Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stress and Mood Management - Chapter 16

The famous Chapter 16 from "I Fired My Doctors" that
has become a "best seller" as a separate publication.

"The stress management chapter alone is worth the price of the book.”
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Read Sam & Bunny’s story of triumph over adversity!
*Doctors, drugs & surgery are not always the best answer!
*Includes scientifically validated Total Life Saving Regimen!
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“I FIRED MY DOCTORS AND SAVED MY LIFE”
Healthy, Natural Alternatives to Drugs and Surgery
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Stress and Mood Management


Did you know, that an estimated 75-90% of all doctor’s visits are directly related to stress, and that nearly half of all American adults experience significant levels of stress every day?

Since my work more often than not aims to help clients manage stress and overwhelming emotion, I not only knew this, but I saw the consequences on a constant basis. So I was pleased to discover that stress management was also a critical part of alternative treatments for heart disease. I have been director of a counseling and life skills training center for nearly 40 years now; on a day-to-day basis, I teach stress management techniques to clients, and several times a year I deliver comprehensive seminars on the same subject to organizations that hire me to train their people. So for me, the stress management part of my Life Saving Regimen was the most familiar part of the entire regimen; for others, without 40-plus years of training, stress management may prove the most difficult. If the depression part of this experience was difficult for me, think how challenging it must be for those people who have no experience with stress management.

Every lifestyle change study that has been done concerning the reversal of heart disease includes stress management. In this chapter, I hope to be able to communicate the basic principles of stress and mood management, although in truth, the subject deserves an entire book.

The first thing people need to recognize about stress management is the uncomfortable truth that biology trumps will. I don’t care how intelligent, well educated, or mentally strong you might be – if your emotional biology is unbalanced you will succumb to destructive stress and uncomfortable emotions.

Biological factors involved in stress and emotions include brain chemistry, hormones, blood sugar, and genetics. As antidotes, I offer diet, psychoactive supplementation, and cognitive techniques. Psychotropic drugs, often prescribed by MD psychiatrists, are also a solution for some people. And as you might suspect, psychotropic drugs share many of the same problems and drawbacks as other drugs we have discussed. For instance, David Noonan and Geoffrey Cowley published an article in Newsweek in 2002, reporting that the most prescribed “mood management” drugs, Prozac and the other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are barely more effective than placebos – another triumph by the drug salesmen from the Science Serves Sales Pharmaceutical Company.

The Nutritional Answer
Many, if not most mood and behavioral disorders stem from biochemical deficiencies or imbalances in the brain, brought about by genetic and/or environmental factors. By improving brain nutrition, we can help to correct these imbalances, opening the way to recovery. However, adequate brain nutrition can rarely come about through ordinary diet alone. In order to materially affect brain nutrition, certain amino acids must be used in amounts high enough to effect specific changes in the supply and balance of neurotransmitters and enzymes.

Our increased knowledge of brain nutrition is good news: as we find new ways to support the action of amino acids and other neuronutrients, the therapeutic process becomes even more effective and the probability of relapse is greatly reduced. Nutritionally depleted individuals often have severe deficiencies of important brain neurotransmitters that govern mood and emotion. We have found great success with our patients by introducing amino acid supplementation into our clinic’s dietary approach to rebalancing brain chemistries.

A new “orthomolecular psychopharmacological” approach to mental health has made tremendous strides in finding drug-free nutritional solutions to emotional problems. A growing percentage of our population is finally beginning to experience relief from anxiety or depression symptoms that formerly responded only to prescribed drugs. Groundbreaking work has given us “nutri-ceutical” guidelines that consistently produce positive results.

A while ago, Bunny and I noticed something very curious in our counseling practice: a certain, specific percentage of our clients always responded to psychotherapy better than others.

