Understanding your mind – top tips on overcoming anxiety, stress and depression

As it’s mental health awareness week, HFM have been speaking with the experts about how to increase the quality of your mental wellbeing, and help you overcome some common problems within the minds of men. 

Wellbeing coach Christopher Harvey stresses the dangers in the ‘silent population’ of men becoming subject to life-threatening mental illnesses. Christopher has experienced failure, depression, stress and anxiety first hand, and offers his expert advice on how to minimise the risk, and maximise your wellbeing.

Understand Your Mind

One of Christopher’s favourite forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the ‘Thought Record.’ It can be used by anyone, anywhere. Men are not as used to communicating emotions as much as their female counterparts, but this method simplifies the process down to a fine art.

Christopher Harvey says “Think of it as ultimately recoding your brain over time. The Thought Record has been very helpful for me to reframe automatic negative thoughts. Once you practice, you can start doing it in your head if you find yourself in an anxiety-provoking situation. I find that I can “catch negative thoughts” fairly quick now, recognise them for what they are, and revise my thinking to make it more realistic and balanced.” 

In a simple table format, the columns to be populated daily are as follows:

1. The situation/trigger. Briefly describe the situation that led to your unpleasant feelings.

For example, “an argument or an upcoming interview.”

2. Feelings. What do you feel in response to the trigger?

For example, “Anxiety, guilt, anger, doubt and/or fear.”

3. Unhelpful thoughts and images. Identify the negative thinking behind your feelings. Write it out literally.

For example, “My interview is going to go horribly and my wife is going to think I’m bad at my job.”

4. Find evidence that supports your unhelpful thought.

For example, “My wife has told me in the past that she thinks I lack confidence.”

5. Facts that provide evidence against your unhelpful thought.

For example, “I have worked on my interview skills since my last interview and I have improved”.

6. Now that you’ve considered the facts, write down a healthier more balanced way of thinking.

For example, “While I have struggled with interviews before, I’m fully prepared now and have no proof that it won’t go well.”

7. Outcome. Re-rate how you feel now.

“Less anxious” “calmer” “reassured.

8. Repeat throughout the day as required, the more you do it, the more impact it will have.

This is just one example that the Thought Record can be used for. It is a helpful and practical tool to use for body image issues or any opinion-based problems, because many of us tend to have automatic negative thoughts about how others perceive us that can impact our entire day and lives.

Maintain Your Mind

Christopher Harvey’s approach: 

  • Take care of your gut. Your state of mind is closely connected to your gut because your gut uses many of the same chemicals as your brain, and communicates with it. Healthy gut foods include: fibre (fruits, vegetables and wholegrains), and live yoghurt, which contains probiotics.
  • Daily inversion or a headstand. Just a few minutes a day spent upside down (Inversion therapy) helps to supply more oxygen to the brain by increasing blood flow. Sluggish mental and physical reactions are linked to a lack of sufficient oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Inversions help to reverse these effects and improve your body and mind’s agility.
  • HIIT exercise (high intensity interval training) or similar. Essentially any short bursts of exercise that gets the body pumped – running, cycling, swimming, even sprinting on the spot. Regular exercise also helps release feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins, reduces immune system chemicals that worsen your mood plus increase the body’s temperature which can have calming effects.
  • Meditation, mindfulness, yoga or just focused deep breathing. The mechanics behind these techniques are simple, deep breathing allows for a full oxygen exchange in the lungs, it slows your heartbeat, stabilises blood pressure, kicks your digestive system into action and ultimately calms your body and mind right down. You can’t control your heart rate or your thoughts, but you can control your breath, so use it wisely!
  • Treat yourself. No matter how busy or broke you are, always find time to reward yourself for something you did that day or week that you’re proud of, no matter how small. Maybe it was just helping an elderly lady across the street, regular small acts of self appreciation can have huge impacts on our self worth and slowly motivate us to make bigger and bolder gestures for others, so go chill out with some Netflix .
  • Talk to someone. If you start by speaking to a professional coach, they can then decide if they are equipped to work with you or if indeed you need more specific or even medical assistance. Whatever your situation there are professionals out there suited to your specific needs.

Chris Harvey closes by saying “The simple aim in all of the above is to be happy. Trust me, I’ve been there and back and a wide smile is now in my locker!”

Christopher T. S. Harvey

www.harvey-sinclair.com – The Executive Wellbeing Experts

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