Monday, 17 October 2011

Mini Series – How to Overcome Anxiety

Mini Series – How to Overcome Anxiety

No. 3 – Tackling Anxiety and Dealing With Fear.

The way you think affects the way you feel. It is true, therefore, that if you are having anxious thoughts that your chances of feeling anxious are magnified. Most people that have anxious thoughts spend a lot of time fearing that bad things may happen, whether these are realistic fears or not. The more a person worries the greater the fear becomes and the reality that bad things may happen increase. We are not able to predict the future with any certainity, but people with anxiety problems tend to overestimate the balance of probability of bad things happening.

Anxious people also indulge in extreme thinking or even fantasizing about just how bad things really are. This ‘end of the world’ thinking only serves to feed the anxiety. Ask yourself the question, “are things really as bad as they seem?”. Some things may be unfortunate or unlucky or unpleasant but there certainly don’t spell doom and gloom.

Anxiety can be a deep and consummate experience that is felt physically and mentally but it is common for people to misinterpret these sensations as dangerous or a sign of coming danger. Some of these symptoms may include feeling sick, dizzy and a racing heart beat, leading to some people thinking they are having a heart attack.

Coping with attacks.

If you are affected by either panic attacks or anxiety attacks you will know they are never fun and can be extremely worrying if you do not know what they are. This can be one of the most acutely uncomfortable feelings that you are ever likely to experience and the knowledge that they may happen again without warning can leave you fearful, hopeless and helpless.

You may draw some comfort that you are not alone, in America over 5% of the population suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. Having said that, this is probably of little comfort when you are experiencing one of the attacks. There are different levels of severity and frequency of attacks, from someone who finds it difficult to speak in front of an audience to those that the attacks happen so often they are unable to leave their home.

So what can you do? The first thing is to have belief that you can learn to deal with the attacks. You may even be able to eliminate them altogether or make them so insignificant that they don’t actually bother you anymore. There are many coping strategies that you can use, some will work better than others but try them all and see which one works best for you.

There are 5 main strategies you should try:

  1. Visualisation exercises. The aim of these is to enable you to quickly clear mental stress, tension, and anxious thoughts. Like any exercise, the more you try these the better you become and to be effective you must carry out this exercise for longer than 10 minutes in order to achieve maximum benefit. There are many books on the market that go into great length as to how you can use visualisation to ease away anxious and toxic thoughts. Its really about training the mind to let go of stress and anxiety but it is important you practice this every day and, over time, you can quickly de-stress within minutes of starting.
  2. Practice deep relaxation. Making time to relax is good for everyone, and even better for those who feel anxious. A good way to relax is to concentrate on your breathing ensuring it is slow and consistent. One of the initial stages of a panic attack is difficulty with breathing so by focusing your attention on this is important and helps to slow down your heart rate as well. Again, there are many books available that explain in more detail how to achieve a relaxed state.
  3. Develop a regular exercise regime. This is one of the best ways to combat anxiety and there are many benefits to a good programme, such as:
-       production of endorphins which increase your sense of well-being;
-       better digestion;
-       reduces anxiety and stress;
-       improves blood circulation;
-       helps sleeping patterns;
-       can decrease depression;
-       speeds up metabolism of excess adrenaline in the bloodstream.

Caution: If you are over 35 or in poor physical condition, please see your doctor    before you start any exercise programme.

There are lots of different exercise programmes available so find one that you like and will produce the results you are looking for and stick to it.

  1. Reduce or eliminate or stimulants from your diet. It is known that certain foods
and stimulants can create stress and anxiety. The first thing you should avoid is caffiene, it is famous for starting panic attacks, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate or soft drinks. Caffeine increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that make you alert and awake.
Nicotine is a very strong stimulant and most smokers believe it helps to calm their nerves, whereas the opposite is true. Nicotine speeds up the heart rate and can lead to more anxiety and panic attacks and disrupts sleep patterns.
Sugar is required by the body to survive, it’s our energy and fuel. However, it is the naturally occurring sugar called glucose that is needed not the refined sugar that we find in soft drinks, cereals, sweets, sauces, etc. Too much sugar can lead to diabetes and too little blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which can resemble a panic attack. Eating more fruit and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, brown rice and pasta and vegetables will help increase your resilience to stress and anxiety.

