Change Your Anxiety Equation with CBT
The fourth wave. Vaccine cards. Mask mandates. These are the headlines that have been dominating the media in British Columbia since last week. If you’re feeling anxious that’s understandable – many people are too. The good news is you can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills to help increase your awareness and reduce your anxiety.
One step in becoming more aware is understanding that there is helpful and unhelpful anxiety. Some anxiety can be helpful by motivating you to take steps that protect or prepare you. An example of helpful anxiety not related to COVID could be stress before a big exam or presentation. This could motivate you to study or rehearse. Anxiety in this case would be unhelpful if it reaches the level where you forget everything you prepared.
Following from this, it’s important to be aware of your anxiety levels. Popularized by CBT psychologist Christine Padesky, the equation Anxiety = Danger/Resources basically says that people tend to overestimate the risks of situations they fear and underestimate their ability to cope.
Working on the top part of the equation would involve assessing whether the situation you are feeling anxious about is as risky as you imagine it to be. Questions to ask include: “how likely will it happen”? “What’s the worst that can happen”? “What’s the best that can happen” and “what will most likely happen”?
For the bottom half of the equation, you can build on your resources by using the “Swiss Cheese Model” that has been covered in the media. In this model, a single slice of Swiss cheese, which represents a single skill or tool, has some holes. However, layering multiple slices can cover many of these holes. So, returning to COVID, one slice of cheese could represent the act of physical distancing, another slice could be hand washing and another could be wearing a mask. To cover some of the holes you may think you have in dealing with anxiety, you can explore what has helped you cope in stressful situations in the past and experiment with new skills.
CBT is one of the main research-backed therapeutic approaches to working with anxiety and depression, and is focused on understanding the connections between thoughts and behaviors. To learn more about CBT and see if it’s a good fit for you, you can click on this link and book a free and brief phone consultation.