Of all the therapies out there for calming anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, may be one of the best. What started out as a way to manage depression symptoms is now a proven effective way to overcome anxiety disorders.
But what the heck makes CBT so darn useful?
The answer lies in your thoughts.
CBT is effective for treating anxiety disorders because it empowers you to practice positive, realistic thinking.
Regardless of the circumstances, you can guide your thoughts towards calmer, more realistic thought patterns. You’re looking to challenge negative thoughts and feelings that aren’t necessarily based in reality.
For example, if a friend doesn’t call you for a few days or cancels a dinner date, your thoughts may begin to stray into negative territory.
“I guess Kate doesn’t like me anymore.”
“Maybe, I did something to offend Jessie.”
These thoughts should be challenged because they aren’t necessarily based on reality. Instead, they’re based upon your negative perception of the situation.
Maybe your friends didn’t call or canceled plans because of a family emergency or a sudden and demanding work schedule. Perfectly logical explanations that have nothing to do with you.
Remember, CBT is all about the power to change negative thoughts into positive ones. Like this…
Unrealistic Negative Thoughts:
I feel like such a loser. I’m always screwing things up. What’s wrong with me?
I can’t go to the party. I’m way too anxious.
More Realistic/Balanced Thoughts
Everyone makes mistakes, including me. I only need to do my best to fix the situation and try to do better next time around.
It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious. I can still go to the party even though I’m anxious.
CBT for Anxiety-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Techniques to Practice on Your Own
If you suffer from social anxiety, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder other any other type of anxiety disorder you can do three exercises to go from fearful to fearless.
1. Start by Identifying Current Troubles or Obstacles
What’s stressing you out? What’s causing unhappiness and restlessness in your life? Maybe you have a fear of failure syndrome concerning a particular project.
Is social anxiety making you doubt yourself and your place in this world? Once you pinpoint your anxiety trigger, you can begin working to overcome it.
2. Record Thought Patterns
Now that you’ve identified your anxiety trigger write down any recurring negative thoughts.
Also known as negative self-talk, these thoughts can eat away at your self-esteem and make you mistrust yourself, those around you and life in general.
The good thing about CBT is that once you pinpoint triggers and identify patterns, you can then begin to shift perspective and see life and situations differently.
Remember that these negative feelings are fluid and can change. Just because you’re anxious about something now doesn’t mean that feeling will last forever. But to change your negative beliefs, you must first…
3. Challenge Negative Thinking and Unrealistic Expectations
If you’re anxious about something, it’s probably because you’re afraid of what will happen in the future. Here are a few fearful thoughts that often run through the mind of an anxiety sufferer:
“I’ll do something to humiliate myself at the meeting tomorrow.”
“People will think I’m a complete moron.”
“I wouldn’t fit in with anyone at the party. They’ll think that I’m boring.”
Now, use this 2-step, thought swapping technique to put negative beliefs in their place.
Identify the automatic negative thought. This is the first thought that pops into your mind when you think of that anxiety trigger.
Here’s a thought I’ve had more than once: “I just know I’ll do something to mess up our date and make a total fool of myself. He’ll never call me again.”
Well, that’s a depressing thought!
Analyze, challenge and repel that negative thought with logical positivity.
Swap that negative thought with: “This anxious thought isn’t helping me. How do I know I’m going to mess up the date anyway?”
“Of course I’m anxious. I haven’t been on a date in a while. I’ll just do some deep breathing, meditation and other stress-busting techniques to calm myself down.”
See how that works? Now it’s your turn.
Got a few negative thoughts about an upcoming event or situation? Do a little thought swapping.
It may take some practice before you start to believe the positive, realistic thoughts.
After all, those negative thoughts/beliefs are deeply ingrained in your brain and have been for a while.
Don’t give up.
Keep chipping away.
In this video, therapist Kati Morton discusses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Want to get in touch with a qualified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist? Click Here.
EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, is another effective self-help technique for calming anxiety. Much like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EFT helps you to replace negative beliefs with positive ones that leaves you calm and confident.
When practicing CBT for anxiety relief, or heck for anything really, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Give yourself credit for having the courage to face your problems. Forgive yourself for any setbacks you may have and recognize that this is part of life.
Regularly practicing CBT you will, over time, keep your mind calm, make you feel empowered, reduce anxiety, frustrations, and lessen your fears.
CBT for Anxiety: Additional Resources
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Detailed information by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.