  1. Replace negative self-talk with positive thinking. When you worry or are anxious, you overestimate the odds of something bad happening and underestimate your ability to deal with a negative event, should it actually happen. Practical common sense problem solving that identifies, challenges and replaces unhelpful thoughts with helpful ones can be learned and used to negate the feelings of anxiety. For example, the thought “I’ll make a fool of myself giving this presentation” would be replaced with “It’s okay if I am a bit nervous, everyone gets this when speaking to an audience”. Another example could be “I’ve handled this before okay and I’ll handle it again okay this time”.
This is not an overnight process, it takes time to identify the negative self-talk and to replace it with more helpful and realistic thoughts but with practice this is a powerful tool against panic and anxiety attacks.

Reducing the Perception of Danger

It has been proved by scientists that the body cannot distinguish the difference between real and imagined events and situations. That is why sometimes the body can experience the symptoms of anxiety from danger that is imagined rather than real. It is possible that some people invent danger to explain how they feel, i.e. “I’m having a heart attack” when the heart beats fast, or “I’m suffocating” when you find it difficult to breathe. It is these thoughts that make the panic or anxiety attack more powerful. In reality, will you get a heart attack or stop breathing when you have a panic or anxiety attack? The answer is NO.
So know we know that these thoughts of danger are over exaggerated how do we get rid of these thoughts? Firstly, begin to recognise the signs of a panic or anxiety attack and once you become aware of them and they alone cannot cause you harm you will gradually stop having these thoughts of something bad happening to you. Secondly, when you identify negative self-talk, write these down and replace them with alternative, more helpful, thoughts. Lastly, do not resist your panic attack when you are going through it. This only makes it worse. Instead, face up to the symptoms and accept what your body is going through. Let go of your feelings and just relax, recognise what you are going through and tell yourself that you have been here before and nothing bad actually happened last time.
Next Chapter: Lifestyle Changes for Reducing Anxiety.

This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No. 2 - Anxiety - How to Spot Errors in Your Thinking.

No. 2 - How to Spot Errors in Your Thinking.

Generally, most people don’t tend to think about how they are thinking and about how this affects us, and yet we should do.

As a coach, I work with people by analyzing how they think, what their attitudes are and the beliefs the client has and how these three things affect how they see the world and how this makes them feel. For example, if you are feeling very down there is a very good chance that, in fact, this is caused by your negative or unhelpful thoughts. That’s not to say that you intentionally think negatively, it’s just that you are probably unaware that this is the way you are thinking.

Everyone has negative thoughts occasionally but these thinking errors distort your judgments when assessing situations or events. Thinking errors can cause you to create the wrong impressions, jump to incorrect conclusions and sometimes, to expect the worst. But, everyone has the ability to just stand back and reflect on the situation and how you are currently thinking and to reassess your reaction.

Can you remember a time in the past that you thought was embarrassing or traumatic? When you recall this now you will probably find that you feel and think much differently about it, you might even raise a smile thinking about it now. So what has changed, why didn’t you smile back then? Because you were thinking differently at the time.

Here are some of the more common thinking errors:

  • All-or-nothing thinking. This can also be classified as black-or-white thinking and can result in acute emotions and behaviours, such as people either love you or hate you, it either has to be a roaring success or it’s a calamity. What all-or-nothing thinking errors do you have? Think about those times when you can remember having these thoughts, at work, at home, doing jobs around the home, in sport, etc,.

            One way to overcome these all-or-nothing thinking errors is to be realistic. When
            you catch yourself thinking this way, stop and reflect. In the situation you find    
            yourself in, how realistic, appropriate and helpful is it to think this way, where
            will it get you?

            Another way of looking at the situation other than black-or-white thinking is
            ‘both-and reasoning skills’. This is where you CAN allow two opposites in your
             thinking to exist at the same time. For example, you can be both a top tennis
             player and drop a few sets here and there. Your life is not a case of being either a
             success or a failure, it is possible to be both a developing person and make every
             effort to make positive changes in your life.

             The achievement of goals or targets are easily sabotaged by all-or-nothing
             thinking as you will be more likely to give up when you reach that first obstacle
             or when you miss a deadline or were not realistic about what you could achieve.
             Because life is uncertain there will be times when things don’t go as expected,
             but if you can avoid ‘either/or’ statements and labels such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or
             ‘win’ and ‘lose’, you will avoid thinking errors and be more realistic.

  • Catastrophising. This is when we convert a relatively insignificant negative event into a catastrophe or series of catastrophes. I am sure you can recall events from the past when you imagined the worst outcomes possible that made you feel anxious, worried or even panic-striven. When you look at your thinking now, was the perception worse than the reality? Probably not.

