There are SO many useful things that I learned from having CBT sessions.
If you’ve ever googled ‘solution‘ to anxiety or depression, you will have no doubt seen one of the most popular answers is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy. It can help manage your Mental Health problems, in particular anxiety and depression. It does this by understanding how your brain works, then changes your thought process which in turn changes the way you behave.
Over the course of 8 weeks, I worked with the therapist 1:1 to help change my feelings of low self esteem, depression and anxiety.
There is no shame in getting help. If you were injured physically you would get help, so why should it be any different when your problem is mental?
Will the therapist judge me?
It can be scary going for the first time. For the first few weeks I thought my therapist was judging me (she wasn’t).
I was very apprehensive before my 1st session. Where do I even start to explain the mess that is going on inside my brain? What if she tells me I don’t have anxiety or doesn’t believe me?
If you have these thoughts, don’t worry. The Therapist guides you – it isn’t like a monologue where you just talk at them for an hour. It is more of a discussion about how and why you feel certain things – many of which you might have never questioned before.
And if you feel like you are in distress enough to see a therapist – you are obviously justified in being there and it has affected you enough to want to start making changes in your life.
Below I have shared the 5 most useful things I learned during 10 sessions of CBT. Hopefully they will help you too if you are waiting to get help for anxiety and depression, and will give you a bit of insight into what to expect.
5 best things I learned from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
1. Low self esteem was a main cause of my anxiety.
Before I had CBT my head was a mess. The tiniest thing would happen and set me off. Someone would say ‘excuse me’ a little too loudly to me and I would spiral into a world of self loathing and start questioning my very existence.
I can almost laugh about it now as it seems so ridiculous!! But not so funny at the time.
In my first session, I explained I had been experiencing low mood for a while. In addition to this, that I constantly felt anxious, pulled my hair out, felt depressed, I didn’t enjoy things anymore, I compared myself to everyone. Because of all these things I basically thought there wasn’t much point in being alive anymore.
After a short discussion, I realised I felt all these things because my confidence level had become so low. If you think about it it makes sense really; of course worrying so much what you should do, what you should think and what people think of you the whole time is exhausting and nerve wracking. No wonder I started feeling depressed. Having those constant negative thoughts about worrying if I am good enough and if I even deserve to be on the planet were draining my energy.
People experience anxiety and depression for a multitude of different reasons, but I believe for many people low self esteem is the root cause.
Because of this realisation I was able to pin point what I should focus on to become happier, and so started working on raising my self esteem and becoming more confident using positive affirmations and other techniques.
2. Your thoughts are opinions, not facts.
This one was a game changer for me.
I always just assumed that everything I thought was FACT.
How you interpret something or a situation may be completely different to how someone else experiences something. Our opinions come from what we have learned and experienced over our entire lifetimes.
If you have a core belief about yourself, you are more likely to interpret things in line with that belief. E.g. If I had a core belief that I am stupid, I would notice and believe the 1 person in the day who said I did something wrong, rather than listening to the 99 people who said I had done things really well!!
CBT teaches you to analyse your negative thoughts and have a more balanced and fair view. Now I know that I am biased towards perceiving negative things in a situation, I question each thought and see if it is justified and if I am drawing a fair conclusion.
CBT also helped me manage my future thoughts and predictions. This showed that what I think will happen, is usually different to what actually happens. The best way to do this is to write down what you predict will happen and then after the event has passed, reflect on how accurate your prediction was. Realising that your prediction did not come true helps manage the anxiety for future similar events.
3. Make time to do the things you love
It took CBT to make me realise that I wasn’t even doing anything in my life which I enjoyed doing anymore!! Kind of unsurprising that I felt I wasn’t getting any enjoyment out of life then.
I learned from CBT that my life was basically travel, work, travel, watch netflix, eat dinner, sleep, repeat.
It was tough to motivate myself whilst suffering from depression, but I new I had to get out there and try new things. Below are just a few of the things I tried:
* I found a good App in London called Meetup, which anyone can join and offers lots of free activities and a chance to meet new people.
* Started reading again
* Took a pottery course
* I have always loved languages and travelling, so I signed up for a 10 week french course.
* Joined a summer volleyball league
It is so important to make time for at least 1 thing you enjoy doing every day. Sit down, make a list and do it. People tend to enjoy the things they are good at, so doing something you are good at will also boost your confidence and self esteem! Doing this will help bring joy, satisfaction and happiness to your life.
There is a multitude of different things available to you that you can try as a new hobby. You might think you have no interests but I doubt you have tried all the hobbies out there.
4. The importance of being kind to yourself
YOU are your harshest critic.
Through learned through CBT that noone else would ever talk to me the way I talk to myself. Putting myself down, telling myself how ugly I am, criticising, saying that I am not good enough…..
When you talk to yourself with such criticism and negative language, you start to internalise and believe the things that you are telling yourself. Now I try and catch myself any time I am self criticising and shift the criticism from ‘I’m so stupid’ to something else like ‘oh well everyone makes mistakes!’
You should be kind and compassionate to yourself as you would be to a friend. Realise that you don’t have to be perfect 24/7.
Through CBT I discovered the importance of making time for self care and how to banish the feelings of guilt I used to have whenever I would buy or do nice things for myself.
It is not selfish or indulgent or cringy practicing self care. You need to do this for your wellbeing and mental health.
You can only be the best version of yourself when you are in a healthy and happy state of mind.
5. It is in my control to use CBT to become less anxious and depressed.
Luckily, anxiety and depression are not permanent and can be overcome with some practice. There are many techniques and exercises to help you.
I thought CBT would be more talking, analysing my childhood, talking about school days etc. Although there was a little bit of this, most of CBT was directed towards tools and techniques to help me in the situations where I started to feel anxious or depressed.
It shocked me that there was this abundance of simple resources out there, that I could just refer back to any time in the future when I started to feel bad again.
CBT helped me to find my trigger situations, and know which techniques to apply when. My counsellor helped me understand and choose which would be the most helpful for me.
I would definitely recommend CBT to anyone who is experiencing anxiety or depression. It has greatly improved my quality of life, self esteem and happiness.
Although CBT is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression, waiting lists can be long. I had to wait 8 months to start mine.
What is the best thing you learned from CBT? Share below!