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Wellness > Mental Health

Two Things My Therapist Said That Have Changed My Life

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

In my notes app, you will find everything from random to-do lists, quotes I want to remember, and other miscellaneous things. Between these somewhat meaningless collections of words sits a note titled ‘Therapist Talks.’ What started out as my attempts to remember things from my week to talk to my therapist about has turned into a documentation of my journey with anxiety. Here are the two biggest takeaways that have completely changed my life, and maybe they will change yours.

The first thing is called ‘The Circles.’ This is a framework that she employed in our very first sessions that I still use to this day. Imagine two circles, one inside of the other almost like a donut. In the middle of the smaller circle is a small dot representing myself and around that dot is everything I can control. Then in the larger circle is everything I can’t control. It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. This method helps me rationalize my anxious thoughts and makes issues more black and white. Even within my first couple of sessions and using this method, I noticed a major decline in my anxiety and panic attacks. I think it helped me come to terms with the fact that there are so many things I can’t control, and ultimately the only thing I can control is myself. The beauty of this is that it gave me the power to realize that my thoughts and irrational feelings could be fixed. I also had an absurd amount of anxiety about other people and their thoughts or perceptions of me to the point where I would have panic attacks over it. It is terrifying coming to terms with the fact that people are going to have feelings about you, and you can do absolutely nothing about it. This is when my therapist said that you only have the power to control what is in your circle which means you have absolutely no need to stress about what is outside your circle. Why would you put energy into worrying about what you can’t control when you can focus on what you can control?

The second thing is called ‘The Mountain.’ My therapist noticed a trend in my panic attacks and anxious thoughts. I tend to think too far in advance, and I get overwhelmed by overthinking every single aspect of a situation or event. This thinking process occurs until I’ve made a simple task an entire thing. There was one particular session where I had been going on a tangent for a couple of minutes, and she interrupted me to ask if I like to hike. I was a little confused, but I nodded and then listened as she went on to give an analogy that quite honestly changed the way I think. She explained how when my brain is spiraling in such a manner it’s as if I’m standing at the base of a mountain and trying to jump to the top when in reality, I need to just put one foot in front of the other. This method has really helped when I notice any feelings of anxiety start to flare up. It is so easy to get a small feeling of anxiety and then allow it to manifest into an anxiety attack. ‘The Mountain’ snaps me back into reality and forces move forwards rather than overthink. By visualizing myself putting one step in front of the other, in real-time my body is also doing that. It helps me not get caught up in spirals and instead figure out only what I have to do next. Then eventually, I will find myself standing at the top of the mountain.

‘The Circles’ and ‘The Mountain’ are just two of the many ways my therapist has legitimately changed my life. I am not the same anxious and lost girl I was when I started therapy and I am forever grateful that I was able to admit that I needed help. ‘Therapist Talks’ now only gets updated occasionally, but sometimes I like to look through it to remind myself how far I’ve come.

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Maggie Redinger

U Mass Amherst '26

I'm a freshman at UMASS, undecided, and I like ice cream