Counselling has helped me so much on a personal level, but it’s also taught me a great deal. These are some of the more general pieces of advice I have received, and hopefully, they might help some of you too.
1. The longer you avoid doing something you’re scared of, the harder it is to do.
This might seem like something obvious, but what I never realised before a counsellor told me, was how your brain reacts to you avoiding something you are scared of. If there’s a particular place you’re putting off going to because it makes you nervous, if you decide not to go there, it registers that. By avoiding it, your brain goes ‘oh I was right, this place is dangerous’. This means that the more time that passes, the harder it will be to get past the fear, as there’s more mental conditioning to overcome. It can be especially damaging if you have something like anxiety because there are probably places that make you anxious although there’s no logical reason for it. It’s easier said than done, but the more you can avoid avoiding things you’re scared of, the better.
2. If you’re having a panic attack, remember to breathe out too.
Panic attacks are absolutely horrible, they take over your body and make you feel like you can’t breathe. In that circumstance, what your body can do is overcompensate, so you breathe in a lot more than you breathe out. What happens then is your lungs are full, so they can’t physically take in any more air, which adds to the feeling that you can’t breathe. It’s not always possible, depending on how severe the attack is, but if you can concentrate and try to breathe out as much as you breathe in, it could help your breathing return to normal sooner.
3. Trying to think more positively can make a big difference to your happiness.
Again, it’s another thing that’s easier said than done, but reframing your thoughts in a more positive light can make you a lot happier. For example, if you miss a day of classes or lectures because you’re having a bad mental health day, you could feel awful about it. But how many other times have you made it in? Or maybe you might be a quiet and shy person, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You might be a great listener, or you might have amazing, deep conversations with people you’re close with. It’s so easy to focus on and remember the negative things rather than the positive things, and if you just have a lot of negative thoughts in your head, understandably you’re going to be miserable.