I have just started session 5 and have chosen a few of the rational coping statements. Should I read them over our loud in slow talk even when I’m not feeling anxious? And then also use them in real life situations when I feel anxious? I recorded myself saying the ANTS handout out loud in slow talk and I listen to it every day. Should I also actually say it out loud or is just listening to my own recording good enough?
Also, I have a journal where I write notes down on what I’ve learned from each session so I’ve been reviewing what I’ve learned each day. And I have one other question that refers to stopping ANTS, should I only use stopping statements wheni actually have negative thoughts or should I keep saying the stopping statements to myself to reinforce them. And in earlier sessions, we’ve learned to find a distraction after we have stopped an ANT, should I continue to use a distraction, or after I stop an ANT, should I use a rational coping statement instead of a distraction? Thank you! Hope to hear responses
My gosh! Now this is a post that is good to see! Doing your therapy - all good questions.
First let me say that the only way to do the therapy wrong is not to do it. Of course you could be doing it but not really be focused on it, and not really practice it out loud, not really go through the steps as Dr. Richards says - but I consider that also “not really doing it”. When you are actually doing the therapy, then great. You’re doing what you should be doing. And, here’s where I’d say, everyone remember - there’s no 1 perfect way to study something. So we don’t need to be perfect at how we study this therapy, either. We just do it, and doing it in whichever way feels best to you is the right way for you.
It sounds like you are doing the therapy in similar ways that I did. So, onto your questions:
Should I read over the Coping Statements out loud even when I’m not feeling anxious? Yes. Much of what we do in therapy, in our study time, is practice something while we are calm. Over-practice it. When you do that, you’re getting it into your brain, and thus it will more likely pop up in your thoughts when you need it in the real, outside-world situation. So that moves into your second question…
Should I use the Coping Statements in real life situations when I feel anxious? Yes, that’s why you’re practicing them. For some people they become very nifty, little powerful tools, things we can say which remind us of what is rational in that moment, which touch on all that effort we’ve been putting in, which put into rational perspective what’s going on, and thus help us in that moment of potential anxiety. So yes, use what you’ve practiced.
Good for you for recording your voice! I have to admit - I’m one of those people who never took this good advice enough, and never recorded much of the therapy. Instead I did everything out loud in Slow Talk daily. But that’s me, not you. And as I said above, you should study and do this as you are doing, as you choose to do it. I think there’s a different kind of benefit from listening vs saying. Both are good, both slightly different. I often think the biggest benefit of recording one’s own voice is so that you can then listen to your therapy when/if you’re not in a private place so this still allows you to do it daily. Or, perhaps, when you are exercising and have on your earphones. In those examples, you may not be as focused as you could be at home, alone, calm, but still it’s something if you don’t have an option. And when you go back to repeating the therapy, this can be a new way of doing it. I did that while jogging and cycling, listening to some of my recordings and still using Slow Talk out loud. To answer your question here, I’d say one or the other are fine. Maybe you switch it up sometimes just to see how it feels to you.
I kept a journal also. I would first listen to the audio portion, and take notes. Then I went over the handouts and eventually, because there is so much to do, I reviewed the highlighted portions of my journal and of the handouts, because after a while there is no way to fit each handout into one therapy session, but I could always go over my highlighted portions, which I then put on notecards. So essentially I was reviewing a stack of notecards everyday.
Your question about the stopping statements. I believe that for me, again you remember that you are doing the therapy just fine the way you choose here (but we are just comparing how we each did the therapy), - I did highlight the stopping statement that I usually used and I used it when I needed to stop ANTs, but also because it was highlighted, it got put onto one of my notecards which I then did review everyday along with my other cards. So I was, in a way, practicing it even when I wasn’t exactly using it for an exact moment of stopping an ANT. Maybe it’s good to practice this even before we use it then (??). But, as long as you are using it when you need to, then I guess the choice is up to you here. As simple as it sounds, I think it just helps to practice all these things, even if they seem so basic, before we actually use them. The more you’re repeated something, the more it pops into your head.
Distractions - yes, I think it’s important to go through the full process of ANTs stoppage, at least at first. First, catch it, say STOP. Then tell yourself a rational statement out loud. Then find a distraction. People often know the process, but they don’t do it. And when they have never even gone through the whole process even once, they’re allowing that ANT to persist without thinking they are. So yes, continue to use distractions as you feel is required. You would know this if the ANT remains there after you’ve gone through the process up to the point of doing a distraction. But sooner or later, after you’ve done this enough times, and after you’ve added other cognitive therapy sessions to your efforts, the sum total of all these ideas does start to help, and you might not need such a formal distraction anymore. You spent all that time actually doing a distraction, and that sort of laid the neural pathway of once you’ve gone that far, your mind chooses to not focus on it, so that later, you more naturally go down the path of dropping it after stopping it. Maybe your rational coping statement becomes enough at that point for you. You’ll be able to tell yourself when you’re at that point, you’ll feel it. If I have irrational thoughts now or general worries, I do tell myself stop, and usually I go through a rational self-talk, and that is enough for me, now - not back then. I may still now just realize I’m stuck in a rut so I get up and do something more physical, more active, change up what I’m doing. If I’ve hit a block in my work, same thing - I get up and do some other activity. So what I’m doing isn’t for social anxiety therapy reasons, but it’s the same kind of principle. I find myself not being able to continue being productive or continue on without my mind wandering to some useless, perhaps unhealthy rumination, and so I change my focus and my action. My mind stops thinking about that thing, or my mind needed some movement and change just to let something drop and refocus on something else.
