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CBT Strategies for Anxiety Relief

CBT Strategies for Anxiety Relief

What Is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a system of strategies designed to help a person uncover, challenge and change the predisposed patterns of thinking that sometimes trigger negative or unrealistic feelings or behaviors, such as anxiety.

If you’re someone who experiences a lot of anxiety, CBT strategies could give you self-help techniques that you can practice anywhere.

How CBT Works

The basic premise of CBT is that everyone naturally develops both adaptive and maladaptive thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and the world based on our personal experiences. Adaptive thoughts help us cope with experiences. Maladaptive thoughts, on the other hand, perpetuate distorted or inaccurate perceptions about events and our responses to them and can significantly increase anxiety. CBT helps us recognize maladaptive thinking and replace it with a more realistic point of view. So how can you get started?

CBT Essentials—A 30-Day Plan

Since you can’t fix what you can’t understand, CBT employs a variety of techniques to help anxiety sufferers get to the root of their anxiety. To get going, you’ll need to record your experiences, so try to keep a journal and pen or a laptop nearby whenever possible. For 30 days, you should commit to:

  • Self-monitoring. Begin by writing down your thoughts and responses to situations that make you feel anxious. Try to identify your anxiety triggers.
  • Thought-challenging. Also known as cognitive restructuring, thought-challenging a three-step process:
    1. Identify your negative thoughts. Ask yourself what you’re thinking when you begin to feel anxious.
    2. Challenge your negative thoughts. Strategies for challenging negative thoughts include evaluating evidence that supports or contradicts your expectations, weighing the pros and cons of worrying about or avoiding the thing you fear and thinking realistically about likely outcomes.
    3. Try to replace your negative thoughts with more realistic ones. Keep in mind: replacing negative thoughts is difficult. Create your own list of coping statements and carry it with you, so it’s close at hand the next time you face a situation that might make you anxious.

Confronting Anxiety

People get used to things, good or bad, that they’re exposed to over time. So the best way to banish anxiety is to confront it—gradual and repeated exposure to the things that make you anxious will help you get used to stressful situations, and that familiarity will ultimately make you comfortable. But it can be scary at first. Depending on what triggers your anxiety and how you react, you may want to try this with an experienced professional before you begin experimenting on your own.

When to Get Help

If you feel anxious most or all of the time, consider talking to a professional about ways to cope with your stress. For more information, contact the Counseling Center or check out the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. For more self-help strategies, you could read “How to Stop Worrying: Self-Help Strategies for Anxiety Relief” and “Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.”