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"Thoughts are not facts." 11 women on the best advice they've received from their psychologist.

While many of us rely on family, friends, exercise or mindfulness to manage our busy and often stressful lives, sometimes we need a health professional to help us stay mentally well.

A good psychologist can be transformative; providing ideas and strategies to ensure we survive the bad times and thrive during the good.

Mamamia spoke to a group of women about the smartest advice they received from their psychologist or health professional and we have assembled the very best.

How to talk to people with anxiety. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

“Thoughts are not facts,” Kate.

Aside from the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) strategies my psychologist gave me to help with my fear of flying, the most useful was the suggestion to write down safety statistics for air travel and take it with me. As a catastrophiser, one sentence that also really stuck with me regarding my anxiety was, ‘a thought is just a thought, it’s not a fact’.

“Defy self-criticism,” Helen.

I am very self-critical and my psychologist said, ‘if you spoke to your friends the way you speak to yourself, you’d have no friends left.’ It really made me think!

Regarding other people’s behaviour towards me a career coach once said, ‘you can’t change someone’s behaviour towards you, but you can change the way you react and respond.’

“You deserve to be okay,” Bec.

After eight sessions with my psychologist, I was through the worst of the drama and feeling happy and strong. I said I wasn’t sure I had anything to talk about that day; we’d been through the tough stuff and I wasn’t in the head space to go over it again.

She said that it was okay to talk about the good stuff too, sometimes it’s harder to process. It totally floored me. I found it scary to be okay and I was worried it may not last.

“You are not crazy!” Danni.

I saw a psychologist about a broken relationship with my father and it was the best thing I ever did.

The psychologist said ‘you are in control of the relationship you would like to have with him. If you want to see him then you do it on your terms. If you don’t that’s also okay.’

He also said, ‘you need to lower your standards of what you expect from him. He’s not the father figure you want him to be. Once you lower those expectations, you will not have such high hopes.’ This helped a lot and I think it applies to many other relationships.

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The last thing he said was, ‘you’re not crazy and these worries are normal,’ which is always nice to hear!

“You can’t swim if you are drowning,” Kim.

The best advice came from a GP when I was going through a bout of depression to ask if I was willing to try some medication.

My GP said, ‘you can’t swim when you’re drowning’ and this advice has stuck with me. I believe that sometimes you need something to keep your head above water when life throws you curve balls.

“Allow yourself to feel,” Caroline.

I was struggling to get over a major life break up and my psychologist said rather than spending all my time and energy fighting the need to think of that person, dedicate five to 10 mins per day to exclusively think of them.

I was told to just sit and think and let myself grieve, be angry and just be with the feelings.

“Never apologise for getting help,” Bianca Ann.

After going through clinical depression and psychosis post-partum, it was a struggle. My family didn’t treat me as if I was a mother. The best advice I was given was to take control of my own life as a parent, to look after myself and my son, allow myself to make plans and decisions for my little family and trust that I didn’t need permission from my mother or sisters to make those decisions.

Another important piece of advice was, ‘don’t be embarrassed or apologise for reaching out and getting help.’

“Don’t feel guilty about taking time for you,” Fiona.

Exercise is a non-negotiable for me and being told this by my psychologist really helped me re-frame its importance to myself and to others around me.

It made me feel marginally less guilty about taking time out for myself, as it’s not about vanity – it’s about sanity!

“Keep a journal,” Megan.

I was asked to keep a journal beside my bed and write down anything and everything on my mind, before sleep. It could be chores to do, appointments to make, things I want to say to someone, etc. It helps me to unload the burden of my inner monologue and allows me to feel in control and be able to sleep. I have several friends who suffer from anxiety, who also do this and it works a treat!

“Try to keep perspective,” Jess.

Before panicking or stressing about something, my psychologist asked me to try and figure out the level of panic it deserves.

Will it matter in five minutes? Will it matter in five months? Will it matter in five years? Only react the amount it deserves. Also, you can’t control what happens to you. All you can control is the way you react to what happens, so focus on that instead.

“Be present,” Katrina.

I like the little mantra ‘head where your hands are’. As an anxious over-thinker this is a simple reminder to bring my mind back to the present moment and focus on what I’m doing now.

Have you had great advice from a psychologist or counsellor you want to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tags: features , health , lifestyle , mental-health
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