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Having a mental health issue is difficult for anyone who has one but, for the most part, we are safe in the knowledge that whatever is happening is completely irrational. Knowing this fact can be a key instrument in coping with panic attacks, depressive episodes or bouts of OCD but what happens when your fears aren’t completely irrational? When the irrational part of your brain latches onto the rational part of your brain to form a heightened version of a bad situation?
I’ll give an example. An irrational thought may be that somebody that you are very close to you doesn’t like you anymore. But here, we see irrational thoughts with substance, a fight between you and a partner or a best friend who hasn’t spoken to you in days. This is an example of this happening from an anxious perspective.
But take a depressive episode. This is different but follows the same basic concept. An irrational thought may be that you are going to fail your exams because you haven’t revised enough. An irrational thought with substance here would be that you are going to fail your exams anyway so there is no point in trying.
This could apply to any potentially stressful situation: a bill you can’t pay, a broken appliance or being made redundant. Regardless of how severe the problem is, your substance can make it that much harder to come out of an episode and can hinder your chances of recovery.
How Do I Know What Is Rational And What Is Irrational?
As a general rule: the problem at hand and how to fix it are rational worries whereas the perceived consequences are irrational. But it isn’t that simple for everyone. Some ways of separating the two include:
- Writing a list of everything that is worrying you. Evaluate it for potential problems. If possible, talk about it with a partner or friend to find out what is really worth worrying about and what is probably just in your head.
- Try and imagine what you would say to someone else if they were the one panicking. Would you be letting them worry over these things? How could you help someone else in your situation?
- Say your problems out loud. Sometimes you will catch yourself sounding irrational and this will help you out of the situation.
So I Know What Is Irrational, How Do I Stop Believing It?
It is difficult to claim that it is simple or that there is a quick fix when it comes to calming down from a situation. I know from experience that there isn’t. But here are some things that generally help when you are feeling as if you can’t see the wood for the trees, even when you know what is and isn’t irrational.
- Firstly, if at all possible, delegate any tasks causing you considerable grief to somebody else. While I know that this isn’t possible for those experiencing exam stress, for example, a broken plug socket can be fixed when your husband makes a call to the electrician and a fallout with a loved one can usually be resolved if somebody else close communicates that you are struggling with it. You don’t have to face an issue if it is too difficult for you.
- If that is not possible, chunk your problem into lots of smaller, easily manageable problems. Write out a step by step list of what needs to be done, with each step on different pieces of card or paper. Take one and put the rest in a drawer. Don’t look at step two until you have completed step one. Each step seems easier as you go along.
- Give yourself an incentive to do what you need to do, stick on some badass music and try to sing along as you’re doing your tasks (though preferably not on the phone). Sometimes things have to be done that will make you feel completely awful, so don’t be afraid to take a bit of time to yourself after whatever has to be done is resolved. While it may seem silly to take a day off work because you had to ring up the boiler man, I assure you it is something you probably need and definitely deserve.
What If It Has Affected My Depression? Even List Writing Is Beyond Me!
It is incredibly normal for this to occur. You can become so overwhelmed by something that you find yourself unable to get out of bed for fear of the tasks you have to do. This can seem even trickier to navigate and can lead to a vicious cycle of not being able to do something because you’re worried about the fact you haven’t done it yet. Here’s what to do:
- Treat it, first and foremost, as a usual depressive episode. It may seem more severe especially if you have a reason you need to be out of bed but if staying in bed is the right thing to do for your health then that should still be what you do. Focus on your basic needs first and then drip feed yourself challenges you need to face as the day goes on.
- Try and get someone to help you. Whether they are chatting on the phone or sat on your bedside, vocalising way you are feeling can often put things in perspective. Ask people around you to get your clothes for you or maybe some breakfast. They may even be able to help you with what you are worrying about.
- Challenge yourself to do things in short minute long bursts. It is often starting something that is the hardest part so you may well continue with whatever you were doing now that you’ve started. Just be kind to yourself and if you need to stop, then stop.
While you’re here, why not check out the safe space, a page where you can find other Mental health bloggers and blog posts and connect!
So I hope that this post has been a help to some of you and that you have figured out how to manage stressful situations around your anxiety, depression, OCD or anything else. And remember, if you’re struggling, my inbox is always open on twitter or Instagram or you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123