We investigated, looking for a common theme, and suddenly realized that all of these clients were among the “health conscious.” Upon introducing nutritional supplementation to our non-responsive clients, we suddenly found a startling increase in the effectiveness of psychotherapy. The underlying message seems to be as follows: people who have been under emotional stress for a month or more, or those who have placed their body under physiological stress through poor lifestyle habits or improper nutrition, often experience cognitive problems or emotional symptoms that “won’t go away.”

What are some of these key chemicals? Ask mental health professionals about the chemical called serotonin, and they are likely to respond with optimistic reports. Over the past few years, scientists have documented serotonin’s involvement in an array of mental disorders. Problems more familiar to healthy individuals also appear linked to serotonin. Higher serotonin levels may help relieve migraines, premenstrual syndrome and anxiety attacks. Other studies show that people with low serotonin levels show more aggression and impulsive violence. One might justifiably call serotonin the mental health chemical.

Chronic stress depletes serotonin levels in the brain, exerting a profound effect on cognitive ability and moods. Medication like Prozac or other SSRIs does not actually elevate serotonin levels in the human body. Instead, these drugs prevent the reuptake of already-released serotonin back into the end of a neuron, making it stay longer in the synapse, enhancing its effects. While there may be some relief from mood and cognitive disorders, many of the negative side effects associated with SSRIs, such as constipation, sedation and fatigue, weight gain, digestion problems, insomnia, restlessness, nausea, headaches, joint, muscle and back pain, bronchitis, sweating, abnormal dreams, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction, make them dubious candidates for relief from common symptoms. Sometimes the "cure" is worse than the problem..

Fortunately, serotonin levels may be increased through alternative methods as well. For example, the chemical precursor for serotonin, tryptophan, is found in a number of dietary sources. So while your body synthesizes serotonin through its own chemical cascade, you can increase the stock materials for the building process by providing tryptophan and other nutrients through diet.

Simply separating an active ingredient from the substances in which it naturally occurs can be very unwise. For this reason, the FDA outlawed the sale of tryptophan as an isolated substance. Fortunately, vitamin supplementation and other dietary solutions raise the levels of tryptophan and serotonin throughout the human body without serious contraindications or side effects. Soy-based protein (rich in tryptophan) along with therapeutic doses of cold processed B-complex and a balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement is a safe and reliable method of nutritionally increasing depleted serotonin.

Tryptophan-rich foods include dairy, soy, poultry, fruits certain legumes and nuts. Eat plenty of these foods together with a carbohydrate (potatoes, pasta, rice).

Some suggested foods are:
Avocados, Oranges,
Bananas, Peanut butter,
Beef (lean), Peas,
Brewer's yeast, Potatoes,
Broccoli, Romaine lettuce,
Brown rice, Salmon,
Brussel sprouts, Soybeans,
Cantaloupe, Spinach,
Cheese, Tuna,
Chicken, Turkey,
Collard greens, Wheat germ,
Eggs, Yogurt,
Legumes, Flaxseed oil ,
Milk, Oatmeal ,
It is possible to eat a heart healthy diet and still get the nutrients necessary to feed your brain.

SAMe
SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is not an herb, vitamin or hormone; it is a form of a chemical that is naturally produced by the body. It has the singularly interesting ability to raise levels of serotonin systemically, instead of just concentrating it at the synaptic gap as do the SSRI class of drugs, and can serve as a very effective tool in balancing brain chemistry. Several studies have confirmed that SAMe can be significantly more effective in the treatment of mood disorders than traditional pharmaceutical anti-depressants. Indeed, biochemists have known about SAMe for years; it plays a pivotal role in literally hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. SAMe, you see, is a methyl donor, meaning that it can attach a molecule made of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms to various proteins, lipids and even sections of DNA. These methylation reactions are critical steps in the production of many critical substances, including neurotransmitters and enzymes that help repair joints and the liver.

For over eight years Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Richard P. Brown, has used SAMe as a natural supplement to treat patients suffering from depression, many of whom previously appeared to be extremely treatment-resistant. “Considering SAMe's efficacy in treating depression, its mild side-effect profile, and its ability to boost antioxidants and protect DNA via methylation, this nutrient shows enormous advantages over prescription antidepressants,” says Dr. Brown.

