Whether you have normal levels of moderate anxiety, or you experience large amounts of stress leading to panic attacks and health problems, CBT is the number one tool for dealing with it. CBT stands for ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’ and is the preferred tool for therapists trying to deal with all manner of different psychological disorders.
This is partly because CBT has a huge amount of evidence supporting its effectiveness. But what also makes CBT so useful is the fact that it is portable and affordable. CBT involves teaching techniques which can be learned even remotely over the internet. This means you can teach yourself the techniques and be incredibly effective at controlling your emotions and your stress responses.
How it Works
The basic idea behind CBT is that we ‘think ourselves’ into our mental states. Associations and conditioning partly affect our emotional response to stimuli but so too does what we think.
For example, when you’re afraid of talking in public, it’s probably because you are thinking of all the things that could go wrong. You maybe think ‘people will laugh at me’, or ‘what if I stutter’ or ‘what if I faint?’. Thinking these things – and visualizing them as we tend to do – can be enough to trigger the release of hormones or other hormones and this then makes us panic and possibly even causes us to make those mistakes!
The trick then is to change those thoughts so that you no longer believe those things will happen. And if you can do that, then you can completely remove the fear and the response.
The way you are taught to do this in CBT is through something called ‘cognitive restructuring’. This is a set of tools that you can utilize in order to ‘reprogram’ your thoughts and change your beliefs.
One example of this is something called ‘thought challenging’. Here, you simply challenge the negative thoughts that are causing you to be stressed or afraid by looking at how realistic they are. Would people really laugh at you if you stuttered? In all likelihood no – they would be sympathetic. Are you really likely to faint? Probably not.
Another very useful tool is something called ‘hypothesis testing’. Here you don’t just convince yourself that your fear is unlikely – you actually prove it to yourself to make sure you really believe it.
So how might you do that? One example is that you might put yourself in the situation you are afraid of and see what happens. So in this case, that might mean giving a speech in front of people and then purposefully stuttering to see if people react badly. Just remind yourself: it really doesn’t matter what they think. Now let yourself stand there and try to reduce stress. When you see that there is no negative outcome, you’ll remove the stress entirely.
Finally, CBT also incorporates meditation, exposure therapy and other known techniques to give you a powerful tool set for overcoming stress, phobias and more.