Imagine stress as what you experience in the moment, and anxiety as the stress you create about something in the future or the past. Either way they are both created by the way in which you are reacting to events, rather than by the events themselves. Being frightened and running away from something genuinely terrifying is a really important reaction to have. If we are conditioned to be hyper-sensitive to perceived threats however, and we don’t believe we’d cope well in a certain situation, we’re going to react with stress and anxiety because we perceive the threat as genuine. This is why people with phobias react to non-threatening situations as if they were real… they are real to the sufferer.
If your general stress level is quite high, it stands to reason that you’re more likely to ‘go into the red’ more quickly than someone who’s general stress level is quite low. Imagine a ’stress-o-meter’, with a dial numbered 1 to 10. 1 is completely relaxed, 10 is ‘in the red’ and very stressed. Most people have a level that they can get to and yet still stay relatively calm and in control. If they can stay below this number, they’ll prevent themselves from getting really stressed or anxious. Whereas if they go above this number, they’ll get stressed very quickly, begin to lose their perspective and find it much more difficult to calm down and think rationally.
It’s useful to be able to gauge your stress levels and actively manage your thinking so that you can keep yourself calm and in control. But what do you do if it all goes a bit wrong? Then you need to hit the reset button. If you’ve got yourself stressed, angry, upset or anxious, you can reset to a much calmer emotional state quite easily and quickly, by following these three steps:
🔸Recognise – that you have got yourself stressed, and that your ’stress-o-meter needle’ is in the red. 🔸Realise – that you have created this state by the way in which you have reacted to events – even though you might not know how you’ve achieved this right at this moment. 🔸Reset – your thinking and attitude by telling yourself ‘everything is alright’ and ‘I can cope with this’.
Do you often lie awake at night, unable to sleep because you’re worrying, analysing or constantly thinking about something? A brooding thinking style is characterised by frequent worrying, over-thinking, and going over the same thing in your head again and again.
You probably already know if you have this thinking style as you will habitually be thinking ‘What if….?’, imagining the worst case scenario over and over in intricate detail, and analysing every single option before making a decision.
Sometimes spending time thinking about a situation can be helpful, leading to creativity and new ideas. However, spending time looking at potential problems makes them seem bigger, scarier and more impossible to solve.
Brooding is about control: it feels helpful but it isn’t. It gives us the illusion that we are dealing with a situation when all we are doing is focusing all our attention on our problems, creating anxiety and stress. We tend to brood and worry when we feel powerless. If you work on building the belief that you can influence much of your life, you will start to feel more powerful and be less likely to worry about things.
Plus, have you noticed that when you are busy at work or school or with friends you don’t tend to worry? When you find yourself over-thinking (about emetophobia, lockdown or anything else) make a conscious effort to fully and actively engage with something else and you’ll soon break the cycle of worrying.
Our words and the language we use can play a huge part in shaping our thoughts, feelings and reactions. If the words we say to others, or we think to ourselves, are negative, dramatic, or catastrophic this leads us to create lots of stress, fear and anxiety.
Words also create and reinforce our beliefs, and our beliefs and thinking in turn affect our words. So if we constantly tell ourselves things like ‘being sick is the worst thing in the world’ we are reinforcing our belief that this is true, making it bigger and seemingly more difficult to change.
If you speak and think in negative words you will lower your mood, anticipate negative outcomes, make yourself stressed, reduce your self-esteem, increase your social anxiety, and contribute to your feelings of powerlessness. If you use and think in positive words you will feel powerful, anticipate positive outcomes, create less stress, increase your self-esteem, reduce your social anxiety and contribute to you feeling more powerful and in control.
Taking control of our language and self talk is something we can do at any time (even during a global pandemic). To start making a change think about the words and language you use over the next few days and note if this is positive and helpful. If not can you change it for something that is? Remember to think about your self talk, or internal voice, as well as the words you say out loud!
