Back in May, when I posted about ‘Anxieties – travel and otherwise’, I was in a bad place. My travel anxieties had returned, and I worried endlessly about the future. I decided to have another go at getting help, and sought out counselling as a way of trying to come to terms with everything.
My employer offers staff counselling, so I referred myself to them, and because I was aware there might be a delay in being seen, I also contacted an NHS service in my local town. I had also heard about a telephone service (US based) and contacted them. I must explain at this point that I wasn’t initially trying to get help from all of these, but it was just to have reserve options! In the end however, all three offered help, so I had initial appointments with all. It became clear that they all had slightly different approaches, so actually it was very good in that I learned about the different ways of dealing with my issues. What followed was a series of counselling sessions, some face-to-face, and some by telephone, and in the next paragraphs I’ll say something about what was covered.
One of the first approaches I encountered was Mindfulness. This approach has its origins with Buddhism and meditation, although it has since shed the mystic/religious aspect. Mindfulness is all about learning to observe your thoughts, including the troublesome ones, and rather than immediately respond to them, you can choose to let them pass. It helps to master a form of meditation which is based on deep breathing, and concentrating entirely on the act of breathing, and learning that thoughts are only passing phenomena. Having learned about it, I am now trying to master it, but it is difficult! However, I can see how beneficial it could be, so I will persist.
Another counsellor used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This uses the idea that thoughts influence behaviour, so if you can, say, categorise worries into practical and hypothetical ones, you can stop worrying about hypothetical ones, and find solution to practical ones. It also suggests that if one has recurrent worries, you set aside a ‘worry time’ each day to take back control. I have used this latter approach quite effectively.
The telephone-base counselling sessions turned out to be the best of all. I had 6 45-minute sessions, and the counsellor believed in using a combination of approaches, including CBT and Mindfulness. This proved very beneficial to me, as it encouraged me to tailor the different approaches to my needs.
Now, with the new Academic Year in full swing, I am pleased to say that, generally speaking, I am in a better state than I was in May. Of course, I haven’t been able to put the different approaches to the test on anything very difficult yet. I have used the ‘worry time’ idea suggested by CBT, and I am trying to use Mindfulness to deal with my worries about the future. I have also recently read ‘10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge and found self-help that actually works’, by Dan Harris, which provides a good illustration of how to apply Mindfulness in a stressful job. I certainly recommend it.
I’ll post again on this in a few months, hopefully to report on positive progress.