HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

Living in the Present: Anxiety, Depression and CBT

Many people who drink too much alcohol also have issues with anxiety or depression. People who get their depression or anxiety issues under control often then find that it is much easier to control their alcohol use or to quit. HAMS is not a substitute for professional therapy or medication. We can, however, offer some practical self-help tips for dealing with depression or anxiety.

The average person spends perhaps 95% of their time living in the present. Even though it is important to plan for the future and to learn from the past--human beings function best when the majority of their energy is focused on living in and enjoying the present.

People who have problems with anxiety often tend to spend excessive amounts of time worrying about the future. Worry about the future is not the same as planning for the future. Worry tends to steal away the time that we could be using to enjoy the present and leaves us feeling unhappy and miserable instead. People with depression issues, on the other hand, often get stuck in the past and keep reliving negative life experiences.

If you wish to live in the present and have fewer issues with depression or anxiety then it is important to make a habit of being conscious of your own thoughts. When you are conscious of your own thoughts then you can begin to practice a technique called thought stopping whenever you find yourself dwelling in the past or worrying over the future.

Thought stopping works like this: whenever you find yourself dwelling on negative, unnecessary or distorted thoughts you consciously issue the command "Stop!" Then you replace the negative and distorted thoughts with positive and realistic ones. Thought stopping can also be used when you find yourself dwelling in the past or the future in order to bring you back into the present. Some people even wear an elastic band around their wrist and snap themselves with it as a reminder to stop the negative thoughts.

Other cognitive distortions which can lead to depression or anxiety are: over-generalization, magnification, minimization labeling and catastrophizing.. When you find you find yourself telling yourself that "nothing good ever happens" or "I am worthless" or "I am an alcoholic" or "the future is black" use thought stopping to stop these thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts such as "all humans are worthwhile" or "I can control my drinking". Practice makes perfect. The more you do this the better you will get at it. When you stop playing those negative tapes in your head you will feel better.

Another trick that one can use to reduce the tendency to stray from the present is to deliberately schedule five minutes a day where you MUST dwell on the past or worry over the future. When people do this they often find how unhelpful and unproductive these habits are.

For more info please visit our page The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking

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