Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Beat Anxiety

It has been seen in cognitive behaviour therapy that thoughts, feelings and behavior are all interlinked, each one leading the other. Part of cognitive behavior therapy is about recognizing these, specifically the triggers which start a cycle that exacerbates your level of anxiety.

Consider a very recent instance (this is more likely to be fresh in your memory than older incidents), say in this week or the one before, where you felt anxious about something.
• What were the circumstances?
• What happened exactly?
• How did it happen?
• When did it happen?
• Who was with you at the time?
• What else happened?
• Do you find yourself in this situation frequently?

This is the trigger. Now make a thought record.
• What were the exact feelings (anxiety/fear/concern/worry/doubt/uncertainty/sadness/dismay/despair/uneasiness/shame/anger/irritability/others) that you experienced?
• Were you reminded of something or someone else?
• What were your feelings before the incident?
• What did you notice in your body?

Anxiety manifests itself physically, in a number of ways, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, palpitations, inability to concentrate further, butterflies in the stomach, or dizziness, to name a few.

What did you do to cope?

(Stayed at home instead of going out, chose to shop at the least crowded hour in the supermarket, watched TV or logged on to social media to distract yourself, got a drink, smoked, over-ate, sulked, shouted at someone, blamed others etc.)

This is your current behavior. Because it is influenced by your thoughts which in turn were precipitated by an incident (trigger), cognitive behaviour therapy works on changing the way you think or respond to a situation, because the possibility of these triggers occurring again in the future cannot be controlled.

We all feel anxious, although in varying degrees and at various times. While sometimes it can be helpful, as in helping you study better before an examination, too much of it and all the time or too frequently is unhealthy.

Now consider the following:
Is there something else I could have done in that situation? A different way of reacting? Would that have been worse or better?

This helps you to shortlist alternative behaviors that are healthy. While it cannot be predicted how these will pan out, exposing oneself to similar/identical situations and trying them out to see which works best in helping you maintain your calm instead of getting worked up and anxious is bound to help. Keeping thought records can aid you in narrowing it down. In cognitive behavior therapy, licensed and qualified mental health professionals can also assist you with alternate techniques that may not occur to you, such as taking deep breaths and/or telling yourself, It is OK for things to go wrong.

You cannot hope to get rid of your anxiety in a day or two, but by changing the way you think and respond to situations, you can eliminate the unhealthy version of it completely, over a number of sessions. This can help you to live a happier, fuller life.