Monthly Archives: July 2016

What is overthinking – and what can we do about it?

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Everybody worries from time to time – so when does worrying become overthinking?

Overthinking is simply what its name suggests – thinking too much. Overthinking is going over the same thought again and again, analysing the simplest of situations or events until all sense of proportion has gone. The overthinking brain cannot translate these thoughts into actions or positive outcomes, so therefore creates feelings of stress and anxiety.

The phrase “overthinking” is often used quite flippantly these days. (You can picture the social media posts: “I’m overthinking my holiday packing. Lol.”) But for the genuine overthinker, there is nothing shallow or light-hearted about their thoughts. What distinguishes overthinking from merely thinking?

Am I over-thinking?

Surely we all overthink to some extent? As parents, sons or daughters, employees or business people, worrying about things is linked to caring about our loved ones, and about doing a good job.

However, people who really struggle with overthinking tend to be “ruminators”, going over events that have already happened. Plain old worrying tends to be about the future: can I meet this deadline? Can I find a nice residential flat for my mum? Often, our worries help us move forwards as we are working out how to mitigate them; however overthinking tends to be passive rather than active, dwelling on past events and building up disproportionately negative future results.

Take this scenario. You accidentally call your new boss by the wrong name. What do you think and feel when you realise this later?

The average worrier will feel mildly embarrassed, plan to apologise with some self-deprecating comment the next day, then forget about it and make dinner. The overthinker will replay this error over and over, while rewriting different outcomes. By four in the morning, he or she will be mentally creating scenarios of being passed over for future promotions, or even chosen for redundancy. The incident has triggered big questions in the overthinking mind, which blow the whole event way out of proportion.

This may seem like a trivial example; however it’s a good illustration of how over-thinking can take over many facets of your life. Dwelling on a past event and making catastrophic predictions from it are classic examples of what an overthinking mind can do.

Overthinking comes from your primitive emotional part of your brain

Like many traits of anxiety and depression, overthinking actually comes from one of our primitive preservation instincts.

The primitive mind will always see things from the worst possible perspective. This is because the brain is being hyper-vigilant, trying to keep us alive – there’s no sense in being optimistic about those sabre-toothed tigers I’ve mentioned before!

The intellectual brain will tell us that no way will we lose our job because we called our boss by the wrong name. However, people prone to rumination are responding in that primitive fight-or-flight mode, where focusing on worst-case scenarios is more likely to keep us alive. Overthinking and anxiety work together, exacerbating the feelings of stress and helplessness.

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Overthinking fills the stress bucket

It’s easy to create anxiety through negative future forecasting. However, dwelling on the past can also make us feel extremely anxious. Negative thoughts fill our “stress bucket” to the point where we feel that one more drip, one more thought, will make us overflow.

How can we empty our stress bucket? At night, we enter the amazing healing process of REM sleep, where our brains go over the day’s events, moving them from the emotional, primitive brain to the intellectual side. The brain files events away, together with the emotion, and suppressed emotion, and turns them into memories and narratives for another day. The brain may also ‘live out’ unspent emotion via our dreams in order to use up unspent adrenalin as part of this process. The person who called their boss by the wrong name won’t have forgotten the incident over night, but won’t really be thinking about it by the morning.

The overthinking person will not be so fortunate. If he or she is not sleeping well, due to overthinking, tossing and turning whilst ruminating over the events, then they miss out on this vital REM sleep, perhaps waking up during the night, or not able to get to sleep until the early hours by which time it’s time to get up and start the day with low energy and low mood.

How solution focused hypnotherapy can prevent overthinking

Everyone overthinks sometimes. The problems arise for people who find it very difficult to stop the thoughts. Whereas the occasional over-thinker can intellectualise the initial worry, the real ruminator is subject to a constant barrage of negative thoughts. Naturally, it’s all too easy for a vicious circle to develop, as increased anxiety leads to further overthinking, and so on.

So what we need to do is break this cycle. Solution focused hypnotherapy, with its focus on the present and the future, is a logical way of tackling overthinking. By creating a contrived trance state, we achieve a state where both sides of the brain come together – and this is when we can start to replace all these negative thoughts with positive thoughts for the future.

We talk about solutions and ways forward, helping you to set achievable goals, and to recognise those times when you are coping well and to build upon those strengths and resources.

Hypnosis itself reduces anxiety through relaxation and visualisation, allowing people to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, resulting in shift towards an optimistic – and indeed, realistic – perspective.

That new boss you accidentally called by then wrong name? It’s opened up a great chance for an informal chat, and that’s always good, right?

Let’s start thinking about overthinking – together

You’re not alone. Overthinking is something many people experience, and I can work with you to overcome it.

The cycle of overthinking and anxiety can easily be broken using solution focused hypnotherapy. This is a natural, calming, and safe way to begin to manage your thoughts again.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic. I have clinics in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. To find out more about how I can help you, please contact me for a confidential chat. Contact details can be found at www.greatmindsclinic.co.uk.

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Six Signs That You May Be Mildly or Moderately Depressed

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Are you depressed? How do we know the difference between an ‘off’ day or days, or if it’s something more?

Well, everyone feels low sometimes. We’d be pretty strange if we didn’t respond emotionally to life’s situations. However, if your low feelings simply won’t go away, and you start to notice other changes in your behaviour, patterns or emotions, it could be that you are experiencing mild to moderate depression. And if you are, don’t worry, it can be helped in a natural way to help you to cope and then to start to feel better.

