Anxiety is worrying about the future and depression is ruminating over the past.
If your dog or cat died you are going to experience depression and that is very understandable. If you continue to mull over sad events many months later (the sexpot I met at Mardi Gras still hasn’t called me) you will continue to feel depressed.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is being overwhelmed by things in the future. You feel unable to cope with all the imagined tasks ahead of you. When you become overwhelmed, negative self-talk starts and feelings of doom and gloom appear.
Anxiety is horrible: you can’t escape it because you carry it in your head all the time.
But the secret to stopping it is to know just that — realising it is all contained in your head.
Neuroscience, the study of how our human brains work, reveals we can only think about one thing at a time. Therefore, the best way is to get it out of your head is to get it down on paper.
Begin making a list of all the things you feel you have to do, then put them in columns of things you have to do now and things for later. Also list things to be concerned with and things you really don’t have to.
With most clients, once they prioritise things or dismiss some matters altogether, they rid themselves of a lot of anxiety.
Primitive men used cave paintings to depict their lives and make decisions. We have developed language, numbers and other recording methods as without these skills we would find it almost impossible to plan, construct and understand our modern world. CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) are big words for doing just that, changing the things in our heads by writing them down and challenging the way we think.
Keeping a diary is also an excellent way to observe thinking. Write a page once a day (without worrying about spelling, punctuation or capital letters) to create a stream of consciousness, the results of which will surprise you. You will see what you really think, previously denied because you can only think about one thing at a time.
Meditation, yoga, exercise and the like are also enormously helpful to reduce anxiety symptoms. These practices allow the right side of the brain to settle down the organising dominating left side — the side that does the planning and the worrying. You want to shut up that organisational part of the brain to have a little rest.
The brain also works like this: we have a thought (a worry about a future thing to do), we then have a feeling (we feel anxious), then we have a behavior (we feel unwell, tired and irritable).
If you challenge the original thought to, “I do not need to worry about that now”, you stop the feeling stone dead and the resulting behaviour. So thought, then feeling and then behaviour.
For people suffering from depression the opposite works. Changing the behaviour will change the feeling, which in turn will change your thoughts.
So instead of brooding about the past (that sexpot I met at Mardi Gras isn’t going to call me) head for the nursery, go for a walk or have dinner with a friend.
Changing the behaviour will help you feel and then think better about your self and life. Take care of youself.
INFO: Gerry is a gay counsellor and can be contacted on 0411 368 142 or emailed on [email protected]