Other U.S. psychiatrists have also begun offering SAMe, both in addition to more conventional treatments and by itself. But caution must be used here – combining SAMe with standard psychotropic drugs designed to address the same problem greatly increases your chances of unwanted side effects over SAMe alone. My strong preference is to use SAMe by itself.

I buy my SAMe from General Nutrition Centers because I have compared it to other brands. From my personal experience, I’ve found a significant advantage to GNC SAMe over several other brands I have tried – and no, I don’t own stock in GNC.

Stress Relief Complex
Bunny and I have seen very satisfying results both personally and with our clients by using a commercial product called Stress Relief Complex by Shaklee Corporation. Once again it should be noted that none of the ingredients in this product will negatively impact a heart healthy regimen. And, full disclosure here: yes, we have had a business connection with Shaklee for years and are highly impressed with their product quality and scientific research.

Scientific support for the ingredients in the Stress Relief Complex:

L-theanine: In one study with young women, L-theanine appeared to produce a relaxed and alert state by having the greatest impact on the intensity of alpha waves among the women categorized as high-anxiety responders (Juneja et al, 1999[1]).

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Laboratory studies and centuries of safe use have demonstrated ashwagandha’s ability to enhance performance during stress (Husain et al., 2007).
Beta-Sitosterol: A recent study suggested that beta-sitosterol had a positive effect on immune function in marathon runners, in addition to blunting the subjects’ cortisol levels (Bouic et al., 1999).

L-Tyrosine: In a number of human studies, fairly high intakes of the amino acid L-tyrosine were found to lessen the impact of environmental stressors such as extreme cold, loud noises, or sleep deprivation on the performance of subjects. Environmental conditions often lead to stress or anxiety (Shurtleff et al., 1994).
http://www.shaklee.net/bestself

Cognitive Solutions
A basic foundation to cognitive-behavioral therapy builds on that old wives’ tale that you really can think yourself sick! Every thought we think changes the activity of specific chemicals in your brain called neuropeptides. What you are thinking about determines what your emotions are – but more importantly, we can use this to our advantage.

To get a better feel for that I mean, try this little experiment. If you’re reading this book, you’ve been on this planet long enough to have had some powerfully positive experiences; a vacation full of beauty and excitement, that first glimpse of your baby, or even an ordinary evening when you just looked up and realized the stars seemed to gleam with a particular beauty. Think about things like this for a moment, and as you remember these moments, you should notice that your mood starts to shift toward good feelings.

Now I want you to think of the saddest, most tragic event in your life. No, stop! I don’t really want you to think about such things, but did you feel what happened inside you emotionally when that thought went through your mind? Is there any doubt that what we think is what we feel?

Interestingly, certain kinds of thinking produce more emotional chemicals than other types of thinking. Analytical, organizational, logistical, and mathematical thinking produce very few emotions. That is why accountants, technical professionals, and mathematicians seem to be so emotionally flat. That also partially explains why so many doctors have almost no bedside manner. Remember Dr. Ghoul?

Conversely, creative, poetic, descriptive, and interpersonal thinking produces many emotions. People like actors, writers, musicians, and artists frequently have enough emotions for a family of four all by themselves.

So, here are your first cognitive techniques in your stress management toolbox for a healthy heart.

First Aid for turning off whirling emotions and stress:
First the facts:
Your emotion/stress producing chemical factory is in your right brain. Most men are left-brain dominant, and most women are right-brain dominant, which explains why some women are more emotionally reactive than some men (though not always!)

The basic principal of cognitive therapy is that our thoughts cause our emotions. Focusing on left-brained tasks turns off the right-brained, emotion/stress producing chemical factory. By its very nature, work is left-brained activity. That is why people usually get relief from uncomfortable emotions when they are involved in accomplishing a task. This same dynamic creates workaholics.

