A counsellor I was seeing last year while I was having some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy: it’s a method of tackling anxiety) once used a phrase that’s stuck with me ever since. In talking about things that might help me with my symptoms (like eating well, walking, exercise etc) he said that even if I don’t feel like doing it, I should “sell it to myself as therapy”. The idea was to change my outlook on things that I had no motivation to do, because if I could view these things as therapy, as a step towards healing, it would make them seem more appealing.
I try to exercise every morning. There are some days when I really don’t want to and all I want to do is lay in bed all day wallowing. But I find that if I can sell it to myself as therapy, if I can remind myself of the benefits of it, it helps me find the motivation within me to do it. I know that when I exercise, it helps me feel more energised for the day ahead. I know it makes me feel good about myself. I know it feels like I’ve achieved something to be proud of. I know my 3 year old daughter enjoys watching me and sometimes joins in. I know that when I tell my husband I did it, he’ll be proud of me and that makes me feel wonderful.
It makes sense to me that using this technique on unappealing tasks can transform my way of thinking over time and significantly help my anxiety. But there are other things we can use it on as well.
I find that listening to music really helps me unwind and escape. Yesterday I had a experience where both my children were screaming about one thing or another and I could feel the panic creeping in. I knew I couldn’t handle it much longer and I didn’t want to explode at them in anger or break down. So I took myself into another room, stuck my headphones in and turned my music up loud to block the noise out. I knew they were safe where they were, I knew crying for a few minutes wouldn’t hurt them, and so I chose to take some time out.
It makes me feel guilty sometimes when I do things like this because I feel like it makes me a bad mother. But actually, I think it’s okay. Sometimes, therapy can be a simple few moments of peace. It can be playing an instrument or reading or speaking to a friend or whatever else calms you down. And if it keeps you sane, if it helps you manage the fear and stave of a panic attack then do it. Sell it to yourself as therapy. Make sure your kids and home are safe, and then give yourself the time you need.
We all need time to ourselves. And just as exercise can help with anxiety and depression, so can a bit of self-indulgence. Don’t feel guilty about that. Sell it to yourself as therapy.