Live. Learn. Grow.: Your Psychological Toolbox for Transforming Life's Tough Times

Live. Learn. Grow.: Your Psychological Toolbox for Transforming Life's Tough Times

by Nihal Kucuk


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Psychologist and author Nihal Kucuk was 27 years old when she experienced her first severe episode of anxiety. Overwhelmed with dread and despair, she did not want to face the world. Kucuk shares how she was forced to look within herself as she vowed to transform her adversity. Her personal quest became her professional mission and her passion for empowering her clients and readers is evident.

Live. Learn. Grow. is a masterpiece; combining cutting edge psychological tools and techniques to help you overcome life’s challenges and thrive. It discusses evidence based research and strategies that help you learn how to master your mind and emotions and the significance of exercise, meditation and nutrition.

Kucuk communicates that life is not a test run - it is too short to live it just existing. She suggests ways to find meaning and connection in your life and demonstrates that no matter what you are going through, you can have the life you want. If she can do it, anyone can!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504303873
Publisher: Balboa Press Australia
Publication date: 09/23/2016
Pages: 120
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

Live. Learn. Grow.

Your Psychological Toolbox for Transforming Life's Tough Times

By Nihal Kucuk

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Nihal Kucuk
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-0387-3


Are You Going Though a Tough Time?

If you are living on this planet, I am certain that, at some point in your life, you have experienced some form of stress or adversity that has knocked your socks off, and not in a good way! Perhaps it was a time or situation that made you feel as if life was too much, and you felt as if things just weren't going your way. If you feel that you are just existing and not really enjoying life, feeling overwhelmed with your daily activities because you have experienced financial or health issues, a loss, a break-up, or other stressors, this book is for you. If you feel as if you are stuck with your present life, brain, and body, do not give up hope or give into the idea that you have a disease or a disorder. Separate yourself from society's labels, circumstances, and events. We have all heard of labels such as divorced, depressed, broke, rich, overweight, thin, diabetic. You are not a disease, an event, or a circumstance. You are not your body or your brain. We are all worthy of joy and happiness. There is so much more to you and your physical body, and there is so much more to life than what you are focussed on right now.

When we face difficult or stressful events, our nervous system activates the fight-or-flight response, which helps our bodies respond quickly to the situation. Although these physical changes can help us get through the current situation, if the stress is ongoing, it can trigger the following symptoms:

• Sleeping difficulties

• Weakened immunity

• Headaches

• Concentration difficulties

• Feeling overwhelmed

• Anxiety

• Depression

• High blood pressure

• Changes in appetite

Alongside these physical symptoms, we can experience a vast range of emotional responses ranging from anger, sadness, hopelessness, fear, shame, and confusion.

Here are some of the principles I invite you to adopt as you read this book:

Small Steps

The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. — Chinese Proverb

No matter what adversity you have been through, you can overcome it. You can overcome anxiety, depression, and trauma. You can lose weight, build your dream home, obtain a university degree, get a job, or start a business. By taking small steps consistently, you can achieve whatever it is you desire.

Maybe you wish to achieve something, but your mind feels as though it is stuck in a "What's the point?" or "I can't be bothered!" mode. Don't give up! You can start working on your goal for as little as three minutes a day. Three minutes really is not a long time, is it? That doesn't seem so hard, does it? Before you know it, you will be in the flow and working on your goal for thirty minutes a day! This is actually how I achieved writing this book — by dedicating certain amounts of time a week (even though this book was four years in the making and required lots of "I'll try it for three minutes" to begin with). On some days I didn't even want to go near the project or open my laptop to write. On some days I've been unmotivated, tired, cranky, and negative. Despite all of this, I persisted, as I wanted to share my story and the techniques that have worked for me and for my clients. There may be only one sentence you read here that inspires or comforts you — that is what encouraged me to create this book.