For example, your partner is late home from work for no apparent reason, but you start worrying that they have had a car accident, that they are hurt and have ended up in hospital seriously ill.

In order to stop catastrophic thinking, you will need to realize that these are just thoughts and not the reality. If you do find yourself thinking the worst, try these strategies:

-       Put your thoughts into perspective. Just because you mispronounced a word during a presentation to 100 people doesn’t mean that you were a failure and that everyone noticed and had a giggle at your expense. In fact, most people will not have noticed your minor faux-pas as they would have been concentrating on the content of your presentation. In reality, how bad is it really to make one small mistake?
-       Rationalise your thoughts. If your partner is late home from work, consider that it might be bad traffic, she popped in to see a friend or stayed late in the office to catch up instead of thinking she’s had a car accident.
-       Do you have enough information? When you partner is late home from work, analyse the evidence you have before you. What is making you think she had had an accident, has she been late before, what were the reasons then? Look for evidence that challenges your catastrophic assumption of why they are late.
-       Focus on solutions. Just because you mispronounced one word in your presentation, does not mean that you will not be invited back to speak again. Practice your presentation before you do it again, perhaps to a close friend to ensure that next time you get it right.

         Generally speaking, the end of the world will not happen just because you
         you make a mountain out of a molehill. We humans are very resilient and have the
         ability to bounce back from minor disasters, just think back to your own past and
         consider the fact that you are still here.

·      Predictive Thinking. Many clients tell me that the reality of something they thought would happen is very nearly always not as bad as they predicted. The problem here is in the prediction or perception what they believe will happen in a situation or an event. Most people cannot see into the future and yet this is what we try to do and usually our predictions are negative rather than positive. Think about your own past again and try to remember when you have predicted something and it has turned out better than expected.

Just imagine how much better it would be if you let nature take its course and you didn’t worry about predictions.

  • Guessing What Others Are Thinking. So you think you can read other people’s minds, do you? In reality, you can never know what another person is thinking unless you analyse all the evidence you have. For example:

-       Think about what other alternatives there may be in this situation;
-       Acknowledge that you may be guessing wrong;
-       If possible, get more evidence to help you make a better decision about what the other person is thinking.

·      Overgeneralising. Overgeneralising is where we make a sweeping statement or thoughts about one or more situations. Typical thinking errors could include ‘always’, ‘they are’, ‘everyone’, ‘the world’s’, and ‘all’ words or sentences. Situations are infrequently so bad that these words or sentences actually apply and you might want to contemplate the following:

-       Be definite about the situation and ask yourself whether you are overgeneralising or not;
-       Postpone judgement until you have more evidence;
-       Put things into perspective. Ask yourself if your generalization is actually true or are you exaggerating.

·      Feelings Aren’t Necessarily Facts. Just because you have a feeling about something, this does not mean it is true. Again, evidence is required to substantiate what you are thinking. When you begin to feel that your feelings are taking over from the evidence, step back and try the following:

-       Consider how you might see the situation if you were feeling more relaxed. Find the evidence to support or deny your feelings are correct. How might you interpret your thoughts differently?
-       Be aware of your thoughts and the mental state you are in. When you are feeling anxious or worried you will not be thinking the same as if you are calm and relaxed.
-       Give yourself time to let your feelings diminish. When you change your state from anxious or worried to calm and relaxed you will be thinking clearer and with greater perspective. Many times your thinking is as a result of your current emotional state.

·      Making Commands for Oneself. I hear many clients of mine using words, such as ‘I must’, I should’, ‘I need’, ‘I’ve got to’ and ‘I have to’ and these are very unhelpful as they can impose feelings of pressure, guilt and failure. These commands are, in most cases, unrealistic and inflexible and take no account of other circumstances. On the other hand, by using more flexible statements the likelihood of pressure, guilt and failure diminish significantly. Here are some examples for you to use instead:

-       Use words such as ‘I would like’, ‘I prefer’, ‘I wish’, and ‘I want’;
-       Keep your standards, ideals and preferences but get rid of those commands that dictate how you, other people and the world should be.
-       Understand other people preferences. If you judge people by your inflexible and rigid standards, you will be disappointed. By softening your thoughts and beliefs you will feel less frustrated by others who do not match your standards.