Depression is divided into three levels – mild, moderate, and severe. The levels are measured by the impact that the depression has on daily life: some impact, significant impact, or in severe cases, the impact is so great that everyday life has become practically impossible. The signs I’m talking about here are potential indicators of the first two levels.

I want to make it clear at the start that even though these changes may be unusual for you, they’re not unusual in themselves. If you recognise any of the signs as changes you are experiencing yourself, or you’ve spotted them in a friend or family member, please remember that with help, you can overcome all these.

The list is not exhaustive; however here are some of the main signs to look out for.

1. You’re Not As Interested In Things You Used To Enjoy

Cast your mind back to that feeling as a child, when you really couldn’t be bothered going to swimming lessons, or brownies, or scouts, or whatever it was. When you got there, you always remembered that actually, it was fun, and you simply hadn’t wanted to go because you felt a bit tired.

Imagine feeling like that as an adult, a lot of the time, about a lot of things. Except that now, you don’t bother going. Things that you usually enjoy just feel like too much effort. At times when you can’t even raise the enthusiasm to watch a TV programme, hobbies such as sports are way too much. The really unfair thing about this symptom is that hobbies are really beneficial for mental health, giving a sense of achievement, lots of endorphins, and the social aspect of like-minded company.

Losing interest in things you used to enjoy can also include sex, food, socialising, and looking after yourself (painting your nails, shaving, pampering). Lacking in energy is a common sign of depression, and this is one of the ways it clearly manifests itself.

2. You’re Isolating Yourself More Than Usual

We all have days when we really don’t feel like being the life and soul of the party, or we feel like we can’t be bothered going out – but when those days stretch into weeks, or even months, and we’re still making excuses not to see people, it could be that it’s deliberate isolation.

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Why do people choose to separate themselves from their friends and family at a time when their support could be invaluable? There are various reasons. Being happy feels fake – and it’s exhausting to keep up a show, especially if you’re already feeling fatigued. Your patience is perhaps thinner than usual so you may find the idea of sociable chat highly irritating, or, it may be too anxiety provoking so you don’t bother and prefer to isolate yourself instead.

However, we always feel better when we make that effort to socialise, because we are hard wired as part of our evolution to feel safer when we ‘belong’ to something bigger than ourselves, e.g our ‘tribe’ in evolutionary terms. This is why we feel better when we make the effort to practice interacting and engaging with others.

3. You’re Feeling Anxious, Scared, Or Worried Frequently

Depression and anxiety are different things. However, people with depression often have similar symptoms to those with anxiety disorders. You’re fearing that the worst will happen, or thinking negatively about the future which naturally creates anxiety and worry. It’s so hard, carrying these feelings around with you all the time. Constantly imagining the worst-case-scenario is exhausting, and leaves you unable to relax and switch off.

Remember to always practice self-compassion; be kind and encouraging to yourself like you would be to a friend. Talk to people you trust; or talk to a professional counsellor or psychotherapist. It’s true that a problem shared, (or feelings and worries shared), really helps put things into perspective.

4. Negative Thinking And Self-Criticism

When we feel in a low mood it stems from our thoughts and we can be our own worst critic. I hear healthy, clever, successful people describe themselves as failures – and they have this negative belief because they really can’t see the truth whilst they are in this negative state. They sometimes think that everybody else is having a wonderful life, and compare themselves negatively. They are seeing a distorted view of the truth.

The good news is that the brain can be ‘re-wired’ to think more positively, and negative thinking doesn’t need to be the only way.

5. Your Sleep Patterns Have Changed

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It could be that you’re not sleeping well, not able to get to sleep easily,  waking up frequently in the middle of the night, or waking up too early in the morning. Another change in sleeping patterns is wanting to sleep more – partly due to avoidance, partly because you simply feel so exhausted. The first sign that something is really bothering you is when your sleep patterns are different.

6. You’re Turning To Food Or Drink For Comfort

Comfort eating is an understandable response – after all, food releases endorphins because we need to eat to survive. However, with comfort eating we usually reach for the unhealthier choices of food, and in larger volumes than dictated by hunger. This of course leads to weight gain, which can make us feel worse, and a whole vicious circle begins. Alcohol, likewise – it’s all too easy for the glass of wine to turn into the empty bottle of wine as you try to self-medicate or escape these feelings… and as with food, you end up in a far worse situation, except this is far more dangerous for your health and wellbeing longer term.

Conversely, you may have lost your appetite, and no longer enjoy food you used to. Again, this could be an indication that everything isn’t as it should be.

I work with clients who have one or more of these symptoms of depression – and the good news is that solution-focused hypnotherapy can help as a natural way to start to cope with these feelings, and to start to feel better.

If you are interested in managing your feelings of mild to moderate depression, or anxiety with a combination of psychotherapy, NLP, hypnotherapy and EFT then please contact me for a friendly, confidential chat and further details.

Hypnotherapy is a safe, calming, relaxing experience. I will work with you to help you move forwards into the positive future that you deserve, and to start enjoying life again.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, founder of Great Minds Clinic. I work from clinics at home in Timperley, Altrincham and from offices at the Milton Rooms, Deansgate in Manchester City Centre.

http://www.greatmindsclinic.co.uk

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