Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological therapy that focuses on helping people change negative thoughts and behaviours that contribute to problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected and can influence each other.
CBT tools are effective for managing stress because they can help you identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to stress. By noticing and changing negative thoughts and behaviours, you can reduce stress levels and improve your overall mental health. CBT techniques can also help you build coping skills, and take a more active role in managing your own personal stress levels. Here are some CBT techniques to manage stress:
Tool 1: Identify and Address Negative Thoughts:
Identifying negative thoughts is an important first step in managing stress with CBT. Negative thoughts can contribute to feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress, which can make it harder to cope with difficult situations. Here’s a simplified step-by-step guide to identifying and changing negative thoughts:
- Start by paying attention to your thoughts throughout the day. Notice when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and try to identify the thoughts that are contributing to those feelings.
- Write down these thoughts in a journal or on a piece of paper.
- Take a closer look at each thought and ask yourself if it’s realistic. Sometimes, negative thoughts are based on assumptions or beliefs that aren’t actually true.
- Try to reframe each negative thought into a more positive or realistic one. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about a job interview, you might reframe the thought “I’ll never get through today” into “I’m prepared for this meeting and will do my best.”
- Practice these new, more positive thoughts regularly to help retrain your brain to think in a more positive and productive way.
Tool 2: Practice Reframing to Change your Perspective:
Reframing is a technique used in CBT to help people change their perspective on a situation. When we’re stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of a situation and overlook the positive. Reframing helps us look at the situation in a more positive and productive way. Here’s how to practice reframing:
- Identify a situation that’s causing you stress or anxiety. Write down your initial thoughts about the situation, including any negative or unhelpful thoughts.
- Challenge those negative thoughts by looking for evidence to support or refute them. Are there any positive aspects of the situation that you may be overlooking?
- Try to look at the situation from a different perspective. What are some alternative explanations for what’s happening? Is there a way to view the situation that’s more helpful or productive?
- Reframe the situation using positive and realistic language. For example, instead of saying “This is a terrible situation,” you could say “This is a difficult situation, but I’m capable of handling it.”
- Practice your new perspective regularly by writing it down, saying it out loud, or visualising it.
Tool 3: Use Problem-Solving to Identify Stress:
Problem-solving is a common CBT technique that can be particularly helpful for managing stress related to specific problems or situations. Here’s how it works:
- Identify the problem: The first step is to identify the problem that is causing stress. This might be a specific issue at work, in a relationship, or related to a particular task or responsibility.
- Brainstorm possible solutions: Once the problem is identified, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions. Write down any ideas that come to mind, even if they seem impractical or unrealistic.
- Evaluate each solution: After generating a list of possible solutions, evaluate each one to determine its feasibility and potential effectiveness. Consider the pros and cons of each option, and think about how each solution might impact other areas of your life.
- Choose the best option: Based on your evaluation, choose the best solution for addressing the problem. This might involve combining elements of different solutions, or choosing a completely new approach.
- Take action: Finally, take action to implement the chosen solution. This might involve making specific changes to your behaviour, seeking support or resources from others, or simply shifting your perspective or attitude towards the problem.
By using problem-solving techniques like this, we can take a more active and empowered approach to managing the problems and stressors in our lives. It can help individuals feel more in control of their situation, and more confident in their ability to manage stress and overcome challenges.
Tool 6: Practice Assertiveness:
Practicing assertiveness is another important CBT technique for managing stress. By practicing assertiveness, you can feel more empowered and in control of your own life. It can help reduce stress by ensuring that your needs and boundaries are respected, and by minimising the impact of external stress and demands. Here’s how it works:
- Identify situations where assertiveness is needed: The first step is to identify situations where you need to be more assertive. This might include situations where others are making unreasonable demands on your time, or where your own needs and boundaries are being ignored.
- Be clear and direct: When you need to be assertive, it’s important to communicate your needs clearly and directly. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and needs, and be specific about what you want or need from others. Say “no” when you need to.
- Set boundaries: Assertiveness also involves setting and maintaining clear boundaries. Be firm and consistent in communicating your limits and expectations, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when something doesn’t align with your needs or priorities.
- Use assertive body language: Nonverbal cues can also communicate assertiveness. Use direct eye contact, an upright posture, and a calm and confident tone of voice to convey your message.
- Practice self-care: Finally, practicing self-care is an important part of being assertive. This means prioritising your own needs and taking steps to manage your stress levels, even if it means saying “no” to others.
Derbyshire Mind can help: If you are experiencing symptoms of stress and would like to receive one-to-one support, including help to build your own CBT-based stress management toolkit, why not refer yourself to our Supported Self Help Service. The six-week guided self help service is free to adults in Derby and Derbyshire. Click Here to find out more and make a self-referral.