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  • Building Self Esteem by Rekha

    Self esteem is the combination of self confidence and self respect. It is a conviction about one’s competency to face challenges of life and handle stressful situations. People with high self esteem show confidence in them and are rational problem solvers versus worry warts. They demonstrate the ability to  confront the things they are afraid of, are willing to take risks and also indulge in self nurturing activities.

    Self image – who you think you are, is determined by how others have treated you, and the conclusions you drew from comparing yourself to others. We evaluate ourselves and begin to validate it throughout our lives.

    The inner voice is developed by the feedback we get from others about ourselves from childhood. As we grow, the inner voice takes over and we begin to maintain a consistent image of ourselves. Our critical voice could be our parents, an authority figure or our own voice. This critical voice tends to undermine our self esteem.  Additionally, it seems to be closely connected with our thought process. The problem with critical voice is that it is always believed. It can be telegraphic which means one word can trigger a series of images, and it can link events and actions together.

    We listen to our inner voice because it is rewarding and it actually tries to protect us from the fear of failure and fear of rejection by others.  However, this does not help in the long run.  To build up self esteem, it is important to transform the inner voice versus just trying to eliminate it.

    Thought stopping technique is one of the most effective techniques to transform our inner voice. It is done by visualizing a red STOP sign and shouting the word STOP or Cancel and quickly replacing negative thoughts with positive coping statements.

    Another way to transform the inner voice is to turn the worry over to a Higher Power. It is also useful to put the worry in a shoe box and place it on the top shelf  of the closet of your mind. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also recommends that  scheduling a worry time also helps  in programming the mind for  positive thinking. The mind tends to associate the scheduled worry time with problems and one can be positive the rest of the time.

    Self defeating thoughts are triggered by cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, mislabeling, filtering, absolute thinking, self blame, over estimation, magnification and many more. When these distortions color our perceptions, it is useful to use affirmations as a mood induction technique. For example, “I feel good about myself”, “All things are working towards my well being”, “I feel confident”, “I feel happy” and so on.

    Using Visualization can also be a very powerful mood induction technique. It is important to first set long term and short term goals. Then check if you have a burning desire to achieve this goal. Is it attainable or are you willing to accept this positive change in your life? Visualization is a method of using imagery to modify your behavior and internal physiological state. It is used by athletes to achieve peak performance in their sports. For effective visualization, you need to relax, take a deep breath and use your five senses to recreate the imagery in detail. Practicing visualization repeatedly will increase your ability to see things vividly. You will be able to achieve your goals with more ease and facility with the aid of visualization technique.

    “The Power of imagination exceeds that of the conscious will.”   Emile Cou.

    It is also crucial to reward yourself more often, avoid people who are bad for you, have a good network of friends and relatives, take more risks, take care of yourself by engaging in physical exercise, eating nutritious food, being health conscious. Volunteer work, helping your community and having a meaning and purpose in life are also helpful instruments in building self esteem. Having a good balance in life is important to build self esteem. It has been seen that people who are assertive and who take care of their needs tend to have higher self esteem than people who are passive, codependent and passive aggressive.   Maslow has defined five levels of needs and people with high self esteem tend to fulfill their needs at all levels. Gandhi and many other national leaders were able to become self actualized.  It is helpful to treat yourself like a flower garden and sow the seeds of love to foster better self esteem.

    Self esteem affects our lives, deepens our ability to make a contribution to the world. Self esteem comes from within and is not measured by material things such as your possessions, status, assets and prosperity.  It helps us remain stable in adverse circumstances.

