How you can help yourself overcome anxiety and depression by understanding why you should stop focusing on your problems.
Have you ever been caught by someone picking a scab and they’ve scorned – “don’t pick it” and it’s true isn’t it, if we persist in picking that scab, not only does it hurt, but the healing process is delayed – but there is something irresistible about picking a scab. This rather childish analogy does actually go a long way to explaining why you should stop focussing on problems.
Zits, spots, pimples, acne – what does everyone say? “don’t pick them”, “don’t squeeze them”, and we know they are right, but it is very difficult to resist. But even worse than with a scab, pick a zit and not only does it hurt and make it worse, but it also spreads, the bacteria infects the surrounding areas and we can end up with even more spots.
Sorry, I know it’s a bit of a gross subject, picking scabs and zits, but it is an apt analogy for why we shouldn’t keep going over and over our problems – mostly it keeps hurting, it will make them worse and can even spread the feelings into more anxiety and depression and aggravate whatever symptom you are experiencing which could be OCD, IBS, eating disorders, over eating, anger and in particular insomnia and sleep disorders.
Take insomnia and sleep disorders as an example – when you can’t sleep at night or you wake up in the middle of the night – why is that? Have you got thoughts going around and around in your head? Do you keep going over some problem or another or keep thinking about something or someone who has upset you?
Just like someone says to you ‘Stop it’, when you’re picking a scab or spot – stop thinking about the problems, it’s not going to change anything.
The solutions is not in the problem, so going over and over the problem, over analysing it, is not going to solve it but most probably, your imagination will step in and you start imagining lots of different scenarios, taking it to the worst possible scenario. We need a different part of our brain to come up with solutions.
Have you ever done this? You’re expecting someone to call, a family member or loved one, partner or child perhaps, or you said you would call them, but then they don’t call or you can’t get hold of them. What happens – well, initially you might just brush it off, staying logical and tell yourself they’ve got delayed, their battery might be dead, they can’t call right now and so you wait.
As time goes on and you still haven’t heard, your anxiety levels start to rise, you start to worry and slowly you lose intellectual control and the part of your brain responsible for the fight/flight systems starts to step in and this part of your brain always works within the parameters of anxiety, depression or anger – so you could get angry with them, you might feel miserable and tell your self things like, well they don’t care or you start to worry about why. But significantly, your imagination then starts to work with your fight/flight systems and you start imagining why they are out of contact, you might start imagining all sorts of scenarios of what’s happened, you might even start imagining what they are thinking or why they haven’t called – your imagination runs wild – but your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so you believe you and you think these things are actually true and your anxiety levels increase any further to the point of obsession.
The actual reality is usually fine and there is some simple explanation, but you have been to hell and back in the meantime with your imagination and did you find the answer there – no!
The same is true when we focus on our problems, our imagination steps in, but in a very negative way and imagines everything else which could go wrong as a result, we make it into a catastrophe, we imagine the worst possible scenario and the problems grow and spread, increasing our anxiety, depression or anger – will you find the answer there – no!
The intellectual mind is the part of your brain which will come up with solutions, can work it out and will know what to do, it is your job to access that part of your brain.
You know the old saying ‘sleep on it’, very good advice. When you go to sleep at night, to put it simply, during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain reorganises everything from the day before, sorts it out and puts it in perspective and when you wake up in the morning, you often feel better about the problem from the day before or have a better idea of what to do. OK, so this doesn’t always work as effectively as it should, but that’s because there is just too much worrying for your mind to deal with in just one session and you then continue nurturing the problems by going over and over them, but it does help. Another self help is exercise and spending time with friends and family – going for a long walk or run, cycle, swim etc or go and see a friend, spend time with some family.
If you do, it will help two fold, positive activity (exercise and hobbies) and positive interaction (spending time with friends and family) will help engage that intellectual part of your brain which can come up with solutions and distracting yourself with something more pleasurable which doesn’t hurt will also stop you picking the scab and going over and over the problems.
You cannot come up with a solution while you are thinking of the problem, they just don’t go together, you have to stop the problem thinking before you can engage the solution thinking. Your brain is already aware of the problem you need to solve or resolve – give it credit, you don’t need to keep reminding it and throwing in a whole load of imagined problems. Distract yourself with something pleasurable and fun and let your vast intellect do what it is so well designed to do.
I understand that if you have been in the habit of focussing on your problems for a long time, it can be incredibly difficult to stop doing that, this is where hypnotherapy helps. Solution focused hypnotherapy can help you find the solutions from within.