It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success. — John Mason

Commit to Action

Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet. — Anonymous

As you have picked up this book, I'll assume that you are trying to improve aspects of your life or that you have suffered in some way, shape, or form. The truth of the matter is that, if you are not willing to take action by following some of the steps outlined in this book, you could read an entire library, and you could spend a fortune on self-help remedies and still not improve your situation. Reading this or any other book alone is not going to make a difference. You will need to be open to changing some of your thinking and behaviours. To do this, you need to take action.

Footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down. — Unknown

On your road to recovery, the next important principle to adopt is responsibility for your own well-being. You need to make a commitment to getting better, and you need to take action towards your well-being on a daily basis. No one is going to do this for you. If you keep living the same way you have until now, nothing is going to change. By taking small steps to improving your well-being and being dedicated to this course of action, you have started your journey towards a more peaceful and content life.

Our psychological and emotional health is much like a bank balance. If we have experienced adversity, withdrawals from that bank of well-being have been made. If we continue to have sleepless nights, eat poorly, and have difficulties at work and not do anything about it, there will be more withdrawals, and we will eventually go bankrupt. This will manifest in depression or anxiousness or feelings of being overwhelmed. For our bank balance to be healthy, we need to continue to make deposits into our accounts. We make deposits when we look after ourselves and nurture and sooth ourselves. In later chapters, I'll offer many ideas on how to do this.

Develop Routine

In our busy modern world, life can be hectic, so it helps to have a plan in place! Routines can be helpful, familiar, soothing tools, and something that we can look forward to at the end of a stressful day or week. Routines can also help us to feel more connected to life.

You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. — Brendon Burchard

Develop a routine of healthy habits.

• Before you get out of bed, focus on what you want to happen in your day and in your life.

• Change the direction of your attention from all the stressful, unwanted things to all the things you do want.

• According to Louise Hay, the mind is more receptive to new information and learning in the morning.

• Practise gratitude.

• Do something to change your conscious thoughts. As you will learn later on in this book, your mind is a very powerful tool, and you can use it to achieve the results you want in your life.

• Meditate or pray, even if it is only for five minutes.

• Visualize your perfect day.

• To ensure optimal mood and functioning, ensure that you eat a healthy breakfast balanced with protein, carbohydrates (whole grains are good), fruits, or vegetables.

• Exercise earlier in the day if you can.

Mid-morning to afternoon:

Most of us will be working during this time, so it's a good time to be using your mental abilities to focus and concentrate.

Sort paperwork; keep everything in folders or at least tidy piles.

De-clutter your work and living spaces; clean out your closets and free your mind as you go.

At night:

Have a healthy light and balanced meal.

Unwind by reading or trying some of the ideas suggested in the sleep section of this book.

Write in a gratitude journal. Give thanks on a daily basis for even the smallest things in your life. Think about this: What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?

Study, read, or learn something new. Television is okay sometimes, but can be quite mind numbing. Expand your mind, your outlook, and your capabilities.


Though: The First Target for Change

The human brain is one of the most amazing organs that exist. The workings of it are still not fully understood, and the millions and trillions of intricate connections are absolutely mind-blowing. Did you know that we can have up to 70,000 thoughts per day? I don't know about you, but when I first heard that, I was stunned! That's a whole lot of thinking going on in twenty-four hours.

What types of thoughts do we pay attention to? We have 86,400 seconds in a day. How many of our thoughts are negative in that time?

I think it is also important to differentiate between the brain and the mind. We all know that our brains think, but what is a thought exactly? A thought can be described as intellectual activity in a persons consciousness. This activity is the result of electrical and chemical functioning of neurons in the brain. The brain is the powerhouse of all of the electrical connections that have established pathways that create habits of thought. Our mind can make us feel miserable or ecstatic.

