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Four CBT techniques you can use when you're feeling anxious

Updated: May 2

Are you looking for tools for coping with anxiety? In this blog post I will share 4 CBT techniques you can use when you’re feeling anxious.

Anxiety can strike us anytime and anywhere. Sometimes it can feel like a constant companion and its absence can feel more like a rarity. Anxiety often leaves us feeling scared, worried, and afraid. It can even make us doubt our ability to handle what lies ahead. Anxiety can feel so convincing and it can begin to feel like it is calling the shots, but here are 4 things I want you to remember when you’re feeling anxious.

1. Specify your anxiety

Our anxiety is often vague and tells us things like “something bad will happen” or “what if everything falls apart?”. The first step is exploring what precisely we’re afraid of in that particular moment. By specifying what we fear will happen we may be able to see it more clearly for what it is: an unlikely worst-case scenario.

2. You don’t have to find solutions to all of your worries right now

When we're feeling anxious everything feels important and urgent. Anxiety leads us into thinking that we need the answers and solutions to all our worries and problems immediately. This can leave us feeling panicked and overwhelmed. In situations like these it's important to remind yourself that you don't have to figure everything out right now and to take one step at a time.

3. Aim for balanced thoughts

Anxiety might just convince you that the worst case scenario is the most likely outcome. For example thoughts like: “It won’t work out; no one at that book club will like you; you'll never find a new job”. These anxious thoughts can feel so true in the moment and asking ourselves "What are other possible outcomes?" can get us thinking in a more balanced way. To take this a step further you might ask yourself "What is the most ideal outcome?", and "What's the absolute worst outcome?". By asking yourself these questions, you can better reflect on what the most likely outcome will be.

4. Fact-check your thoughts

It's important to take a look at all the facts and data pertaining to what your anxiety is telling you in the moment before you accept the thought as truth.

Let's look at an example.

Imagine that you've noticed that things have felt different with your supervisor this week. They seem a little more distant and aloof. Your supervisor asks to meet with you later in the week.

At this point anxiety might be telling you that your supervisor might be mad at you, or is unhappy with your performance, and that you may be fired. It's important to take a step back and look at all of the information. You might remember that your supervisor had recently given you a positive performance review, that you produced a piece of work that you felt really good about, or that you recently took the initiative to do a presentation on behalf of your team. When you consider more data these thoughts might feel a little less convincing, only partially true, or not true at all.


Hannah Peirce

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