The same therapeutic effect of task-oriented focus can be achieved very easily using the simple exercises below:

Count backwards from one hundred by threes. If you are lying in bed staring at the ceiling while your mind whirls with obsessive, problem focused thinking, start counting backwards by threes. 100, 97, 94, 91, 88, etc. You can’t get down to the fifties with out having turned off the obsessive, whirlwind thinking and the emotional chemicals associated with that thinking.

Sorting and cataloging is also left-brained activity. Choose a category, and then start sorting that category into the alphabet. For example, since I’m a car nut, I might categorize car types - Acura, Buick, Chrysler, Dodge, E type Jag, Ferrari, GTO, etc. Once again, you can’t get down to the LMNOP without having turned off the thinking and the emotion/stress chemical factory.
The sorting technique has another advantage. If you choose a category that will cause pleasant emotions, you can do more than turn off stress. You can actually replace stress chemicals with pleasant-feeling neuropeptides. Try: Things that bring me pleasure that start with “A.” aerobics, babies, carnivals etc. Things I will buy when I win the lottery that start with “A:” Airplane, Boat, Car, etc. Pleasant adjectives that start with “A:” Admirable, Beautiful, Caring, etc.

If you are a spiritually minded person, you already know how compassion for others is a blessing to one’s self. My wife invented a technique she calls Alpha-Bless. She goes through the alphabet thinking of people to bless. Alpha-Bless quickly helps her reclaim the benefits of having a compassionate heart, and that displaces whatever troubling thoughts she might have been experiencing.

These are techniques I know that almost always work. Try a few – they are simple and amazingly effective.

Meditation
The Dali Lama is reported to have called the human brain, “…the televisions set you can’t turn off and you have lost the remote.” I once thought up a bumper sticker that said, “Help! My brain has a mind of its own.” Behavioral scientists are uncomfortable with the word meditation because of the spiritual implications. Secular therapists call this technique “thought stopping.” My opinion is that meditation is far more significant than merely thought stopping. If prayer is talking to God, then meditation is shutting up long enough for God to get a word in edgewise. However, for the purposes of this chapter on stress management I will confine our exploration of the subject to a few simple facts and techniques.

Single focus meditation is the way to get started. The final goal of classical meditation is “no thought.” “No thought” is not something one can make happen; In fact, striving for a meditative state precludes it from happening. One can not think about not thinking. There is an old joke among Buddhists that makes this counter-intuitive reality clear. Satori is the “no thought” state of consciousness that is the unintentional result of meditation. Hence the joke: “Just when I realized I had achieved Satori, oops, there it went.” Since one can’t will the meditative state to happen, and intentionally pursuing the goal of “no thought” makes it impossible to have a clear mind, we must learn the discipline of single focus meditation.

This is really simple to explain. Doing it is somewhat more difficult than understanding it, but billions of people around the world meditate and so can you. Simply pick some single point, or object upon which to focus. Some people use a visual reference like a candle. For several years I used the red power button on my stereo. Others say something to themselves over and over. Any single focus that fills the full scope of one’s attention will suffice. As random thoughts come into your awareness, simply refocus your attention.

I once had a seven-year old gifted child client who migrated from New York City to Florida with her family in the aftermath of 9/11. She had been traumatized by that tragic event and was having nightmares and digestive problems. I confirmed with her that she felt her brain just wouldn’t shut up. The images and self talk overwhelmed her. After we got to know each other for a while I asked her to say “watermelon” to me ten times. She complied with my request. I asked her to notice that by the tenth time the word didn’t mean anything anymore, and she was just making a sound. I told her that when the thoughts and images came into her brain to just start saying “watermelon”. Her mother called me during the week and reported that she was sleeping better. When she came for her next appointment I told her that the “watermelon” trick worked better if she picked out something to say of her own. Again I heard from her mother that she was sleeping well and that her vomiting and constipation had improved. When I saw her again she reported that she had found something to say to herself that worked every time the images and words began to trouble her. I asked this little sweetheart what she was doing that worked so well. “I just say ‘Jesus loves me, this in know’ over and over again. It always works.” There is the essence of meditation. See how simple it is.