    By Rekha Shrivastava, M.S, CRC, CASAC – T

    Cognitive Approaches to Healing

    We all face stress in our lives but if we handle stress appropriately, we can overcome it easily. There are many cognitive approaches to healing and there is evidence that we can decrease the intensity of our anxiety, depression and stress by using the following seven (7) cognitive behavioral strategies:

    1. Thought Stopping: It is a technique that helps divert our mind from what we are worrying and obsessing about. When we get anxious, there are multiple thoughts that occupy our minds. If   we keep dwelling on these unproductive thoughts, the intensity of anxiety continues to escalate. However, if we use the Thought Stopping technique, we can lower the level of our anxiety. This is how you use the technique, Take a deep breath, visualize a big red STOP sign in front of you, then simply say the word CANCEL, or STOP. By repeating the word STOP, we put a brake on our racing thoughts just as we stop the car when we approach a STOP sign. When we put a brake on our thoughts, it empties the mind. After saying the word STOP, replace the negative thought with a positive counterstatement. It is important to note that the mind tends to recreate worry thoughts if you do not replace it with a counterstatement. Repeat the Thought Stopping technique as needed.
    2. Self Talk: Depressed and anxious people tend to indulge in negative self talk by berating themselves or thinking negative about self or others. This tends to reinforce negative thinking. Self talk is very subtle, automatic and telegraphic in nature. We make a variety of errors called, Cognitive Distortions in Psychology. These distortions could be overgeneralization, mind reading, jumping to conclusion, fortune teller error, magnification, minimization, mental filter, black or white thinking, mislabeling, and saying, “my fault”. Cognitive therapy holds that we need to be aware of our distortions and challenge them with Socratic questions, e.g. What are the odds of this really happening?, What is the worst that can happen?, Once we put our illogical statements to a scrutiny or rational investigation, we become more aware of our errors and open our mind to the reasoning and logic. This also helps correct our perception of the situation and we become more objective. Positive self talk helps reduce the intensity of depressive and anxious symptoms.
    3. Use of Affirmations: Affirmation is a positive statement that we use to replace negative self talk. For example, “ I am a good person”, ‘I can handle this situation”, “I have done it before and I can do it again.” It is like mind chatter that helps replace the negative programming into positive. It is important to make affirmations in present tense. It sinks better and it is also important to repeat them with conviction and emotions for optimal benefits.
    4. Acting As If: implies two laws of learning:

    A. The law of Association

    B. The operant Conditioning

    When we use Acting As If, we use operant conditioning. Acting As If reinforces the reprogramming we do to change our twisted thinking. For Example, act as if you are calm and relaxed by putting a smile on your face even if you are experiencing anxiety before making a presentation. When we act as if we are calm, our subconscious mind gets the message of relaxation and it makes us more relaxed and decreases the level of anxiety. Another example, start telling every  one, “ I feel great, it is a wonderful day” and you will begin to feel better.

    1. Use of Acronym CRAFT: This also helps ease the anxiety and helps view the situation correctly.

    C= Cancel negative thought

    R= Replace negative thought

    A=Affirm a positive statement

    F= Focus on the positive thought

    T= Train your mind to think positive

    6. Space of Time: It is important to create a space of time between what stresses you and your reaction to it. In order to do this engage in the following:

    A. Mind games

    B. Count to ten

    C. Deep Breathing

    D. Humor

    E. Imaging

     7.       Be a Problem Solver:

    Focus on the solutions as opposed to obsessing on the problem. Follow the following steps

    A. Describe and analyze your problems with questions. Use the five Ws- who, what, when, why, where to describe your problem.

    B. Ask what I want “more of” and “less of” in the situation

    C. What are my options?

    D. Take action

    E. Evaluate and adjust

    F. Reward

    These are proven techniques which are very effective in decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

    Rekha Shrivastava, MS, CRC.CASAC-T


    Go For It!

    Recently, while talking with my 7 year old grandson – he said, very matter-of-factly, that when he grows up he is going to play football for the Buffalo Bills or maybe play baseball for the Red Wings.
    At 7, he believes this – he’s not limiting his dreams to the realities of his skills or the improbable chances of making it into a major league team. Such undaunted determination is not just heartwarming to this grandma but awe-inspiring into the possibilities of dreams, goals and hopes. When and Why, as adults, do we become so practical and dismissive as to forget our dreams and limit our reach for the stars?
    I recently saw a quote from contemporary poet, Kurtis Lamkin: “Believing is all a child does for a living.”
    As adults, we should try to remember what it’s like to see the world through those childhood eyes! Whether it’s just declared 2012 goals that you aspire to or a long ago buried dream – don’t weigh down the goal with practicalities and realizations – go for it!