Cognitive restructuring involves taking a hard look at negative thought patterns. Perhaps you tend to:
- Assume the worst
- place too much importance on minor details
Thinking this way can affect what you do and, in some instances, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Try to identify negative patterns and once you’re aware of them, reframe those thoughts so that they’re more positive and productive.
Thought challenging is about considering things from multiple angles, using actual evidence from your life. Thought challenging can help you consider things from a more objective perspective, rather than just assuming that your thoughts are the facts or truth. Learning about your cognitive distortions can help you identify when a cognitive distortion is showing up in thoughts and allows you to work to correct the unhelpful thoughts to thoughts that are more balanced and factual. With anxiety, you might have trouble rationalizing your problems. You might feel anxious, but not understand where those feelings are coming from. Or, you might have a fear of something such as social gatherings, but you aren’t sure why.
Behavioural activation sets a plan in place so you don’t keep worrying. For example, if anxiety is preventing you from doing a certain activity, you can schedule it by writing it in your calendar. This will encourage you to move forward and face the situation.
Journaling, also called thought recording, helps you get in touch with and bring awareness to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help clarify and organize your thoughts. You might make lists of your negative thoughts and the positive ones you can swap them out with.
Behavioural experiments, these are commonly used when you’re experiencing catastrophic thinking, which is when you assume the worst is going to happen. Just like a scientific experiment, we hypothesize about the potential outcomes of that action, and actually write down what we anticipate will happen and what the fears are of what could happen. You might then have a discussion about what you predicted would happen and if it actually did. Given time, you’ll start to see your worst-case scenario is unlikely to happen.
Relaxation techniques, reduce stress and allow you to think more clearly. In turn, these can help you take back control of a situation. These techniques might include:
- deep breathing exercises
- progressive muscle relaxation
These practices don’t take long to do and are tools you can use wherever you’re experiencing anxiety.