Now, an adult agnostic would need to find a different technique, but the dynamics remain the same. What I usually start my clients with is to connect paying attention to their breathing while silently generating a sound in their mind that is synchronized to their breathing. For instance, silently make the sound “ah” when inhaling and silently make the sound “ohm” when they exhale. Almost anything will work, but vowel sounds work better for me.

Do this for about 15 minutes every day and you will quickly find out that your brain/body interface will become conditioned to a meditative state quite easily. I also use this technique while I am waiting for appointments and I frequently do it just after a client leaves, to clear out my brain for the next client. I also use it to go to sleep, when my brain doesn’t know it is time for the rest of me to get some rest. The benefits of daily meditation are a cornucopia of blessings in your life that you can discover or research on your own.

Now, what about this “no thought” state of consciousness? When one establishes a meditative routine, one will sometimes come out of a meditation with the realization that your mind has been completely blank for a period of time. You can’t make it happen, and you can’t be aware of it while it is happening, but you will know you have been there. René Descartes was wrong when he famously said “I think, therefore I am.” I experience myself as being more fundamentally existing when I am not thinking.

How we change
Effective though these emotional Band-Aids are however, they still fall into the ‘coping’ category. When you finish counting backwards or dividing things into the alphabet, your established pattern of troublesome thinking will return. A more permanent solution to ‘stinking thinking’ requires a new dominant pattern; otherwise, the old “self talk” will go right on cranking out uncomfortable emotions. To accomplish this change, people need to know how change actually occurs in the human brain.

Much of brain science is actually counter-intuitive – nothing works the way you would expect it to. For instance, focusing mental energy on the problem by blame, guilt, endlessly analyzing (analysis paralysis), or exercises of will to get rid of what is wrong will only make things worse. To bring about change, one must focus efforts on establishing new patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving to take the place of the old patterns.

To explain this process here is another thought experiment:
When a researcher places a rat into a T-shaped maze, the rat soon learns that one end of the maze offers food when he touches a trip bar. He also learns that touching the trip bar at the other end delivers an electric shock. The rat soon becomes firmly conditioned to ignore one end of the cage entirely and focus his attention and behavior on getting the food at the safe and rewarding other end.

Many of your habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving are just like that rat’s. Very early on in life, you learn what feels good and what doesn't. Thousands of habitual patterns form in your personality, even before your second birthday (drawing on the wall makes mommy upset; putting my hand on the stove hurts; chocolate chip cookies stolen out of the jar before dinner taste good). By the time you are an adult, the number of habitual patterns is beyond counting.

So long as nothing upsets the stimulus/response pattern, this system works fine. But what happens when things change, when the rat gets a painful electric shock where he expected food? It’s just like what happens to us when interactions with the person who emotionally fed us in the early stages of our relationship now result in disapproval and frustration, or when our pleasure habits (drinking, drugs, relationship addiction, food, sex, socializing, etc) start to produce pain.

Contrary to all things sensible, the rat doesn’t change his behavioral pattern at all. He continues to experience pain where he formerly received food. Now, the pain goes right down the very same neural pathways that he previously associated with a reward. The brain thrives on stimulus. Once the pathway is established, the brain doesn’t differentiate between good stimulus and bad stimulus. The pain now negatively reinforces the old behavior, locking the rat into a dysfunctional pattern, and ignoring functional behavior – exactly how people become locked into dysfunctional behavior. We are all "under the spell of synapse."

Applying a negative stimulus to an already established pattern of behavior works much like a Chinese finger puzzle. This device – with which some of you may be familiar – is a woven straw tube into which you insert the index fingers of both hands. The more you try to pull your fingers from the tube, the more the tube grasps tightly to your fingers.

