Disclaimer: I know that anxiety and depression are no laughing matters, I have been there myself - but they ought to be - stay with me!
In an article written by Huma Qureshi in the Guardian (20/5/2013), I read that one in twenty adults have GAD generalised anxiety disorder http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Anxiety-Generalised-Anxiety-Disorder.htm. Ye-GAD! Quite a sadistic statistic! Why are we all so much more anxious in these modern, frenetic, non-stop times? I am sure you could all give me a hundred reasons, but let us narrow it down to these three things, of which I shall be the mistress: we do not go to church anymore (less - 'there is something out there bigger than me' - reflective time); we do not say what we want to say (bottling up frustration until it explodes - inside us - making us ill; or onto our spouse or kids - messy); we are not silly enough and are therefore not laughing enough - and more on this topic later.
Depression is different to anxiety, which, according to the psychiatrist, Dr David Baldwin, http://www.southampton.ac.uk/medicine/about/staff/dsb1.page is "characterised by a sense of pessimism about the past, whereas with anxiety, they focus on the future and what hasn't happened yet." Couldn't have put it better myself David. The article points out that antidepressants are being used in a generalised way to treat both conditions when CBT http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cognitive-behavioural-therapy/Pages/Introduction.aspx could be used to treat GAD more effectively. Oh GAD. Having taught art and creative writing in a therapeutic context to sufferers of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, I understand CBT is very helpful, given its strategies for helping one manage negative thinking, but Dr David Baldwin suggests a very simple 'trick' for anxiety: making lists.
Dr David says...
"Start the day with a list of what you have to do and tick them off as you go. It gives you a sense of progress and that relieves worrying. Try to limit your worrying to certain times of the day. It sounds bizarre, but if you only allow yourself to worry for half an hour a day at, say, 8am, you will learn to put your worries to one side and get on with everything else."
Making lists can stop you from listing, in the stopping you from 'tipping over' into being anxious all the time way, but I would like to suggest some further (and more fun!) strategies for those of us who suffer from anxiety:
Empty your head:
In my experience negative thoughts attack us most vehemently first thing in the morning. Keep a notebook by your bed. As a negative thought floats into your thinking like a toxic balloon, pop it by writing it down.
For example, substitute...'I am hopeless at my job, I will never get anywhere.'
For: I am good at tennis and making puddings...or whatever you are good at. If you can't think of anything make some activities up and then imagine yourself doing them.
Screw or tear up the paper containing the negative thoughts and chuck it in the bin, or at the wall, or mirror, or whatever (?!) and pop the good stuff that you have written down, into your pocket or handbag to meditate on during your day.
Sing a song of substance and get a pocketful of 'why not?':
If the thought 'I always screw up', floats into your boat...
Sing (Yes out loud! If your partner or kids cannot tolerate this, do it in the shower, or in the hall cupboard) this: 'I helped my boss Josie fix her bike when she had a flat tyre last
weekend. I will probably get a prom-o-o-tio-on...'
If you can manage to sing it in a ludicrous comic voice and you get a laugh out of it, so much the better. Consider that career in stand up you always wanted to do. I'm serious.
Wiggle it just a little bit:
Get out of bed and do a silly dance. Imagine the negative words falling to the floor with each wiggle. Chant the good stuff (preferably out loud) as you do. At least think or talk the good 'self-talk' silently to yourself.
If you would like further strategies, or if you would like me to come and do and anti-anxiety workshop with you and some friends, contact me.