According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, but only a little over a third of them receive treatment. Anxiety is commonly a co-occurring disorder, where the patient may also suffer from depression, sleep disorders, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, phobias, or bipolar disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
You may have anxiety if you suffer from any of these signs on a regular basis:
- Feeling nervous
- Having a rapid heartbeat
- Experiencing shortness of breath
- Feeling on edge
- Thoughts that something bad will happen
- Feeling impending doom
- Experiencing thoughts of danger
- Avoiding certain places
- Believing you cannot cope
You may also have poor concentration, disorganized and distracted thoughts, irritability, extreme tiredness, or feel like worries are taking over your life. Avoidance and wanting to escape are common behaviors in anxious patients.
How Can I Overcome My Anxiety Using CBT?
Try to reduce the strength or power that an erroneous belief has over you. Challenge your thinking. Instead of imagining the dangerous or scary thought playing out, look for a different explanation for your worries. Worrying about loved ones is a sign that we truly care about them and don’t want anything bad to happen to them. If letting the bad scenario mentally play out is what is causing the worry, pause that train of thought and relax. Think of a less threatening situation, a more realistic one to apply. And if you are still having trouble, try calling your loved one, and let them tell you firsthand that they are okay and that there’s nothing to worry about. Sometimes hearing their voice and talking about how you feel helps the situation. Let them know you love them and that you are glad they are alright.
It is not what transpires that is the problem, but the perception of the events being consistently threatening or problematic. Anxiety will diminish when we are not focused on our fears all the time. Overcoming anxiety is not about getting rid of our thoughts, but reducing what the thoughts mean to you, and getting rid of the power you believe they have over you. It is better to face times of risk and uncertainty than to run away or obsess over something that is unlikely to occur. Gradually facing your fears through exposure may help take away ominous feelings you have.
What CBT Exercises Will Help?
Practicing thought awareness and creating your thought record chart will help you challenge these beliefs. When you identify the error(s) in your thinking, you can go back to the first exercise where you point out the facts, the objective points, and then insert a truthful and positive thought. Learn to tolerate your anxiety. Learn to accept risks.
If your anxiety is very serious and you are having trouble functioning in life, talk to your doctor and see if taking an anxiety medication would be a good option for you, and come up with a personalized treatment plan.
Another exercise is to write down one of your behaviors. Then write the pros and cons of that behavior and see which side outweighs the other. If you can’t think of anything good that comes from the behavior, it may be time to create a new habit.
Schedule Activities That You Enjoy to Make the Most of Your Time
Create a weekly chart where each column is a day of the week, and each row is an hour (or 30-minute block) of the day. Write down your schedule. What are your priorities and plans? Once you have the important things in place, start filling those blank boxes, and keep yourself busy. You can set aside time for:
- Video games
- Self-care activities
- Arts and crafts
- Group meetings
- Music therapy
- Anything that will help you deal with your anxiety in a healthy way
Use your creative outlets! Sometimes dealing with anxiety is as simple as making a cup of hot herbal tea and being mindful while listening to the sounds of rain and thunderstorms. If you are feeling antsy and nervous, try doing some progressive muscle relaxation while laying flat on your back. Exercise also helps with restlessness and can help relieve symptoms of depression.
Learn More About Using CBT to Overcome Anxiety
Once you start filling your weekly and monthly calendar with fun activities that you enjoy, you’ll be making the most of those little blocks of free time on the chart instead of resorting to unhelpful behavior in your spare time. Remember that some forms of anxiety are completely normal and that it’s natural to experience this feeling in certain situations, like having to take a test at school, or going through a traumatic experience. Indeed, harness that nervous energy and turn it into something productive and helpful.
If you would like more information about anxiety, CBT, and treatment options, feel free to contact us!