We all begin doing things because it feels good. Addicts keep doing it after it begins to hurt. Thus, we all know what it is like to be addicted.

SUMMARY
1. The application of negative stimulus to an already established pattern of thinking, feeling, or behaving, tends to reinforce that pattern. You cannot change yourself or anyone else by the application of negative stimulus, (i.e., accusing, complaining, guilt, threats, whining, punishing etc.).

2. Change takes place when an alternate pathway is stimulated, and the old pathway atrophies from lack of use. You cannot change by saying "no" to your old self. You must say "yes" to your new self.

3. Whatever you focus on will grow, so remember to focus on what you want. If you focus on a solution, you will have a solution. If you focus on a problem, you will have more of a problem. If you tell other people what they are doing wrong, you reinforce the very behavior you don't want. Tell people what you want. And, tell yourself what you want.

REMEMBER: Any kind of stimulus will reinforce a habit once it is established. Facilitated nerve cells do not care if you say "no" to them or "yes" to them – they thrive on stimulation of either kind. Negative self-talk and guilt feelings will only further reinforce the behavior you do not want in your life. Being critical of other people only makes it more likely that they will repeat the very behavior that is the subject of your complaint.

When we are teaching stress management techniques to groups I always include a story that illustrates the basic principles of how we can effectively bring about change in our lives. Over the years the story has gained a title;

“Don’t Shoot the Dog”

When I was a youngster I spent a good deal of my summer vacations on my grandparent’s farm. The summer after my undergraduate work, I was eager to visit the country homestead once again. When I arrived, I discovered that there was a family crisis in progress.

Grandpa’s dog and hunting partner, Rusty, an Irish setter, had taken on a very bad habit in his old age. Rusty had begun breaking into the chicken coop and eating eggs. Now, the phrase “egg sucking dog” was one of the worst things that could be said in Northern Iowa. To our ears it was a profanity vulgar enough to make women gasp, and could easily start a fight if hurled at another person in anger. Iowa farmers knew there was only one thing to be done with an egg sucking dog; you had to shoot it and the sooner the better.

You see, Rusty and Grandpa were old friends. I had been with them many times as we flushed up pheasants from Grandpa’s corn fields after the harvest. Grandpa sure didn’t want to shoot Rusty, but he knew it needed to be done. Once dogs start raiding a chicken coop there is no way to cure them. No matter how many times you beat the dog, and no matter how many times you patch the latest hole they have dug under the wall into the chicken coop, they doggedly (forgive the pun) keep sticking their noses under hens and stealing eggs. The “egg money” was Grandma’s private income so you can imagine how she felt about the problem.

With the inexperienced confidence of youth, and a brand new “expertise” in the behavioral sciences, I told Grandpa that I thought I could “cure” an egg sucking dog. After all, I had read B. F. Skinner’s work with dogs and operant conditioning. I wanted to at least have a chance to save Rusty’s life, and save Grandpa the seemingly inevitable, heartbreaking chore.
The theory is very simple. One observes the subject animal, in this case Rusty, doing something the right way, and then reinforces the desired behavior.

The reinforcement cycle starts with some action on the part of the trainee (in Skinner's language, the operant). Operant conditioning is therefore always dependent on behavior. So, we have:
dog does something (operant behavior)
dog gets food (positive reinforcement)

Besides, I knew that these farmers almost always applied negative stimulus after the behavior had become a habit, thus reinforcing the very behavior they were attempting to eliminate. So maybe a different method might work.

There was considerable pressure to accomplish what I had told Grandpa I could do. That pressure amplified when Grandpa went into town and told the farmers who gathered at the coffee shop across from the hardware store that “My grandson, the psychologist, is going to cure Rusty so I don’t need to shoot him.” You can imagine the skeptical attitude of Iowa farmers being told that there was a cure for egg sucking dogs. By this time it was too late to tell Grandpa that I had never actually tested this theory, and I wasn’t sure it would really work.

