If you are depressed, anxious or both you need to understand how the illness will feed and fuel itself; this is referred to as the vicious cycle. Using Cognitive Behavioural exercises to break the cycle is a challenge, but one you can practice and master.
This is going to be quite a bulky chapter, but stay with me and I will do my best to walk through the cycle with you.
Although, on the surface, this cycle can seem so simple when explained does not mean it is – please remember should you be living in this vicious cycle now, do not be hard on yourself because you are not alone. This is something that many other people who are also suffering are going through and however alone you may feel, studies show that a lot of others are going through it and came out on the other side.
As they say, knowledge is power and once you become aware of what is happening within, you can work to change it. Don’t allow you inner demons to tell you, you can’t. Because our minds have the same capacity and you most definitely can do it, if you want it.
The Depressive spiral:
Thought: “I am worthless”
Feelings: Lonely, depressed, sad, emotional, hateful of the self
Behaviour: Avoid going out, avoid work/college/university, and ignore contact with friends and family, sit in darkness, oversleeping
Physical: Fatigue, more susceptible to illness, falling asleep often, drained of energy
The Anxiety Spiral:
Thoughts: “I fail at everything else, I’m a terrible person”
Feelings: Fear, hateful of the self, cold, short tempered, easily upset
Behaviour: Avoiding being social, stop completing work, avoid doing regular things such as going to a shop, avoid public situations, avoid friends, oversleeping
Physical: heart rate increases, sickness (stomach flu symptoms), sweating, difficulty breathing
Should it be both anxiety and depression it could be a merging of both types of thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical effects.
The moment you can grasp an understanding of how these thoughts trigger this vicious cycle, the moment you can work towards reversing the cycle.
The hardest part of this process is the beginning but it does become increasingly rewarding.
I would just like to tell you that it is a liberating exercise and if you tell yourself that it “isn’t going to work and it is hopeless” that is not really you talking that is the vicious cycle talking for you – what true evidence do you have to say you will fail this activity? None.
Firstly a way to reverse and challenge this cycle is setting yourself achievable goals day-to-day or week-to-week.
Some people when they are suffering with depression sit in darkness, daylight is almost something they cannot bare, so your task would be to open the curtains in the morning and close them at night. A small task, but if you set yourself to succeed, you can immediately feel a lot more positive and this way when you tell yourself you cannot do something you have evidence to say otherwise.
Or, for example, if you suffer with anxiety and are nervous and believe it is impossible to go outside, for you are too afraid of what could be out there and are avoiding. Set a day or time to go to your nearest shop and buy something you need, keep your head up, walk at a steady pace and focus on keeping your breath steady as you go. Try and make this a part of your week or day. When you return find something that you enjoyed about it.
Activity, however big or small, if done regularly helps to make you feel better, helps you to feel less exhausted and allows you to think with more clarity.
I wish you all the best in challenging your thoughts and setting achievable goals for yourself,