Emotional Self Care and Self Help Sheet

Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis


We humans have the power to create our own emotional destinies and experiences. Though many people may be in the habit of blaming other people or circumstances for their misery or other upsetting emotions, people and circumstances are not the cause of our emotions and feelings.

We create our own emotional experience according to the way we think.

When we think in irrational ways about ourselves, and/or in response to any person or circumstances we create unhealthy debilitating emotions.

Unhealthy Negative* Emotions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Rage
  • Shame/Embarrassment
  • Hurt
  • Jealousy
  • Guilt
  • Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT)

When we think in healthy, realistic and rational ways in response to any person or circumstance, no matter how dire, we create healthy emotions.

Healthy Negative* Emotions include:

  • Concern
  • Sadness and appropriate grief
  • Appropriate annoyance
  • Regret
  • High Frustration Tolerance (HFT)

(* Please note that the word “Negative” used in these contexts does not in any way imply that those emotions are bad, but indicates that they may not feel pleasant).

So to empower ourselves to live healthy, whole and emotionally stable lives throughout any circumstances, and despite any self-downing self-talk and/or the actions-of or apparent provocation-by other people, we can use this Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) framework.  It enables us to clarify what’s going on and to attend to it, with clarity and vigor, in order to change any irrational thinking by disputing it, thereby creating new healthy rational beliefs and thoughts, which in turn create healthy emotions.

Try it and see!

The A-B-C-D-E Self Help Sheet

When you recognize that you are disturbing yourself – fill in the following, in the given sequence:

A (Activating Event):

Describe what you are feeling disturbed about. It might be a circumstance in your life, in the world, the actions or inactions of others, and/or things you have or have not done.

C (Consequences):

Identify the emotional consequences which followed the “A” described above that you wish to change.

B (Beliefs):

Write down your Irrational Beliefs about your “A”.

In particular, identify:

  • rigid demands and absolute “shoulds” and “musts”
  • catastrophizing and awfulizing
  • overgeneralizing and absolutistic thinking
  • low frustration tolerance (L.F.T.): I-can’t-stand-it is !
  • any rating or damning of oneself, others and/or life itself.

D (Disputing):

Dispute each of those Irrational Beliefs (IB’s): Realistically, Logically and Pragmatically.

To do so - ask questions of each IB such as:

  • Will having this belief help me or hurt me?
  • Where is it getting me to maintain this belief?
  • Where is the evidence to support this belief?
  • Is this belief logical?
  • Is this belief realistic?
  • Does it follow from my preferences?


E (Effective New Philosophies):

State new rational beliefs/philosophies that relate to the “A”, which emphasize:

* Preferences rather than demands

* That you CAN stand what you don’t like

* The evaluation of any bad actions but not of the worth or worthiness of you, others or life.


After completing the Self Help Sheet, write down an action plan for the next 30 days – exercises or homework you will do daily to enable you to begin to effectively eliminate the unhealthy irrational beliefs, debilitating emotions and unhelpful behaviors which were identified, and to enforce and reinforce new healthy thoughts, emotions and actions which replace the harmful ones.

An example of what could be done is to write down the “E”’s you created, and repeat them multiple times each day, for at least 30 days.

Another example is to do an ‘ABCDE’ sheet each day for at least 30 days.

Other activities can be found in the books mentioned below and in other books and articles by Dr Albert Ellis and Dr Debbie Joffe Ellis.

It is important to continue to make daily effort to maintain any and all successful change. Through doing so healthy new ways of thinking can become habitual ways of thinking, and as a result we will be less likely to experience unhealthy emotions, and highly likely to enjoy a life with minimum misery and an abundance of satisfaction.



*Ellis, Albert & Ellis, Debbie Joffe (2019). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. 2nd Edition. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

*Ellis, Debbie Joffe (2015). Reflections: The Profound Impact of   Gratitude: In Times of Ease and Times of Challenge. In American Psychological Association (APA) Journal of Spirituality in Clinical Practice. Volume 2, Issue No. 1, March, 2015.

*Ellis, Albert (2005) The Myth of Self Esteem. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Copyright: ©Dr Debbie Joffe Ellis