10 Apr Everyday CBT hacks to manage stress and anxiety
As a form of psychotherapy emerging in the 80’s, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also known as CBT, is a technique that’s entered the mainstream health and wellness fields because of how helpful it is with managing everyday stress and anxiety.
Our current lifestyles are breeding grounds for chronic stress and anxiety, whether it’s work, family or finance related. Just like putting in the hours at the gym or eating wholesome nutritious food as insurance to our physical health, it is equally as important to incorporate ‘exercises’ or practices to ensure our mental and emotional health are at their optimum.
According to clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, Claire Strohbach* the benefit of CBT is that ‘it’s a method that is very empowering. A person can take action by practicing new ways of thinking and dealing with stress and anxiety. By continuously doing this, overtime they train themselves to manage it more effectively.’
Alternative approaches to managing stress and anxiety include meditation and mindfulness, which encourage your mind to observe thoughts and feelings that arise and to then release all thoughts and feelings associated with stress and anxiety. A good way to start is by focusing on your breathing. From there, begin to notice your thoughts and start to amend them to be more positive.
Strohbach also believes that other practical methods like journaling can also be very beneficial to alleviating stress and anxiety. ‘Allocating a certain amount of time a day to writing down your thoughts and noticing is they are negative and then amending them, has proven to be immensely successful in keeping anxiety at bay,’ she says.
Top 3 CBT tips to reduce everyday stress
- Question your negative or anxious thoughts.
Why you think you are having them and is there is any logic to them? For example if you are feeling anxious about the fact that you have to miss a training session because of an important engagement and your disappointment spirals into anxious thoughts of getting thrown off your training programme especially because you had a slice of cake at tea-time… Stop! Question the series of thoughts. For example, ‘I have to miss my training session, but why does that make me so anxious? I’ll just pick up where I left off tomorrow.’
- Understand that your thought isn’t based on any fact
Just because you cannot make a training session does not jeopardise your whole training programme. There is nothing logical about that assumption. Amend the thought to be more palatable and to open up possibility/opportunity e.g. it’s once in a blue moon and perhaps you just treat today as a ‘rest’ day and your usual ‘rest’ day as a make up session.
- Focus on practicing positive thoughts.
This can be an appreciation/gratitude list, with everything you have accomplished during the day at work, with your kids, your family or a personal project. The key here is to do this for more than 20 seconds in order to derive emotional benefits. Strohbach adds that, ‘for most people this would mean actually jotting things down with a pen or paper or journaling digitally through an app.’
This approach has been proven to be successful because of the adage ‘focusing on the positive.’ The science is there that by actively remembering positive aspects of your day and spending time focusing on them, you begin to change your brain chemistry which can affect behavioural and emotional changes, for the better. In the words of positive thinking guru, Norman Vincent Peale, ‘change your thoughts and you change your world.’