When I had confidently and foolishly announced to Grandpa that I could cure Rusty, I didn’t even have a plan ready. So I began to think. How could I get Rusty to not go into the chicken coop, so that I could then reinforce the behavior I wanted?

I frequently come up with solutions to vexing problems while in that state of mind somewhere between sleep and wakefulness that I call “la la land.” Lying there in bed in my Grandparent’s farm house, listening to the occasional sound of livestock, and cars more than a mile away on gravel roads, I had a eureka moment. I had a plan!

The next morning I broke open six fresh eggs and put them in Rusty’s bowl right at the door to the chicken coop. Here is a principle to remember: Sometimes in order to get the changes going in the right direction you need to do something good for the bad dog. Rusty came along and noticed the eggs. I can imagine his dog brain doing this self talk, “Eggs. Right here. I don’t even need to eat the shells. And I don’t have to put up with those hens pecking at the top of my head. This is a good thing.” He quickly lapped down the eggs and sauntered off for his nap.

The following morning I did the same thing. I put the eggs a few feet away from the chicken coop, toward the back porch of the farmhouse where Grandma usually fed Rusty. The next day I again moved the bowl closer to the house, and added some dog food to the eggs. Every day I moved the bowl closer to the porch, mixing more dog food and fewer eggs. By the time the bowl reached to porch, it was all dog food and no eggs. Rusty had again become accustomed to looking for his food at the back porch of the house, and never again went into the chicken coop.

Please remember this; it is important. If you reinforce behavior that moves you toward a desired goal, and ignore the old behavior, you will change. It is that simple! Looking backward will keep you backward. Looking forward will move you forward.

Now with that little lesson out of the way, let’s go back to talking about changing our habits of self talk, so our emotional and behavioral habits will also change.

Cognitive Therapy
Events in the outside world do not cause or control emotions – it is literally impossible for another person to cause emotion within you. “You make me angry” is an irrational, ridiculous statement. Your emotions are caused by how you interpret reality. What you say to yourself about an outside stimulus is what produces emotions, and that’s how some people who have very good circumstances are still emotionally distressed. Other people with very difficult circumstances have rich, satisfying lives. Your belief system determines the quality of your life far more than external circumstances or other people.


To make the best of any circumstance our self talk needs to be:
Rational and accurate – Become very aware of your self talk. Install an internal BS detector. Make your self talk into plain talk, and avoid adjectives and descriptive phrases. Say to yourself, “If I submitted this way of thinking to 100 people selected at random, would they say I was being accurate and rational?”


Emotionally appropriate – If you have a problem and you get upset about it, then you have two problems. Since self talk causes emotions, making sure that our thinking is accurate and rational automatically adjusts our emotions toward being more appropriate. However, keep checking into your emotional life and ask that same group of fictional 100 people if your emotions seem fitting to them. If it is a one pound problem, make sure there is no more than a one pound emotional response.


Solution focused – We humans have a tendency to be problem focused. Mother Nature had no reason to install an alarm system into us for things that are good for us. Danger and threats always get noticed more, whether we remember to stop and smell the roses or not. If a snake were crawling across the floor at the Louvre Museum, nobody would be looking at the Mona Lisa. We must deliberately train ourselves to get our focus off the problem and onto a solution if we want peace of mind. Think about it for a moment. How do we feel when we are thinking about a problem? How does that compare to how we feel when we think about a solution?

Learn to manage your self talk toward patterns of accurate, emotionally appropriate and solution focused thinking, and you will have gone a long way toward reducing your stress levels and being able to manage your emotional life effectively.

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Chapter 16 – Stress and Mood Management Citations

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Mitchell JE, de Zwaan M, Roerig JL. “Drug therapy for patients with eating disorders.” Current Drug Targets – CNS and Neurological Disorders 2(2003):17-29.
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