Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress and everyday life. However, anxiety disorders are different from simply feeling anxious or worried. Anxiety disorders are severe enough to interfere with day-to-day function and cause serious distress. Cognitive therapy techniques are one of the best ways to treat anxiety disorders because they help people change the way they think about situations that make them anxious. You don’t have to live with uncontrollable worry—these cognitive therapy techniques can help you manage your anxiety:
1. Recognize the signs of worry and anxiety.
Recognize the signs of worry and anxiety. Notice when your mind starts going into overdrive with negative thoughts and feelings like anxiety, fear, guilt, or anger. Take note of when you start feeling restless, tense, or irritable — these are all signs that your mind is going into a cycle of worry. This may take some practice since most people are not aware of their own thoughts without looking inwardly at first. Ask yourself: Am I worrying now? If so, what am I worried about?
2. Challenge anxious thoughts.
Once you’ve identified the negative thought, challenge it by looking for evidence that it’s not true. Ask yourself questions like:
- What evidence do I have to support my negative thought?
- Can I find any evidence that suggests my negative thought isn’t true?
If you can’t find any evidence to support your negative thoughts, try replacing them with more positive thoughts. For example, if you’re worried about losing your job because of a mistake at work and you tell yourself “I’m going to get fired,” replace this statement with something like “I’ll apologize for the mistake and explain why it happened.” Finally, reinforce these new thoughts by reminding yourself of them throughout the day (for example, write them down on sticky notes or put them on your mirror).
3. Practice relaxation exercises.
Relaxation exercises are a great tool to help you get over your worries and anxieties. They can be done at any time, and they’re easy to remember so you can use them whenever you need a little relaxation boost.
Here are some of the most common relaxation techniques:
- Meditation: This is one of the most popular ways people like to relax. It involves sitting still in a quiet place and focusing on your breathing or an object in front of you for several minutes.
- Breathing exercises: These are similar to meditation, except instead of focusing on an object, breathe slowly for several minutes while counting each breath out loud (inhale 1-2-3; exhale 1-2-3). If counting sounds weird for whatever reason, try simply inhaling deeply through your nose and then exhaling through pursed lips as if blowing out birthday candles from start to finish—once that feels completely natural, try it with words instead of just blowing out candles! It can take a bit of time to get used to this method, but it is very calming once mastered. Some people feel self-conscious about it, though, because they think they are doing it wrong. But don’t worry—everything will work itself out eventually if given enough time.
4. Build a good support system.
Building a support system is vital to overcoming anxiety and depression. This can be as simple as talking to others about your feelings, or you may want to seek out professional help. If you don’t have anyone in your personal life that you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, it would be worth looking into one of the many online message boards where people share their experiences and offer support for each other. You can even find groups specifically designed for those struggling with depression or anxiety by doing a quick Google search!
It’s important not just because it’s good for your mental health (it is), but also because research shows that having strong relationships reduces stress levels overall.
5. Find distractions and rewards.
- Get involved in other activities.
- Find something you enjoy doing and do it. The more you distract yourself, the less time you have to worry. It can be as simple as listening to music or watching a movie—the point is that you should be focusing on something else rather than your worrying thoughts.
- Make sure that whatever activity you choose is achievable, so that if your worries come back while doing this activity, they won’t seem too overwhelming or difficult to handle.
Hopefully, this article has given you some helpful tools to use when you find yourself in a worrying rut. Remember that it’s not just about the techniques or strategies—it’s also about how they fit into your life and what works best for you.