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Mind Over Stress



Lecture 5

Relationship between thoughts and emotions

Common Thinking Errors
Managing Irrational Thoughts and Beliefs
Coping with Anxiety
Relationship between thoughts, emotions on
behaviours and beliefs
Our thoughts mediate between external events
such as stimuli and our emotions
A stimulus elicit an evaluative judgement which in turn
gives rise to emotions
Giving meaning to the things we encounter

Stimulus Thoughts Emotions

Relationship between thoughts, emotions
on behaviours and beliefs
Our thoughts influenced how we feel &
subsequently how we act.
The outcome of our behaviours will further
reinforced our thoughts
A cycle continues
Some of these thoughts become so entrenched
that they become the belief systems of the
Psychological distress, stress can be a result of
distorted thoughts & lead to distressed emotions
Relationship between thoughts, emotions
on behaviours and beliefs

Thoughts Emotions

Irrational Thoughts and Beliefs

Irrational thoughts and beliefs are unhelpful

thinking styles that distort or exaggerate the
actual experiences.
They are self-defeating in nature.
Irrational Thoughts and Beliefs
Scenario 2 persons leave home for work. They got stuck in the
traffic jam.

Person A: I hate this journey! The traffic is killing me. One day, I will
have a heart attack or choked from pollution. People are so rude on the
road. The radio and songs playing sucks. What a waste of time.
Everyday is the same. It drives me crazy. By the time I reach
workplace, I dont feel energised or do the things I need to. I have to
go through this again to get home in the evening!

Person B: The journey is long. I make use of this journey to think about
things, and organise my day. Then on the way home, I think through
again to reflect on what I have done for the day. Sometimes it feels
like the journey is very short, I cant believe it too! I can do quite a bit
like listening to radio or music, or to read! Other times, I would just do
nothing; close my eyes to rest or just look around. Overall, the journey
is not that bad at all. It is bearable and can be quite meaningful.
Common Thinking Errors
1. CATASTROPHISING (imagining the worst)
Inaccurately viewing a situation as intolerable, terrible
If I dont get an A for this subject, its the end for me
Drawing a conclusion without evidence
He has been quiet whole day, he must be angry with me!
Drawing a general conclusion on the basis of 1 incident or one
piece of statement ABSOLUTE statement
Use of key words Never, Always, Every, None
I am shy. I cant change. I never get things done right. I am so
Focused only on the negative aspect of the situation, ignoring the
positive aspects
I am a useless person, I fumbled on my presentation (despite
scoring well overall)
Common Thinking Errors
Things are either black or white, good or bad, lacking in grey or middle
Guessing others thoughts without asking/checking. Assuming that others
feel/act the same way as one does lack observation & jump to
conclusion too quickly
I dare not take a break when my boss is around, he will think I am idling.
Judging something illogically based on own feelings
I feel lousy, I am really a loser.
I should always try to please others, no matter how I feel towards that
I must score well for this test in order to prove myself to be someone
Common Thinking Errors

Depressed persons constantly have negative

thoughts about themselves, the world & the
outcomes of their efforts
They may have negative self-evaluation,
pessimistic outlook, negative automatic thoughts,
cognitive distortions, irrational beliefs/thoughts
These irrational thoughts result in feelings of
hopelessness, worthlessness & depression
Problems related to anxiety may occur
What is Depression
Depression is characterised by
Emotions: Intense feelings of sadness, feelings of
futility, sense of worthlessness and withdrawal from
Thoughts: Pessimistic about future, self-deprecating
talks, negative beliefs about own competence,
thoughts distortion
Behaviours: sloppy, low energy, reduced speech,
withdrawn, isolate
What is Depression

About 10% of population may experienced clinical

Symptoms should be lasting more than 2 weeks and
show significant change from individuals previous
More common among women than men
Women may be more likely to seek treatment
Manifestation may differ between gender men may
turn to alcohol or other forms of abuse
Depression is one major cause of suicide
Causes of Depression

Severe Stress (e.g. loss through death, loss of job)

may trigger depression
Depression further results in more stressful lifestyle
Absence of good social support
Others may react supportively initially but overtime may
react negatively to depressed thoughts and behaviours
Depressed persons are also less interpersonally
adequate and may not find social support positively
Causes of Depression
Negative self-concept and low self-
Genetic causes evident in twin
studies or families where parents
are depressed
Suicide and Risk Factors
Suicide Risk Factors

Symptoms (Behaviours, Emotional, Cognitive,

Stressors and perception
Purpose for living (Hopelessness)
Gender (male)
Presence of illnesses (mental/physical)
Social support
What is Anxiety
Anxiety subjective feeling of tension,
apprehension, nervousness, worry accompanied by
activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous
May lead to behavioural signs of escape or
3 conditions to be fulfilled in order to experience
FEEL fear
CHANGE/INCREASE in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration
Become dyfunctional when normal functioning is
State-Trait Anxiety

