1. Know where you’re going. You need some picture in your head about where your efforts at self-help or therapy are leading. If you can’t see this future, or these changes, it’s likely that your efforts will generate nothing in return. Put bluntly, you will be like a hamster in a wheel. As a result you may feel disheartened and worse than you did when you started.
2. No problem is so big that it can’t be broken down. It’s often the case that people simply don’t know where to start when it comes to tackling the issues that burden them. However, imagine someone is asking you to explain exactly and in detail all the things on your mind. Take as long as you need and write them down. If the issues look as if they merge into one another it’s possible that they do, or you are thinking too broadly. Think of the ones that seem to merge more like ‘overlap’ rather than one and the same issue. Look for the differences in the situation or event. Then, when you think you’ve got the main features on paper, go through the list and select one you feel can be tackled fairly quickly - maybe over a few days.
3. Think of the positives. Yes, I know this sounds easy for me to say, but the fact is that ruminating on your troubles allows very little time for other things. Assuming you are looking to improve your lot, or you are active in self-help or therapy, these long periods of self-doubt, self-loathing, procrastination and avoidance will need to be replaced with something. How do you plan to use the time if you improve? If you can provide yourself with alternatives in the form of activities, hobbies, or work of some description, you help to loosen the hold that negative emotions have on you.
4. Have faith in yourself. All the self-help and therapy in the world has a single overriding aim in mind and that is for you to discover or develop faith in yourself. It’s also worth remembering that some of the leading historical and contemporary figures have wrestled with issues they feel less than confident about. You can’t ‘be’ another person and wishing you could is simply using up the time you have for yourself. You don’t have to be the perfect person to be at ease with yourself.
5. Stop looking for the solution. Life is muddled and the chance of there being one solution to your problems is highly unlikely. It’s far more likely that you will need to organize a few things and some of these may be decisions you have to make about the people around you, the job you are in or the environment in which you live. They may not need to be mammoth decisions and they don’t all have to be taken at once, but all journeys have to start somewhere.
6. Look inside yourself. The idea isn’t to sit and ruminate about how ineffective you are as an individual, it’s to do with standing back from your emotional reactions and considering what it is you think and do that helps to maintain your problems. It requires time, honesty and self-awareness. Some people spend years in therapy and never achieve this - but it shouldn’t stop you trying.
7. Stop beating yourself up. By now it should be clear that your life is made up of issues within and outside of your control. There will always be problems that cause anxiety and stress but this is only part of a broader picture. Self recrimination doesn’t help and it doesn’t solve any problems.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.