Identifying Thoughts, Feelings & Behaviours
This mini 7-step self-help course includes techniques which could be useful for all, but professional help should be sought for complex or long-standing problems.
The complete Self-Help course is available as a free Adobe .pdf file download from this page.
The documents linked from the bottom of each page are intended to be an integral part of this course, and should not be omitted.
Once you've read through the introduction to CBT on this page, you can start to look at what's helping to keep your problems going.
Let's use a recent example, when you've been distressed - perhaps something has happened in the past week or so when you've felt particularly anxious, angry, or depressed.
What was the situation? What happened? When did it happen? What else was going on? Was it a situation that you often find yourself in? Who were you with?
What thoughts or images went through your mind just before or during that time? If you had that thought, what did that mean to you, or what did that say about you or the situation? If your thought was a question, try to answer it. What disturbed me?
What distressing emotion/s did you feel? What else?
E.g. Anger, anxiety, terror, rage, depression, frustration, guilt, shame, irritable.....
What did you notice in your body?
E.g. In anxiety and anger (and excitement) the body's adrenaline can result in us feeling physical sensations which include: heart pounding or racing, palpitations, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, light-headed, dizzy, shaky, sweaty, hot, red, pins & needles, tense or sore muscles, urge to go to the toilet, butterflies in the tummy, warm uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen or chest, difficulty concentrating, lump in throat. This is the fight & flight response - the body's survival mechanism which helps us escape or to stand up to the threat at times of real danger. The body is unable to differentiate between a real or imagined danger, so the alarm signal is pressed and activated regardless.
In depression, we can feel tired, lethargic, exhausted, experience appetite and sleep changes, aches and pains, headaches, digestive changes (e.g. constipation), agitation and feel unable to settle, experience lack of interest in sex, and have slow movement or speech.
What did you do? What didn't you do? How did you cope?
(Anxiety): Stayed home, left wherever you were or felt the urge to leave, didn't talk to anyone, avoided eye contact, fiddled with a pen, sat in a corner, didn't go out, chose to shop at less busy times, went to local corner shop instead of the big supermarket, distracted yourself (tv, radio, kept busy etc), urge to go (or went) to toilet, looked for reassurance, drank more, smoked more, ate more (or less), disturbed sleep.
(Depression): Stayed in bed, pulled covers over your head, didn't go out, sat and stared, watched television, didn't answer the phone, turned down an invite from a friend, didn't go to work, ate more (or less), slept more (or less), paced around , kept starting to do things but couldn't finish, no interest in others, no interest in sex, no interest in anything.
(Anger): shouted at someone, hit out, screamed, had a go at someone, sulked, criticised others (or had urge to do those things), used put-downs and threats, bottled it up, lost control.
Practice noticing these thoughts, feelings and behaviours - the more you practice, the more you will notice them. The more you notice them, the more you will be able to make helpful and effective changes.
The Thoughts, Feelings & Behaviours form will help you practice - write down at least one situation every day for the next few days. Each time you complete one, save the document with a different name, perhaps using numbers or adding the date, or print a copy.