You know the drill: every night you lay your head down on the pillow and the thoughts start running through your head. Or maybe the point that sets you off is the moment you turn on your work computer. Or you sit down to take a test in school. Then you have a conflict with your spouse or partner. Finally, you feel overwhelmed by too much to do. The list goes on and on in terms of how varied the situations may be, but the story is often the same - the anxiety you feel is running the show. It is stealing your sleep, your peace, your joy, your focus. How can you make it stop?
CBT as a Tool
One common approach in therapy for the treatment of anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. Learning the concepts behind CBT can help you start to target those moments that get the anxiety wheel spinning in your mind and body. In this way, you can start to take back control and slow that wheel, making it manageable.
Thoughts and Beliefs that Can Cause Anxiety
One core tenet of CBT is identifying your automatic thoughts. These are the first things that pop into your head when you are in an anxiety-provoking situation. If you are the person whose anxiety sky-rockets when you get to work, an automatic thought might be, “What disaster am I in for today?” or “How will I get everything done?”
Often your thoughts are reflecting some core beliefs about yourself and the world. When you recognize the automatic thoughts you are having, you have a target for change. What else might be true instead of, or even in addition to the thought that first comes to mind?
Actions and Behaviors Triggered by Your Anxiety
A second component of CBT focuses on your behaviors. Behaviors tend to follow thoughts, so you can start to make a pathway for yourself by connecting these two. You can notice an automatic thought and see that there is an action that you take that has resulted from that thought.
If we take an example from above, thinking about disaster when you walk into work, logical behaviors that might flow from that thought is avoidance. Maybe you take an extra long time talking with a coworker; you do other tasks to avoid seeing your emails, or speaking to your boss (or the person you associate with drama and disaster). The automatic thought becomes a driving force for the behaviors and the actions you take often reinforce your thoughts.
This can happen by causing another chain of events, or just in the act of living in the reality of that automatic thought. You are really in that wheel of anxiety. Operating from this component, you can focus on changing behaviors, and note how important it is to get your thoughts to help change that behavior.
Mood and Feelings (Anxiety) Resulting from Actions and Behaviors
The final piece of the CBT model is mood; and this is the part that probably brought you to CBT in the first place. You want the anxiety to go away and give you some peace. You can make any one of the points of the CBT triangle your focus. Since all three will impact each other, you will likely see some shifts in your anxiety.
The mood component looks at how you feel in any given situation - what is happening in your body (like pounding heart, tight muscles, shallow breathing)? Noticing your mood and your body can help clue you in to the other two parts of CBT - what are you thinking about, what are you doing? And then as you make adjustments to any of the three elements, notice what happens to your mood.
Putting the CBT Triangle Together
As you practice giving attention to your internal processes and combine that with making the adjustments where you notice something can shift, anxiety can lessen to stop running the show. Many people find that it’s helpful to do this process out loud in a nonjudgmental space. You may not always see on your own what has been there for so long. Counseling is exactly that place to do this process in the way that fits best for you.
How We Can Help
Our therapists are trained in CBT and can help you lessen your anxiety through learning about and practicing CBT
CBT is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety, and is particularly helpful with people who have perfectionistic thoughts or tendencies. Reach out to schedule a free phone consultation to get started with our CBT therapists today!
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
At Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Alicia Kwande is a therapist, clinical supervisor, and blogger. Alicia helps adults (especially caregivers and moms) who give all they have to others, leaving themselves with next to nothing. Alicia helps adults in managing their anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.