State anxiety temporary feeling transient in

nature or related to a particular stimulus
Trait anxiety a general sense of anxiety that is
not related to any specific or particular stimulus
May be accompanied with excessive worry
High vigilance, tense muscles, difficulty concentrating,
restlessness, sleep problems etc
Test Anxiety
Related to test taking behaviours
Typical panic symptoms just before test taking
occur mostly in students
2 components
THOUGHT worry about failing and consequences
associated with failure
EMOTIONAL unpleasant feelings and physiological
reactions brought about by tests
Interfere with actual test taking behaviours and
Panic Disorder
A psychological condition in which feelings of
terror arise from unrealistic fear and feelings of
impending doom
Resulting in symptoms such as numbness,
fainting spells, heart palpitations, feelings of
losing control and embarrassing oneself in public
Can be related to a specific situation or
Individual with panic attack may perceive to be
having an heart attack, going to die or going to
Panic Disorder
About 2 times more common in women than in men
Usually occur during late adolescence or early adulthood
May be related to experience of stressors
Not all who experience panic attacks will develop panic
People with panic disorders may avoid crowded places or
become housebound limiting or handicapping
Treatment is impt to enable individuals to lead a normal life
Psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioural therapy which involved
gradual exposure, systematical dissensitisation)
Breathing and relaxation techniques
E.g. Agoraphobia
Panic Disorder

Perceptions of
Internal or Catastrophising thoughts
External -I am dying.
bodily sensations
Stressor -I am losing control.
- Heart palpitations
-I am going crazy.
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness etc

Increased bodily
Social Phobia
Social Phobia overwhelming anxiety, & excessive self-
consciousness in everyday social situations
Beyond shyness
May be limited to one type of situation e.g. fear of
presentation in class; or may extend to all types of interaction
with people
Persistent, intense and chronic fear of being watched and
judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their
own actions
Interfere with school, work or other daily functioning activities
Signs may include social awkwardness, avoidance behaviours,
physiological signs (blushing, stammering, sweating, trembling
Usually occur in childhood or early adolescence
Other Phobia

Specific Phobia intense fear of a specific

situation that poses little or no actual danger
E.g. fear of enclosed space, spiders, blood,
heights, snakes..
Treatable with medication and psychotherapy
Overcoming Irrational Thoughts
20 Questions to Challenge Irrational
What is the evidence?
1. What are the facts to support this belief?
2. Am I jumping to conclusions?

What alternatives are there?

3. Am I assuming my views of things as the only one possible?

What is the effect of thinking the way I do?

4. Do negative thoughts help or hinder me?
5. What are the advantages & disadvantages of thinking this way
6. Am I asking questions that have no answers?

What thinking errors am I making?

7. Am I thinking in all-or-nothing terms?
8. Am I using ultimatum words in my thinking?
9. Am I condemning myself as a total person on the basis of one event?
10. Am In concentrating on my weakness and forgetting my strength?
20 Questions to Challenge Irrational
11. Am I blaming myself for something which is not really my fault?
12. Am I taking things personally which have little or nothing to do with
13. Am I expecting myself to be perfect?
14. Am I using double standard?
15. Am I only paying attention to the dark/black side of things?
16. Am I overestimating the chances of a disaster?
17. Am I exaggerating the importance of events?
18. Am I fretting about the way things ought to be instead of accepting
& dealing with them as they are?
19. Am I assuming that I can do nothing to change my situation?
20. Am I predicting the future instead of experimenting with it?
Reframing Positively Disputing Irrationl
Thoughts and Beliefs
3 Key Points
Emotional stress is a matter of our perception. It is
a CHOICE rather than just reaction to the
circumstances. We choose to feel and react in a
certain way.
Other people do not influence you or the way you
think, feel or do things. We think or do things based
on what we make sense of the situation.
We can change how we feel or do things based on
how we think.
Coping with Irrational Thoughts/Beliefs &
Albert Ellis ABCDE Technique
Anxiety is a function of irrational beliefs
Elliss method involves examining the irrational
beliefs, challenge and change these beliefs
A Activating Event (identify stressor)
B Belief System (identify rational & irrational beliefs)
C Consequences (mental, physical & behavioural)
D Dispute irrational beliefs
E Effect (changed the consequences)
20 Questions to Challenge Irrational
Some self-talks to dispute irrational beliefs
It doesnt do anything to me
Everything is exactly the way it should be
All humans are fallible creatures
It takes 2 to have a conflict
We feel the way we think
Coping with Anxiety

Some people may not seek help & may cope by taking
drugs, alcohol, avoidance behaviours etc
Short term measures, does not address the root of the fear & would
accompany by negative consequences

Anxiety Coping Techniques

Environmental planning change or accommodate self to the
conditions in the environment e.g. arriving early & rehearsal
Relabelling relabel negative experiences as positive challenges
focus on the positive aspects
Self-talk be objective self encouragement to boost morale
Thought-stopping STOP whenever negative thoughts appear &
replace with positive/realistic thought.
Relaxation - Practise muscle relaxation
Principles to healthy and positive thinking

Principles to healthy and positive thinking

Rethinking and analysing thoughts frequently
Double check with facts/others
Be realistic with yourself/limitations
Keep things in perspective even when situation is truly
bad, focus on the positive & things to be done
Think positive
Use constructive language/words
I can vs I cant
If only I had vs Next time I will
What can I do vs I will do my best
Self Awareness and Seek Help

Be aware of your own thoughts & emotions

Are they causing you stress?
Do you want to do anything about them?
Recognise symptoms of depression and
Be brave & seek help
These disorders are treatable!
Early treatment lead to better outcome!

Additional readings
Change your mind about Mental Health
Anxiety Disorders and Effective Treatment