All of us struggle at times. Whether it is anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, or problems at work, sometimes we need a little help. Here are five tips to help you to manage the difficulties that we all have to face, and to help you to regain control of your life -
1. Free yourself from a prison of rules – We all live by ‘rules’ about how we (and others) should be. In some ways, we hold onto these rules because they help us make sense of the world around us. But we can hold onto some too tightly. When this happens, we can feel anxious or depressed when the rules are broken. Have a look at the following rules, and assess whether these are helping you to live to your full potential, or trapping you in misery -
If I make a mistake, that means I am a failure
If I do not succeed at a task, there is no point in trying
I must be liked by everyone at all times
Because it is pleasurable to be wealthy, it is painful to have little or no wealth
My value depends on how others view me
Disagreement means conflict, which is to be avoided
To be loved, I must fulfil certain conditions
2. Avoid avoidance – Anxiety can leave us feeling fearful of certain situations We make assumptions about how things might turn out, usually for the worst, and so we avoid that situation. The trouble is that avoidance only makes things worse. We learn nothing about the situation, and how we might have handled the situation, and so we end up living a more limited life. Meet your full potential by exposing yourself, gently (perhaps with the help of a therapist), to the situations that you fear. If there is no real dangers to fear, then eventually the anxiety will subside. Avoid avoidance.
3. De-triangulate your relationships – ‘Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being’ (The Body Keeps the Score, Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk). An essential part of this restoration involves awareness. Without awareness in our relationships with one another, we are flailing blindly, and prone to hurt ourselves and each other. In our relationships, we can sometimes adopt a position in what is called Karpman’s drama triangle: One party is perceived as the Persecutor, another party is the Victim, and someone else is recruited as the Rescuer. If we are aware of this tendency, we can ensure that we react to the reality of what is happening in the relationship, rather than the unconscious dynamics that might be played out.
4. The double-blind of depression - Depression commonly catches us in a double-bind: We mistakenly believe that there will be a negative outcome to most situations, and we mistakenly believe that we will be the cause of that negative outcome (because we are inadequate or deficient). To avoid falling into this trap, challenge the assumptions that you make. This will take practice, and you may need help, but a useful first step is to adopt a kinder internal voice. Instead of being a harsh critic, direct inwards the kindness you would reserve for a child.
5. Break free of the depression cycle – All too easily we can become trapped in a cycle of depression: Our thoughts are negative, so we feel bad, which leads to us engaging in less and less activity. It is hard to quickly change or thinking patterns, but we can engage in more activities. Physical activity can quickly make us feel a little better, helping to break the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings. ‘We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching’ (The Body Keeps the Score, Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk). Even if you are taking a brisk walk for ten minutes each day, it is better than nothing.