SELF-HELP: HOW CAN COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY HELP ANXIETY
Psycho-education: what does anxiety entail?
Understanding what ails you will offer you comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that there is a definite way out. Your close friends or family members can offer you support and help in learning and understanding your problem better. Knowing what your problem is a sure way of starting the journey towards recovery.
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the therapist will offer you an insight into what is ailing or affecting you. Psycho-education is only a step in the process of identifying your problem and gradually finding a solution.
Anxiety treatment strategies in CBT
There are several treatment strategies CBT therapists used towards the management of anxiety. Some of the treatment approaches showcased in CBT include the following;
1. The relaxation strategy
Being able to relax your body is an essential form of active and efficient therapy. Controlling your muscles by reducing tension and being able to practice shallow breathing is associated with reduced stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression.
CBT actively uses the Calm Breathing approach, a process of consciously slowing down your breath. The other technique in CBT is known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which focuses on systematically tensing and relaxing several body muscle groups. The more you learn to be in charge of the relaxation techniques, the more effective the strategies will work for you.
Other notable relaxation strategies recommended include listening to calming music, engaging in yoga and meditation, and getting a massage.
It is vital to understand that the relaxation strategies only make it easier for you to be able to handle anxiety but do not entirely lead to the elimination or avoidance of anxiety.
1. Realistic thinking
The ability to effectively control negative emotions is tied to the ability to identify negative thoughts and promptly replacing them with positive and balanced thinking. Our thoughts are responsible for how you feel, replacing the unhelpful thoughts with more realistic or helpful ones is essential in making you feel better. The term "Realistic Thinking" refers to viewing yourself, others, and the entire universe in a balanced and equal way, without your judgment affecting your perspective.
To achieve realistic thinking, there are several key steps you need to follow. The first thing is understanding what you are thinking of or telling yourself subconsciously. Keeping track of your thoughts is essential in being in charge of thoughts that you will eventually have.
After being conscious of your thoughts, you must take note of what negatively affects your moods, and if any problematic thoughts need a change.
It is also critical that you pay attention to any emotional shifts, no matter how trivial, ensuring you single out the exact causative factors.
Once you can identify the thoughts that result in negative emotions or moods, examine the said thoughts to establish whether they are unrealistic or add no positives in your life. Evaluate if you have fallen into Thinking Traps, which essentially means the overestimation of danger, a negative view of events, or situations.
After successfully challenging negative thoughts and offering a clear, objective evaluation, it is time to come up with an alternate, more balanced, and realistic thoughts. This approach is vital in helping you manage your distress. In conjunction with coming up with practical strategies, ensure that your approaches are quick and easy to remember, which is important for future references.
Making a list of the realistic thoughts that are helpful to you on a piece of paper is a sure way to keep with you a reminder of the important thoughts when you are feeling distressed or moody.
Responding to fear
While it is practical that we all would love to avoid facing our fears as a measure of reducing or eliminating anxiety, this is, in itself, almost impossible in real life. Avoiding facing your fears denies you the opportunity to learn how to manage the events you perceive as dangerous.
CBT approach towards facing fear is referred to as Exposure, one of the vital steps in the effective anxiety management process. With exposure, one can gradually and repeatedly enter situations they previously feared until such events make them less anxious. The gradual approach involves starting with things that make you less anxious, to more complex events that make you more anxious.
To start with, you need to make a list of things or situations that you are afraid of, ensuring that everything is in order from the least scary to the scariest.
The next step is to repeatedly expose yourself to the thing or situation that makes you anxious a bit until you feel less anxious when facing or carrying it out. once you overcome this scenario, go to the next thing on your list, until you reach and manage to do away with the things that worry you the most.
CBT insists on the importance of repeatedly facing our fears. With regular practice, the fears gradually and surely disappear.
Preventing a relapse
Being able to manage your issues takes in a lot of repeated practice and exercise, with the goal being to make it your daily habit. There is a danger of undoing your achievement by relapsing to your previous behaviour, thinking, and habits that you had gradually overcome. Although it is normal to experience mild or moderate mood, thought or behaviour relapses occasionally, you can prevent the occurrence of a total replacement. Some of the tips to prevent a total relapse from happening include;
· Consciously practice your CBT skills- a repeated and regular exercise of the CBT strategies is the most important way of preventing a relapse.
· Understanding the times, you are more vulnerable to relapse- such instances include periods of intense stress or life changes. Paying attention to your red flags is important in establishing a possible coping action plan.
· Make a schedule of skills you are going to practice on regularly and routinely
· Understanding that you are not perfect- ensure you continuously work on new challenges to prevent a relapse, a sure way of preventing relapse to old habits or behaviours.
· Evaluating reasons that lead to a relapse- should you fall into a relapse, evaluate the reasons that lead to a particular situation, an important step in guiding you to make better decisions in the future.
Reward yourself- to ensure you keep on track and that you are well motivated in your quest in overcoming anxiety, regularly reward yourself for the hard work.
It is important to know that a relapse is a normal occurrence and you can work your way through overcoming the situation because no one is perfect.
Raquel Soteldo RP(Q), MA, ABA, PMP, CCC