If you’ve tried or are considering sessions with a CBT therapist, you might be wondering how the skills you learn in sessions can be helpful at home, especially in these anxious times.
After all, it’s one thing to have a trained, skilled CBT counsellor in the room or online with you while you’re working through strong feelings of anxiety. You know you’re with someone who can walk you through the fear and help you process it. And they’re immediately available if you need a hand to hold, whether literally or figuratively.
All of this makes processing anxiety less stress-inducing.
But one of the many frustrating things about anxiety is that it doesn’t just strike when you’re at a therapy appointment. Thankfully, CBT counselling offers a way for your anxiety management skills to be strengthened when you’re at home or work, and even during the pandemic. .
The power of CBT lies in the fact that it targets both thinking and action. These are fundamentally intertwined when it comes to your emotions and behaviour. How and what you think, as well as what you do and don’t do, affect how you feel and function.
Because thoughts, emotions, and the physiological body are so connected, you can tackle feelings of anxiety through behavioural strategies. This can be a relief when anxiety has frozen your thoughts.
The human body is made to move, but the modern lifestyle can make this need hard to accomplish. Wonderful things happen when you move your body. Stress-relieving hormones are released. Your lungs take in more oxygen, which provides a calming effect. Tiring yourself out physically helps your thoughts slow down and helps you sleep better.
A simple walk, a dance class, yoga, and so many more options are all great ways to implement this CBT strategy outside of session..
2. Connect with Nature
As with the human need for movement, modern living has reduced most people’s time spent in nature. This is deeply unfortunate, as nature offers so many benefits for mental health. Countless studies have shown that office and home windows with a view of parks reduce stress. Even having green houseplants helps.
But for the best results, take yourself outdoors. Do a bit of gardening if you have an allotment. Walk at your local park and sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds and other natural sounds. And soil itself contains mood-boosting compounds—so kick up some dirt while you’re at it.
3. Mindful Thinking
A key element of CBT therapy involves learning to observe your thoughts with dispassion. It’s easy to fall prey to the thoughts in your mind and believe what your inner critic tells you. But instead of thinking something is true just because you’re thinking it, learn to question it.
Consider keeping a thought diary. Write down negative thoughts and practice countering them. Ask yourself what evidence there is that they are true or realistic. Then, write down a more positive response. The more you practise doing this, the better you’ll get at replacing fearful thoughts with positive, grounding ones.
4. Pinpoint Anxiety-Causing Beliefs
When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack or slogging through generalised anxiety, you’re not always aware of what’s making you feel afraid. In these situations, it can be very helpful to try to pinpoint the specific thoughts that are causing distress. Try to figure out what is underneath the anxiety. This helps you zero in on what thoughts need to be addressed and countered.
At the same time, ask yourself what you would say to a friend in the same situation. Would you criticise them? Or would you be supportive and compassionate? Remember to treat yourself with the same kindness.
As a CBT Therapist and counsellor, I’ve helped many people work their way through anxiety into a more confident, exciting future. CBT is a powerful, empowering therapy. I encourage you to reach out to me to learn more about how CBT can help you with anxiety.