, qualities, colours and fashion for men and women…this applies to moisturiser…the group were joking that for women it is marketed for separate and individual moisturisers for hands, nails and cuticles, feet, legs, elbows, face, neck, eyes, etc, and 300 different choices of shampoo depending on hair type, while for men, one big bottle will clean the lot including the oil on the garage floor! Though we do know this is changing as men’s grooming has become a big emerging market which clearly shows the change in the public’s perceptions and expectations of gender.
This session was really all about self-care. We recognise as a group that we can carry a lot of stress at times, and acknowledging that the seasonal change can have an impact on us. So there was no big agenda to discuss or work on. The group began with ice-cream, ok (!) so not everyone warmed to this idea at 10.15 in the morning, but to those of us who did it was a lovely treat. Next we used some lovely, nourishing shea butter hand cream, as the coming colder months can dry out our skin. It was quite buttery and did take a while to absorb so we did all need to sit there for a while rubbing it in, moisturising our skin! After this we did some gentle stretching to get in tune with our bodies, and were then ready for some relaxation. We began with a body scan to see where we were holding tension, before moving onto an autumn visualisation. People experienced this as a very relaxing session, so its good to do this once in a while.