Psychological Self-Help

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Lastly, see the extensive discussion of catharsis in chapter 7. It is
commonly thought that getting feelings off your chest is helpful,
especially sadness and anger. Certainly many people find it helpful to
"have a good cry" or to admit openly that they are nervous and to "let
go" of those feelings. Telling others about our fears and doubts may be
the first step to finding out we aren't weird and to overcoming the
stress. 
Stress inoculation 
Epstein (1983) believes stress and anxiety are naturally reduced in
daily life by repeatedly and gradually thinking about more and more
upsetting aspects of a frightening situation. If the emotions become
too intense, however, the fears may build instead of diminish. But if
our anxiety responses remain within certain limits as we ruminate, we
can reduce our fears by imagining over and over specific details of
confronting our boss or jumping out of an airplane. It is a natural
healing process. If true, it is another explanation for desensitization.
We may not need to be deeply relaxed. 
What are the therapeutic implications of Epstein's notions? That we
can reduce unrealistic fears by experiencing (in reality or in fantasy)
the scary situation so long as the feared harm doesn't occur. We must
fully experience the stimulus situation without distortion or defenses.
So start with less scary aspects and work up to the most scary (like
the desensitization hierarchy--see chapter 12). As we experience the
stimulus and the fear, we come to realize that it is our view of the
situation--our incorrect expectations--that make it so scary, not the
actual stimuli. We learn to see the situation realistically. We gradually
reduce the fear response--so that we can be fairly calm parachuting
out of a plane at 10,000 feet. That is stress inoculation. 
For some people, stress inoculation is basically learning to "talk
yourself down" or facing a stress and finding ways to handle it. For
others (Meichenbaum & Cameron, 1983; Meichenbaum, 1985), "stress
inoculation training" is a complex therapy process (see method #7 in
chapter 12). It is a major part of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and
involves (a) helping the patient become a better observer and a more
accurate interpreter of incoming information. (b) Teaching stress
management skills, such as social interaction, problem solving, and
how to use self-instructions for relaxation, self-control, and praise (see
method #2 in chapter 11). (c) Help in applying the various self-help
skills in life. In short, this method is designed to be used by a
therapist, although the techniques are similar to what you are learning
in this book. In fact, written how-to instructions for stress inoculation
were recently provided test-phobic students (Register, Beckham, May
& Gustafson, 1991). The written material alone helped. 
Use "nervous energy" --channel the anxiety created by stress
into constructive, beneficial activities, such as taking a course,
preparing for a promotion, helping others, etc. Hans Selye believed
that meeting challenges, like competing in sports or being active in a
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