·      Accept Compliments. We are very good at deflecting positive comments directed at us by others and this actually has the effect of turning a positive into a neutral or negative event in our mind. For example, a lady when being complimented on how lovely their dress is might reply that it’s only a cheap thing that she threw on in a hurry. We need to develop our skills for accepting compliments for what they are, positive comments. You might try the following:

-       Practice receiving and giving positive compliments about yourselves and others.
-       Accept compliments with a simple but well intentioned ‘thank you’, as you would do if you had been given a gift.

·      Be Open to Other Possibilities – Mental Filtering. This is where we process only that information which we believe to be true. That information that we don’t believe in tends to be filtered out and discounted. For example, a tennis player may only remember the last bad shot they played rather than all the good ones and, as a result, may consider themselves to be a bad player. To overcome the negative effects of mental filtering, evaluate the situation you feel bad about and search for wider evidence of your performance that overrides your negative thoughts. For example, try the following:

-       Investigate your filters to ensure you are not filtering out all the good, positive thoughts at the expense of just negative thoughts.
-       Get proof to convince you that your negative thoughts are not necessarily true and get proof to convince that your positive thoughts are true.

·      Realise Your Potential.  Many of my clients, when describing something that appears to be difficult, use the phrase ‘intolerable’. This has the effect of enlarging the level of difficulty and creates the thoughts and beliefs that they are impossible. These diificult or intolerable situations are usually short-term and that, in fact, there is much to be gained by sticking with it and achieving success in the long term. My favoured method for overcoming this error in thinking is to engender an attitude of ‘can do’, which can be done by trying the following:

-       Tell yourself that you can withstand difficulties and anxious thoughts, that they are only short-lived and you will feel better about in the end.
-       End procrastination about starting something difficult. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get started but once you have the difficulties seem to diminish by themselves. You will feel better and think more positively about yourself when you complete the task.

Next Chapter: Dealing With Negative Thinking
This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©


Life Coaching And Goal Setting

Life Coaching And Goal Setting
We are all unique with different sets of strengths and weaknesses. It is our job to figure out the best ways we can use our strengths and weaknesses. Also, because life is unpredictable, you may always find yourself developing the things you want in life and your goals. The more you learn, the more things you come across, the more options you have! Make that concentrated effort to plan out all that you want. Find out ways to work on accomplishing these goals.
 What if you’ve compiled a list but you need help organizing it to know what the next step shall be? Consider vising a life coach. These days, life coaching is a better option than therapy. Life coaches are especially easier to reach because you can communicate with them face-to-face, on the telephone and on the Internet. You are much more likely to succeed when you have to report your progress back to someone. With the added support from an outside, professional aid you have a higher chance in finding confidence, clarity, control, awareness and focus. The life coach can either help you in the planning process or help you execute your life goals. Learn what is really vital in your life and seek advice from a life coach. If you would like to learn more about life coaches or begin seeing one, visit 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Short video about online interactive coaching for mental wellbeing

How to Overcome Anxiety No. 1 - How you think affects the way you feel.

How to Overcome Anxiety

No. 1 - How you think affects the way you feel.

It’s fairly common to find that many people associate how they feel is affected by what happens to them. For example, if you have someone at work, such as your boss, who is rude to you, you may decide that they make you cross. In addition, you may also think that because of this behaviour you are made to behave differently than you would otherwise do, for example, you might shun the person, not speak to them, get in a bad mood.

Coaching can help put a different perspective on this and help you to understand your thinking or beliefs are positioned somewhere between what has happened to you (the event) and the resultant feelings and behaviour. In summary, what we think, believe and the meaning we give an event affects our emotions and the ultimate behavioural responses (our actions).

Looking at the above example again, coaching can help you realize that the rude work colleague actually does not have a responsibility for making you cross and for your behaviour of not talking to them. In effect, what you are telling yourself is that your work colleague is being deliberately rude to just you individually, thereby giving a meaning to their behaviour that makes yourself cross and non-communicative.

Taking all this into account, you will realize that your emotional and behavioural responses are influenced by the meaning you give to each event. If you think about how a positive event makes you feel, i.e. happy and excited, this becomes much clearer. On the other hand, a negative event or situation can lead to feelings or thoughts of sadness or even anxiety. Thinking negatively about negative events is quite often unhelpful, not useful, unbalanced and not realistic and may leave you with disturbed feelings. In coaching terms, ‘disturbed feelings’ can mean that your negative response is not helping you to come to terms with the negative event.