Our thought processes underpin most human behaviour and emotion. For example you can't stop thinking about how you didn't get that job you applied for. This makes you miserable so you temporarily stop looking for work. During that time you could miss out on a big opportunity for getting an even better job. Or another example: You are supposed to attend an event, but the one person from work who makes you feel anxious will be there. You are so worried about going that you make yourself almost ill, and you don't attend. You find out later that the person did not even attend, and everyone had a fantastic time. Thoughts are everywhere. Every non-natural thing you see all around you is the result of someone's thoughts — roads, buildings, and transport vehicles; office supplies; the clothes you are wearing ... all the results of someone's thoughts.

During my personal and professional quest for emotional balance, I devoured thousands of books and CDs, and attended multiple programs. Many of the books promised that, if you followed their formula, you would live a happier, more enriched life. Although I benefited immensely from my research, there was one thing missing: how to have positive thoughts in the first place, and how to maintain them. What are you meant to do if you have persistent, obsessive negative thoughts that just don't go away? From both my personal and professional experience, I found that when experiencing a major life event, the accompanying thoughts and emotions can be quite intense.

To change your emotional response to difficult times in your life, thoughts are one of the areas to target.

Don't Take Life or Yourself So Seriously

Life was not meant to be so serious! A common thread of psychological suffering is a deep element of seriousness. I am not minimizing anxiety or depression or its impact, but if we look deeply, we can see that most of our emotional suffering is created by rigid ideals, morals, and values that can prove to be a recipe for frustration and anxiety. We need to ask ourselves whether we have learnt these beliefs and values from someone else, and if they are old and outdated. Are they really your beliefs? Or have they been handed down to you from someone else? Are these beliefs interfering with your quality and enjoyment of life? What are the stories running through your mind?

For example, you may have started your career at an early age ... say nineteen. By the time you are thirty-five, you start to wonder if this work is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Then you remember what your father told you — that a good man always sticks to his plan and keeps his word. Somehow you have inherited the belief that it is wrong to change your mind. You continue along, tied to your dreaded job. Here's another example: When you were young, your mother insisted that the entire house was clean and spotless before you could go out with your friends. No matter what you did, it wasn't perfect enough, and she always found something else you could have done better. Because of this, you inherited the belief that you must be perfect to gain others approval.

Here is a list of some common thought patterns or cognitive errors that can result in anxiety, depression, or both. I have adapted them from David D. Burns' book, The Feeling Good Handbook (Burns 1999, 77).

Cognitive Errors:

1. Catastrophising: This thought pattern occurs more frequently in anxiety sufferers and involves imagining the worst-case scenario. For example, a friend is running late for a coffee and your immediate thought is, Oh my God, what if she has been in a car accident? "What if ..." questions also fit into this one. For example, What if I make a fool of myself in front of my new partner? What if I fail my driving test?

2. Black-and-white thinking: This thought pattern is a very popular one with depression and involves categorising things as either all good or all bad — there is no in between. For example: You have one bite of cake when on a diet and tell yourself, I've blown my diet completely! (And end up eating the whole cake!)

3. Overgeneralization: You think of things in absolute terms such as "always" or "never." You might see a single negative event such as a romantic rejection as a never-ending pattern and conclude: I'm hopeless in relationships.

4. Mental Filter: You focus on a single negative detail and dwelling on it so that your vision of reality becomes negative. For example: You receive a number of positive comments about your presentation at school, but one person says something mildly critical. You obsess about this perceived negative reaction and ignore all the other positive feedback.

5. Discounting the positive: This is rejecting the positive experiences because "they don't count." If you do a good job, you tell yourself that it was not good enough or that anyone could have done as well. This makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

6. Jumping to conclusions: You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. For example, you assume that the lady at the bank dislikes you because she was rude to you, when really she may just be having a bad day. This also includes "mind reading" — assuming you know what other people are thinking — and "fortune telling" — predicting that things will turn out badly.

7. "Should" statements: You tell yourself that things "should" be the way you hope or expect them to be. This doesn't work well because all the shoulds make you feel rebellious, and you get the urge to do the opposite. For example: I shouldn't eat that donut. Or: Other people should always be nice to me.

