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Cognitive Behavioral Skills You'll Need to Beat Anxiety

Five essential skills for overcoming anxiety and getting on with a happy life

Cognitive Behavioral Skills You'll Need to Beat Anxiety
Anxiety and Perfectionism
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mickamato/6785825338
1. The Ability to Tolerate Uncertainty

Studies have shown that intolerance of uncertainty is a key factor in anxiety and depression (Study example).   

Intolerance of uncertainty is anxiety when you can't be 100 percent sure a negative event won't happen. 

People who can't tolerate uncertainty often avoid situations, procrastinate, ressurance seek, delay taking action, do excessive checking, and refuse to delegate. 

2. The Ability to Recognize Rumination 

Rumination is when you're repeatedly bothered by a worry thought. When people ruminate, their problem solving capacity is reduced. If you're ruminating, it's often best to wait to attempt to problem solve until you can think about the issue without jumping straight into rumination mode.

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If you can learn to recognize when you're ruminating, you can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, defusion techniques, or mindfulness techniques to help you stop ruminating.

The best thing you can do when you're ruminating is accept that you're having whatever thoughts you're having, recognize that the thoughts might not be accurate, and allow the thoughts to pass in their own time rather than trying to block them out (Trying to block out distressing thoughts will just cause increased intensity and intrusions of the thoughts you're trying not to have).

3. The Ability to Recognize Thought Distortions

Types of thought distortions include: making excessively negative predictions, understimating your ability to cope, personalizing, mindreading, catastrophizing, shoulds and musts, making judgments of yourself or others that are black/white rather than gray, entitlement thoughts (e.g., thinking that the normal rules shouldn't apply to you), and more.

The key is recognizing thought distortions is to ask yourself what thoughts you're having when you feel distressed. Some of these thoughts are likely to be thought distortions. You can try doing a CBT Thought Record.

4. The Ability and Willingness to Use Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness techniques help reduce anxiety and increase willpower. Practicing mindfulness wil help you: reduce avoidance coping, make better choices even you're feeling anxious, and help you ruminate less. Try this Ten Minute Mindful Walking Exercise.

5. The Ability to Talk to Yourself Kindly About Your Imperfections and Mistakes

Criticizing yourself harshly when you make a mistake or when one of your personal imperfections shows up is likely to lead to rumination and avoidance coping. Research has shown that talking to yourself kindly not only helps you feel better but also increases self-improvement motivation.

If you liked this article

If you liked this article, you'll probably like this one on 50 Common Cognitive Distortions.

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You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.

Alice's Twitter @DrAliceBoyes 

Photo credit: Mikamatto via photopincc.

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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