During coaching, it is the job of the coach is to help you to identify thoughts, beliefs and meanings that you may have attached to negative events that have left you feeling disturbed. Just imagine how you would feel if you replace negative meanings with more helpful and realistic meanings to events that have or could have happened to you, wouldn’t you experience less negative and disturbing emotional and behavioural thoughts and feelings.

For example, if you boss was rude to you, you might think that he was just having a bad day, or was under a lot of pressure or had a row with his partner that morning rather than thinking that his rudeness was specifically directed at you.

Thinking and feeling also heavily influence how you behave or act. If you are feeling anxious you are likely to avoid certain situations and people that may make you uncomfortable. This behaves causes problems in many ways, such as:

  • Avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding certain situations that you feel may be a source of danger or alarming, such as going to a party or a large meeting, deny you the opportunity to face your fears and defeat them.
  • Self-destructive behaviours, such as drinking, smoking and eating too much, or worse still, using drugs to dispel the feelings of anxiety, can end up leading to physical damage to your wellbeing.
  • Isolating behaviours, such as staying away from parties or meetings and/or cocooning yourself in the perceived comfort of your home, will add to your feelings of being alone and possibly make you feel depressed.

You may recognize some of these behaviours and remember occasions when they have happened to you. You may also have recalled your thoughts and the way they can make you feel anxious and affect what you do and how you felt. Conversely, you might not have noticed them at all, which is partly due to your thoughts, of which there are many different kinds, and partly because you have no reason for articulating them into words. Usually, expressing your thoughts can actually make things worse and create an anxious reaction and, after all, you are not likely to tell people how foolish you appeared to be.

However, it is essential that you know about the different thinking patterns in order that you may be able to analyse them when they occur. Thoughts can appear as perceptions, ideas, certain attitudes, images, memories, reactions, beliefs, value judgements or even assumptions. All of these emulate what is going on in your mind in contrasting ways and they can all be responsible for perpetuating the vicious cycles that keep you feeling anxious. What is worse is that this is true even when you are not fully alert to their presence either cognitively or when you try to put them into words.

Your thinking may have come from your formative years, i.e. when you were younger and impressionable, and may be affecting how you think today and to some extent become semi-formed ideas which you are unable to translate into words. This is particularly true when you think about yourself and your memories of events that have happened to you in the past, such as being rejected by a potential date, or being bullied at school or the subject of ridicule or criticism.

For example, the youngest child in a family will admit to still feeling a baby or a child when they talk to their parents or siblings. This may also manifest itself into feelings of inferiority and insignificance when faced with senior colleagues at work. The interesting thing here is that even though these events are happening in the present and are based on past events, the person who has these thoughts may not be immediately aware of them.

Anxious people commonly expect to be judged and this expectation creates an attitude that shapes the way you think about things rather than having just a thought. Many people report that negative beliefs about oneself, such as inferior, worthless, unacceptable or unsuitable often generate feelings of low confidence (‘I’ll never be any good at that’). This affirms a lack of belief in yourself and, in addition, incorrectly places others above you on the social ladder, i.e. they are more confident than me, they always get things right or they are successful. People also report that they believe ‘others’ are always judging them, watching out for their weaknesses, and analyzing their every move.

If this is what you have come to believe then you have developed a set of rules for how you think and behave and you generally will operate within these self-induced boundaries. For example, if you make a mistake people will never forgive you, they might reject you or severely criticize you. Ultimately, these rules for thinking isolate you and exacerbate your anxious feelings and perpetuate the cycle of negative thinking without ever having the opportunity to confront your fears and break free.

Next Chapter: How to Spot Errors in Your Thinking.

This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©


Life Coaching And The Meaning Of Life

Life Coaching And The Meaning Of Life
 What is the meaning of life? We all strive to know what our purpose is. We all have unanswered questions in our minds. In order to reach a step closer to answering these questions, we can seek help from individuals like life coaches. Life coaching is different from consultants and therapists. Life coaches can help you improve certain areas of your life like your relationships, career, education and maybe even your spirituality. Seeing a life coach does not necessarily mean you have difficulties, it just means that you want clarity.
 Have you ever noticed how some of your best ideas come when you’re clear minded, rather than when you’re constantly in worry?  You’ve got to do more than just wonder and wait for the answer to manifest itself.
 Some people live their lives pretending to be someone they are not. It is important to strive for authenticity in yourself so that you can truly find your place and value in this world. The life coach can either help you in the planning process or help you execute your life goals. If you would like to learn more about life coaches or begin seeing one, visit