Are you dealing with stress? Struggling to keep down a racing heartbeat inside and out of pressuring situations? Are cold sweats a commonality for you? Even if you are not someone struggling with a diagnosis of such things as an anxiety disorder, we all experience disruptions to our peace of mind. You may not require formal therapy to help you get through the day-to-day, but you can benefit from some of the techniques used by therapists to assist their patients.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is defined by Merriam Webster as, “Psychotherapy that combines cognitive therapy with behavior therapy by identifying faulty or maladaptive patterns of thinking, emotional response, or behavior and substituting them with desirable patterns of thinking, emotional response, or behavior.” Put simply, it is the process of re-routing thoughts from a negative mindset to a positive one. It is most classically-associated with treating patients suffering with irrational fears and anxiety or depression disorders. However, its benefits are not limited to those with a formal diagnosis. If you have a mind and experience stress, you can benefit from these techniques.
Let’s say that you are feeling anxious at work about an upcoming promotion announcement. You might be thinking, “There is no way that I will get it. My work isn’t good enough and I’m not good enough.” CBT techniques can help you turn those thoughts in another direction. It is better to think from within a positive framework. So, a new path of thinking in this situation might be, “My work is enough, and every day I am improving. If I don’t get the position, I will have time to perfect my abilities. If I do, I will learn new things.”
The Five Senses Exercise
The Five Senses Exercise (or 5-4-3-2-1 Technique) is what is known as a “grounding” technique. These kinds of techniques are typically used to bring someone out of their petrified state when dealing with a situation such as a panic attack. But, it does not have to be that drastic of a stress to be useful. The technique is always capable of grounding you in the present moment, and most importantly, dragging you out of your thoughts and away from a stressful internal monologue. Completing the exercise three times a day, at least, is a doable goal. Try to line up moments to complete the exercise with times in which you know you will be stressed during your day. A good starting schedule would be completing the exercise once in the morning, once around noon, and once during the evening.
Here is how to complete the exercise (it takes about 30 seconds):
- Identify five things that you can SEE in your current space
- Identify four things that you can TOUCH in your current space
- Identify three things that you can HEAR in your current space
- Identify two things that you can SMELL in your current space
- Identify one thing that you can TASTE in your current space
You very well might not be in a position in which you are eating or drinking when you complete the exercise, and in this case, you might not be able to complete the last step. Don’t let this stop you. Simply completing the steps that you can will help you to come back to the present reality and escape anxious thinking.
You’re going to need to grab your nearest pen and paper or word processor! We are going to get writing. The reframing technique is used to help define new thought pathways to combat negative thinking. It is extremely difficult to completely stop intrusive thoughts, so the best thing that we can do with them is to consider why they are on our mind and try to redirect them.
Here’s how to go about this technique:
- Recognize that you are having a moment of stress and consider the thought going through your mind.
“There is no way that my company is going to succeed.”
- Write down the thought exactly as it is coming into your mind.
- Write down the top four emotions that the thought is making you feel. Next, define the percentage of severity for each.
Nervous: 55%, Depressed: 75%, Disappointed: 80%, Angry 40%
- Write down logical evidence for the thought.
Why will my company fail? 1.) Funding is going to be tight after a few months of operation. 2.)The industry is difficult to break into. 3.) I don’t have a full private office space to work out of.
- Write down logical evidence against the thought.
1.) I have expertise that I can use to help my company succeed. 2.) I can start the company without an office space. I can work from home. 3.) I will start putting some money from each paycheck away to create a rainy day fund.
- Write a new thought framed in a positive mindset.
It may take time for the company to become self-sustained, but I have the skills, drive, and confidence to be in this for the long run.
- Revisit the same emotions that you identified before and consider them in the context of this new thought. Do you still feel those emotions to the same degree?
Nervous: 30%, Depressed:15%, Disappointed: 20%, Angry: 5%
Meditation Before Sleep
Going to bed with a calm mind allows for restful sleep, which will assist in lowering stress levels during the waking hours. There are a multitude of applications that can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet to guide you into a pre-sleep meditative state. This is not to mean that you are going to sit on a pillow on the floor with your legs crossed in silence, but you are going to receive similar effects to what that experience would provide. Here are three great examples:
Loóna: Loóna is an app that provides the user with curated “sleepscapes,” where you will be prompted to choose appealing colors and locations to generate a small space where you can engage in gentle, guided activities paired with calm music. You can even choose a mood that you would like your sleepscape to promote! You can also access immersive stories, soothing music and nature sounds, and breathing exercises, depending on what you prefer.
Insight Timer: Insight Timer is an app that hosts a variety of guided meditation audios. However, “meditation” is a loosely-used term here, with most of the audios being more aligned with soothing one-way conversations. Depending on the amount of time you would like to meditate for, the mood you are trying to promote, and the time of day (to name only a few factors), you can select an audio that fits your needs. Insight Timer also hosts discussions, events, and workshops that users can attend.
Endel x Grimes, AI Lullaby: Created as a collaboration between Canadian artist, Grimes, and Endel Soundscapes comes AI Lullaby, an AI-powered sleepscape generator. According to the app’s official website, “AI Lullaby is a sleep soundscape with original vocals and music created exclusively for this project by our favorite artist Grimes. The sounds are processed by Endel Pacific technology to generate а soundscape that adapts in real-time to your location, weather, and natural light exposure.”
Even if you are only able to apply one of these techniques, you will likely be able to notice a significant difference. I have used all three of these practices in my own daily life, and have found myself significantly more calm and focused. As with all things, there will be an adjustment period, but if you are diligent and consistent, you will begin to experience heightened mental peace.
Grace Holladay is a third-year student at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH. She loves to spend her free time cooking new recipes, binging Marvel movies, and dancing at her university’s rec center.