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Last year I suffered a bout of anxiety and light depression, I'm not going to talk about it as its not entirely relevant but it was caused by work stress and health problems.
Along with a counsellor and some medication I decided I wanted to do some self-help to tackle it head on. So it was off to the self-help section of Waterstones. I did see this book looming above the others being A4 size and quite thick. Noting that it was a 'Dummies Guide' made me wonder if it was going to be a bit trivial, but on flicking through it looked quite interesting. And so it should for £15.99
There are 20 chapters divided into 7 parts.
1) Recognising and Recording Anxiety and Depression
2) Understanding your thinking: Cognitive Therapy
3) Taking Action with Behaviour Therapy
4) Feeling It Where It Hurts: Healing The Body
5) Revitalising Relationships
6) Life Beyond Anxiety and Depression
7) The Part of Tens
Dont worry, I'm not going to list each chapter!
Each chapter consists of worksheets, tips, practices and reflections. In Part 1 for example there are questionnaires about depressed and anxious thoughts and sensations of sadness and stress. The reflections and questionnaires can allow to think about your anxiety and depression objectively, Well, as objectively as you can as you will be tempted to miss out a few questions or not answer them properly but eventually you will go back and do so when you realise how useful it is.
it also identifies people as Thinkers, Doers, Feelers or Relaters (personally I'm a Thinker, I think way too much!) In doing so it recommends parts of the book you can focus on, of course theres also nothing to stop you just working as you go along which I found the most useful.
There are places in the questionnaires and reflections that recommend you go directly to your GP and call you local CMHT in light of various issues which is not a get-out by the writers but a flipping good idea.
Some of the chapters may seem like mumbo-jumbo as its asks us to write about growing up and relationships with parents, childhood, etc then narrowing it down to the last year. I actually found this extremely useful as was identifying obstacles to change and how I sabotage things. At the end are mood diaries and thought catchers, a great resource for identifying issues.
Part 2 concerns itself with us understanding our way of thinking. I actually found some of this quite scary as I'm not sure I wanted to understand it! Writing down my thoughts about things and then using the exercises to confront and challenge me made me realise how daft some of the thoughts I had been having were. But it was great to come to these realisations myself rather than having someone else tell me which usually made me go on the defensive. Thankfully the end chapter teaches us how to change some thoughts and embrace others. The part that enables you to look at your negative thoughts objectively is the one I found the most useful for myself.
Anyone with anxiety will know that awful feeling when your heart starts pounding, sweating, feeling sick and that you're about to pass out. Part 3 helps you to tackle this and how to face your fears. Thankfully it doesn't recommend going into scary places and then recording those feelings. It asks you to start by thinking about these situations then using breathing techniques that we can eventually carry over into these situations.
If like me you thought you were going to die in the middle of Tescos you will find this useful. I'm not entirely sure what it was about Tescos, too many smiley staff around unlike Asda where they're just miserable!
I was glad to see the chapter on exercise as this is much under-rated for depression. This chapter also talks about medication in a non-biased neutral way. There's also a great chapter on relaxation techniques and exercises.
Those 3 Parts make up the bulk of the book.
Part 3 has further relaxation exercises and techniques and exercises to help insomnia. Many people get embarrassed when they talk to the doctor, depression and anxiety can also cause problems with the memory so the worksheet that's also a questionnaire that you can take to your doctor could be invaluable.
Right, how many people have found their relationships have suffered, jealousy, insecurity or like me, tetchy and angry. Thank Gawd for Part 5 then! I warn you though that realising the problems you are creating or seeing how your partner may feel could cause you to be a bit upset. Thankfully theres none of this lighting candles, using massage oils malarky, that really doesnt work if you're consumed by anxious jealousy! Theres nothing worse than trying to create a false situation and trying to make yourself feel something you are not. Of course its not above the realms of possibility that you could end up feeling strong enough to have an ex-partner by the end of the chapter! I certainly cut someone out of my life who was doing me nothing but harm.
On first reading this book I couldn't even imagine getting better so reading Part 6 about Life beyond Anxiety and Depression, how to promote it, but also recognising warning signs was read with raised eyebrows. My counsellor also mentioned that she wasnt sure if I wanted to get better! Eventually though, even whilst still suffering I could fill in the worksheets to help me see what I was aiming at.
Part 7 is the resources available to everybody, books, websites, and also an explanation of what different agencies do without it being a 'social services will come and take your kids away' scary lecture.
And lastly it gives us ten top tips on what to do on those 'twitchy' days, exercise, relaxation, objective thinking, etc.
So this has been long but there's lots in this book I haven't touched on, it really does have to be read to appreciate the scope of what it covers. I really have given you the basics to help you make a decision about going to look for this book. If I covered it all it would be the book!
The book has been written by 3 clinical psychologists, all experts in anxiety and depression but with knowledge of self-esteem problems, relationships, etc and it shows. Its about as far away from a self-help book written by one of those pseudo-guru doctor types you see on talk shows.......sorry Paul McKenna. Theres no romantic musings about remembering the good old days but neither is it written in stark clinical style either, it strikes the perfect balance.
You do have to be honest and motivated though, its not like a counsellor sat in front of you challenging what you are saying. Its good though in that you can keep going back to the book whenever you're having issues. You can also download extra worksheets from their website.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it really helped me, and will help plenty of those who cant afford £30 counsellor sessions. I actually found it so helpful I bought another follow-up book 'Exercise for Anxiety and Depression For Dummies', and still do some of the exercises and relaxation therapies when I'm having a not so good day