Connective Issues Spring 2018


REFRAMING YOUR LIFE Using Your Thoughts to Improve Your Quality of Life and Overcome Obstacles

By Lindsey Rusche

and our behavior. This type of therapy or coaching aims to help people become aware when they have negative or unhelpful thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can then help develop alternate ways of thinking and behaving that reduce negative patterns and, hopefully, decrease emotional distress, depression, and anxiety. CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. For example, a cycle may start with negative thoughts, and then you feel worse, and, as a result, you do less or enact negative or destructive behavior, and then, as a result of the behavior, it feeds more negative thoughts and then you feel even worse, and on and on. [CBT] looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis. A tool like CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking obstacles down into smaller parts. You're shown how to change these obstacles and negative patterns to improve the way you feel. CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis. How can I use CBT? I truly believe that our mind is our greatest asset. There are many resources to introduce yourself to CBT; books, pod- casts, and videos are readily available online for self-study. Working with a qualified therapist (psychotherapist or social worker) who is trained and focused on CBT is very helpful. Or you can access a weekly CBT group online or in person to learn the tools, practice the ideas together, and support each other. I utilize a combination of all of these to keep my depression in check, to keep my life manageable, and to create a fulfilling life in spite of the complications of Marfan syndrome.

The Marfan Foundation recently conducted a survey and identified several obstacles that interfere with quality of life for people with Marfan and related disorders. The obstacles include pain, physical limitations, lack of stamina, vision issues, sleep, and depression or feeling down. For many of us, part of dealing with our diagnosis is also dealing with these obstacles. It can sometimes be tough to manage the thoughts and emotions associated with such a chronic illness and this can affect our happiness. I am no stranger to dealing with such challenges. Over the years, I have developed a toolkit that I actively use to im- prove my quality of life. I believe that using your brain and your thoughts to manage some of the stress and difficulties we deal with is a great tool. You don’t need to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety to use and get value from a psy- chological technique called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, one of my chosen tools. What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? Changing the pattern of your thinking can help you overcome obstacles and provide coping techniques. We can’t change our cells or many of the complications of our genetic disor- der, but we can change how we think about them and how they make us feel. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of intervention often used in psychotherapy, counseling, and life-coaching that intervenes on our thoughts. We can con- trol and harness the power of our own thoughts to reframe and retrain our brains into more adaptive ways of thinking. CBT is a psychosocial intervention that is most widely used for improving mental health. It can help us develop personal coping strategies that target and change unhelpful patterns in thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. But CBT is not just as simplistic as positive thinking. CBT can help people learn how to recognize certain patterns (thoughts, behaviors, feelings) and—once trained to effectively recognize those thoughts as they happen—they can then be guided into more realistic and positive thoughts. CBT does take effort, awareness, and on-going practice—just like a muscle, this skill can get stronger with work, but can also get weaker if not used regularly. How can CBT help me? CBT is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion), and how we act (behavior) all interact together. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings

Lindsey Rusche is a Toronto-based communications professional and writer with Marfan syndrome. Lindsey is a member of the Foundation’s Marfan Writing Group.


Made with FlippingBook Learn more on our blog