8. Labelling: Instead of saying "I made a mistake," you label yourself with things like "I'm a failure" or "I'm a loser." You also can label others: "He's an idiot."

9. Personalization: You hold yourself personally responsible for an event that is not entirely under your control. For example, you receive a note from your child's school stating the child is experiencing problems at school, and you automatically think, This shows what a bad parent I am.

10. Blaming: You blame other people or circumstances for your problems. For example, you think, The 15. reason my marriage is so terrible is that my spouse is totally unreasonable.

11. Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems or minimize the importance of your desirable qualities.

Automatic Negative Thoughts - ANTs

Psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, (Amen 2015, 246) coined the term ANTs: automatic negative thoughts. Most of our thinking is quite automatic; we may be thinking negatively most of the time and not even be aware of it. Thoughts have a very powerful effect upon the way you feel. According to Dr. Amen, each thought we have releases a chemical. If you have an angry or sad thought, your muscles can tense up, your breathing can become faster. In order to feel better, we must kill those ANTs! Here are some ways to address these ANTs.

The first step is to be aware of the types of thoughts that you have. A good idea is to record your thoughts over the course of a week. Note when you are feeling down, anxious, or just not content. Also note when you a feeling calm, happy, or excited. Write down what you were doing when you felt these emotions, and how you felt before the situation and afterwards. You will be able to work the patterns out and identify the types of situations that may be your triggers for negative thoughts.

Refer to the list of cognitive errors to identify which ones you regularly engage in. For example, catastrophizing is a very common thought pattern when we are anxious. Now, go back to your thought pattern journal and decide if you are being flexible in your thoughts. Is there another way to view the situation that may lead to a different feeling?

Consistent practise with your thought journal is very important. The thought patterns we have developed haven't occurred overnight, so it will take time and practice to overcome them. When you keep having the same automatic negative thoughts over and over again, your brain is using the same pathways, thereby strengthening a negative thought and hence a belief. For example, you may have experienced a little turbulence during one particular airline flight. Each time you think of flying on an aeroplane thereafter, you start to think, What if the plane crashes? Then you notice you are feeling quite nervous by the time you are on the plane. Each time after that, you start to repeat the same thought, with no evidence to support the idea that the plane will crash. Over time, it would be quite easy to develop a phobia of flying.


Excerpted from Live. Learn. Grow. by Nihal Kucuk. Copyright © 2016 Nihal Kucuk. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface, ix,
Introduction, xi,
Are You Going Through a Tough Time?, 1,
Small Steps, 2,
Commit to Action, 4,
Develop Routine, 5,
Thoughts: The First Target for Change, 8,
Don't Take Life or Yourself So Seriously, 10,
Cognitive Errors, 11,
Automatic Negative Thoughts - ANTs, 13,
How to Deal With Negative Thoughts: Challenge, Accept, or Detach, 15,
Worry Time, 19,
Silence, 21,
Beliefs: The Second Target for Change, 23,
Emotions: The Third Target for Change, 27,
Techniques for Managing Stress, 31,
Meditation: Another One of the Essentials, 36,
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), 39,
Brainwaves, 41,
Having Fun, 45,
Spirituality, 48,
Forgiveness, 52,
Gratitude, 53,
Mindfulness, 56,
Perspective, 59,
Strengthening Your Character, 64,
Acceptance — Life Is Full of Ups and Downs, 65,
Accepting What Life Hands Us, 65,
Being Kind to Yourself: Self Love and Acceptance, 67,
Exercise: One of the Essentials, 69,
Sleep, 73,
Nutrition, 76,
Sensory Modes and Changing Your Mood, 80,
Music, 82,
Colours, 85,
Grow Your Own Garden Patch, 87,
Aromatherapy, 89,
Connections to Others, 91,
Other Powerful Therapies, 93,
Conclusion, 95,
Bibliography, 97,

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