CBT – Self-Help Technique
Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! I took a step out of my comfort-zone this weekend to celebrate Waitangi Day in London. I went alone and ended up making some pretty great friends – who were also from New Zealand! So glad I went.
This post is about a self-help technique called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or ‘CBT’ for short) which I learned through nursing and it is something that I utilized in my life for a good few years in order to help overcome the anxieties I had. It is important to know that CBT is not a cure-all for anxiety and works well when used in conjunction to other approaches with the right medical/psychological intervention depending on the circumstances. I am a strong advocate for CBT and never experience any highly anxious feelings anymore and I do think a lot of this is due to recognising my triggers and working my way through them using this technique. It is also vital to surround yourself with people who you love and trust who will support you through this process.
To be able to understand how CBT works, you must first understand the anxiety process and why you are having the thoughts and feelings you are. Approximately 18% of the American population experiences anxiety at some point in their adult life. When you experience prolonged anxious feelings over weeks or months, this releases the bodies ‘stress hormone’ called cortisol, which produces the physical effects of anxiety. These physical effects range from racing or ‘funny’ heart beats, feeling unwell, having chest pains, shortness of breath, feeling faint, ‘butterflies’ in your tummy, sweating and a feeling of impending doom. It is important to understand that this is merely your bodies natural reaction to feeling pressured and stressed, but if you keep your body in a stressed state these physical feelings will remain which is unhealthy. If you can find your trigger and change the way you approach these feelings and thoughts you may be able to change the way you react physically to these stressors.
The main goal of CBT is to recognise the thoughts, emotions and behaviours causing stress or anxiety and then working through some steps to relax and re-train your thought processes in order to overcome these issues. This process is always best done with trained professionals if the anxieties are of chronic or serious nature – I cannot stress this enough – my part is just to open my readers minds to the effectiveness and possibility to improve your quality of daily life.
Being able to relax during a stressful period is so important to regain some of your balance in both your physical-being and state-of-mind. Avoiding substances such as alcohol, caffeine and drugs will assist you in keeping a stable state-of-mind. Using techniques like deep-breathing and meditation to help calm the physical effects of anxiety (as stated above – racing heart, shortness of breath, feeling faint or nauseous) will help you to gain a sense of peace in order to approach the anxious thoughts. For more on relaxation techniques click here.
After relaxation, it is important to face the feelings or thoughts creating the anxiety. The point of this is to not completely forget the feelings or thoughts (too often people try to run away from their issues, only creating worse pent up anger and stress), but to create new realistic thinking paths surrounding these in order to be able to overcome the anxiety in time. Depending on the feelings or thoughts, this can sometimes take a while and is best approached with someone to talk it out with you, not alone. Realistic thinking requires working through your unrealistic, anxiety causing, thoughts and systematically changing them into more balanced (not too positive or too negative) thoughts for when the situation arises again. For example, an unrealistic thought such as “I’m such a failure, I always wreck everything. Nothing I do ever goes to plan. I give up” can be changed to a healthy thought pattern overtime by making your thoughts more balanced “Everyone is human, we all make mistakes, myself included. I will remember this next time and try my best to rectify this situation now”.
There are many tips to ensure that CBT continues to work to reduce stress and anxiety in your life and I didn’t go into too much depth with this post because it is a very widely studied topic and there is a lot of information both on the internet and with your local GP or health clinic. New Zealand is one of the leading countries for online resources and apps in this area so I am going to provide you with some links in case you are wanting to know more about CBT or help with anxiety and depression. Also, if at any time you would like to discuss anything I have written or if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me on Motivation Station’s facebook page (its all strictly confidential).
Link to Mental Health New Zealand. There are lots of useful apps (yes, for your iPhone!) on this link and they provide lots of self-help tips.
This is one of my favourite websites to use when I pass on information to my patients. More about CBT here from patient.co.uk.
Link to some information about stress and why it occurs here.
Have a great rest of your week everyone, try to make the most of ‘hump-day’.