Good job. You’re doing the therapy. That is the victory right there. I realize you still feel anxious and may for some time to go. That’s natural, and even in doing the therapy the right way, and the right way for yourself, keep reality in mind so that false expectations don’t get you down. Even doing it the right way just requires time and repetition of doing it the right way. You’ve started the process for sure of creating a new neural pathway in your mind, a new way your mind can choose to think, but that old pathway with those old feelings is still there, of course. And so those old feelings will still be able to be with you for a while. Not forever, but for a while. You’re paving the way for the scales to tip in your favor.
Wow. Thank you so much for your response. I appreciate how thorough,caring, and supportive you are. It makes me happy to know that I’m on the right track. I’m going to try to stick with what I’m doing. I will keep everyone posted on my progress as time goes on. I got a comment the other day from someone who told me that I seem to be a very calm natured person. I was so shocked because in my eyes, I see myself as an anxious wreck
Thank you again for your response. I can feel minor progress. But I know I still have a long road ahead but I’m trying to stay positive by listening to motivating music. Good luck to all!!
Also, I just wanted to add that I am entering my senior year of high school and so I sometimes am stressed because there is so much going on. I have a lot of important tests and college preparation and all that fun stuff!! But I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I’m trying to manage my time properly, making sure I have time for therapy, etc.
Senior year! Yay!
I know it’s easier said than done, especially with social anxiety hounding you, but it’s great you’re doing this therapy, making progress, doing this now. So I hope to say, enjoy your time. And that’s no easy thing. High school IS stressful and so is college. It’s not really the “party years” for anyone that I knew or that movies seem to make out. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a period of life with so much change and our minds and feelings are changing. There’s A LOT going on here, people!!
I look back on those years and can see more clearly now, it’s not with shame or regret now - that’s not what I need to focus on, but I do know that I struggled and “hated” all that time then. And it does not have to be that way for you or anyone. Still it’s a stressful time, for sure, but I’m glad you’re doing the therapy now so that you can also enjoy your college years more fully - all the good and difficult parts of it. You want to be able to go to college making rational choices about hopes and plans and class and career choices. You don’t want to be staying in your dorm room, or avoiding your roommate, or avoiding classes or not seeing counselors ever, or not choosing a major because of social anxiety even though it kills you inside because that is your real desire.
So keep that in mind, keep that in mind in the natural setbacks that will occur even now, in the natural pressure that we must keep in perspective, having patience in this process when impatience seems more natural. You’re doing the right thing now for yourself now and for all of that future, and for the people around you.
In high school I was seen by my peers as very mellow, as you describe. And there was a reason for that - I tried to keep everything tightly under control, trying not to attract any attention, trying to never say anything wrong, using many defensive strategies to seem more invisible. People didn’t see any of the fear. Yes, they saw me get embarrassed sometimes, but overall, people don’t dwell on that stuff. Their image of me was of some very balanced mellow person. Then in college, I went to much more avoidance and much less speaking to anyone. In groups of people, their image of me then became this quiet, smart type, if they had an image of me at all. I was told this a few times. “You must be smart because you never say anything.” I guess that could also have been a joke, but it didn’t seem like a joke. It was just this idea that I was again, very calm and that I must be a “thinker” since I didn’t say anything. And I remember thinking, “I’M NOT SMART AT ALL BECAUSE I CAN’T EVEN TALK WHEN I NEED TO!”
People interpret our actions in anyway that makes sense to them, even if that’s not the real person we are inside. And we interpret others in the same way. Unless people tell you, all we have to go by is outward behavior and action. If you’re hiding the real self then sure, it’s hard for others to get the correct read on you.
But indeed maybe you are calm. You probably do know the real you, and that real you is there, has been the whole time. SA just gets in the way of you being the real you and not questioning who the real you is. As that SA goes away, the real you is still there and just less pushed down, more allowed to be you as you always were.
I will keep all of this in mind. Your response was very helpful for me. To be honest, lately I just feel stressed and anxious about my future like making sure I take the right classes in school and college applications. For the past few years of high school, I took some classes because my friends were taking them so I wanted to have a similiar schedule with them and now I sometimes regret that because I wonder if it was a waste of time. Right now I am struggling with making sure I pursue a career that is right for me. I have a few different options in mind and I worry about making sure I go with the choice that is best suited for me. I am just stressing about finding the right college and taking the right classes. I know this is all common for someone that is my age but this makes me most anxious now. I am the type of person that doesn’t like to waste my time or energy. Lol Some of these thoughts may also be ANTS. And I know that it’s very good that I am trying to help myself at such an early age in my life to prevent future negative potential situations that could make my SA worse. I want to help myself now so that I can enjoy so much more of my experiences. I’ve only had SA for 3 or so years and I know that I’m young enough to not have experienced even more tragic consequences that some people can face when dealing with SA but still this disorder is something that is frustrating and I will get through this in any way I can! I had some nice talks with my aunt and my mom about my anxieties and it makes me feel better to hear positive feedback just like how you have given to me