At times like these it can be difficult to see the positives, particularly when social media and news coverage constantly bombard us with negative and catastrophic headlines and stories. This, unsurprisingly, can lead us to think in less positive and powerful ways resulting in an increase in our unhelpful thinking. The good news is you can take control of this by limiting time spent ‘doom scrolling’ and choosing to focus instead on the positive things about yourself and your life. By making the choice to consciously look for the positives (no matter how large or small) you can change your attitude towards the day, the current situation, and how you view yourself. Try making a list of 10 positives each morning and set yourself up with a thriving, can do attitude for the day. Why not make number one on your list ‘I’m taking positive steps to overcome my fears and anxiety’.
Working towards small short term goals, as well as having longer term ones, can have a massive benefit on your mental wellbeing and self esteem. Why not try something different over the next few weeks and give a new hobby or activity a go? Think you could never be a runner? Prove yourself wrong and try a programme for beginners! Or if you want to read more this year then set aside some time each day for this. It doesn’t have to be a lot but the sense of achievement will be worth it.
Remember when setting goals and challenges to be realistic and keep any pesky perfectionism at bay. Working with people we often hear things like ‘I’m not doing well enough’ or ‘I’m not progressing fast enough’. This can demotivate you and stop you from trying (think of all those past broken New Year’s resolutions). Set small realistic goals that you can achieve if you put in a bit of effort and you’ll soon be on your way. Perfectionism can also cause problems if you’re trying to juggle lots of different things (like home schooling while working from home!). Be realistic and go easy on yourself. No one’s expecting you to be able to bake the perfect banana bread while simultaneously learning a new language and teaching your kids!
If you’re currently working through The Thrive Programme remember to make sure you put aside some time each day to focus on Thriving, as consistency is key! And if you’ve been thinking about starting then why not take this time to really commit to getting over emetophobia once and for all?
Emetophobia often leads to us creating a large number of avoidance and safety seeking behaviours, which we think we need to stay ‘safe’ (or to stop us from being sick or feeling anxious). These can include things like only eating certain foods, not going to crowded places and excessive hand washing amongst many others. Although we think that these behaviours and habits make us feel better, they actually stop us from challenging ourselves and learning to cope with things that seem scary.
Of course, during lockdown we have to get a bit more creative with how we challenge ourselves, but there’s still plenty that you can do! Why not make your own list of tough but manageable challenges that take you out of your comfort zone and help build up your coping skills. Here are some ideas to get you started or comment with your own lockdown challenges.
🔸Not checking the use by labels on food
🔸Cooking new recipes
🔸Trying food you wouldn’t usually eat (like chicken)
🔸Eating a takeaway and ordering something different or new
🔸Learning a new skill or trying something you wouldn’t usually do
🔸Watching TV programmes, films or videos where someone is sick
Thrive With Kat just received this amazing update from a very Thrivey former client! Well done!
‘I wanted to write and tell you how I’m doing with Thrive and the emetophobia that I don’t have anymore! I’m feeling great and putting all the stuff I learned through Thrive into practice every day. A few anxieties sneak up on me from time to time but really I know how to deal with them now so they just get squashed!
I particularly wanted to tell you about a situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago at work which I dealt with really well thanks to Thrive. My colleague had come into work really unwell. I was walking back up from the canteen with her but half way up the stairs she started going badly downhill and had to sit down and it was clear that she was going to be sick. Eeeek!! But, thanks to Thrive I stayed calm, resisted the temptation to run away and get someone 🙂, sat down and looked after her and shielded her from all the people going up and down the stairs and asked a couple of folk to get water/paper towels etc. I then took her up to the first aid room, stayed with her until she was feeling better then went off and told the rest of the team, got her stuff packed up then organised getting her home, including driving her car home. And all this without once washing my hands or freaking out in any way! Despite the very high chance of *contamination*!!
So that was pretty amazing, and even more than that was that I was OK afterwards, I calmly ate my lunch, and tea, and food the next day rather than starving myself. I challenged every single anxious thought (there definitely were some!) and did my best to turn it round. I armed myself with lots of things to say to myself in the middle of the night in case I woke up worried and just generally coped incredibly well. Yay!!
So thank you again for helping me to sort this out, my life feels so different now and although I still have some things to work on, I know that I just have to keep going and I’ll keep getting better’.