How you can use this strategy:
Finding the self-talk that helps you calm down is part science and part art. Experiment and see how you do. I’ve written here about how you can cope when a family member pushes one of your emotional buttons. In my example, I used at least four different cognitive-behavioral skills — assessing reality, coping with uncertainty, acceptance, and forgiveness. For heavy-duty anxiety-provoking situations, you’ll typically need to blend various psychological skills, like I did here. If you suffer from pain, I’ve also written tips for coping with physical pain.
3. Don’t get stressed out about problems that haven’t happened yet.
Cognitive-behavioral principle: Sometimes you know a potential problem is on the horizon. You could get stressed out about it, or you could wait and see if the problem actually eventuates.
Real-life example: This is another case where I could give numerous examples from this week alone. Here’s one: I recently bought an investment property in a foreclosure auction, and I’m waiting for the current occupant to vacate the property before we can get started on our repairs. In reality, we can’t start the repairs until we get the building permits, so that is going to take some time anyway. There’s no reason to get stressed out about when the occupant will leave unless a situation arises in which the occupant won’t leave, and we’re ready to start the repairs. That hasn’t happened yet. I could waste emotional energy worrying about it, or I could let the situation play out and deal with any problem if/when I have one. And intervening myself at this point would be micromanaging my team.
How you can use this strategy:
When you foresee a potential problem, ask yourself if there is anything you should be doing to preemptively avoid the problem occurring. If you conclude that logically the best thing to do is wait, do that. You can trust yourself that if a real problem does eventuate, you’ll have skills for coping with it. This is also a scenario where you’ll want to remind yourself that there are many possible outcomes that fall in between “everything goes completely smoothly” and “complete disaster.” Remind yourself that you can cope with any scenario — if it turns out you need to.
Hopefully, these examples give you a glimpse into how an expert at this stuff uses cognitive-behavioral techniques in real-life situations. It takes practice and getting to know yourself, but when you master these skills, you’ll use them all the time and benefit greatly from doing so. People with anxiety often try to avoid situations involving uncertainty. Given that life will always involve uncertainty, this is a losing battle. When you have cognitive-behavioral skills, you’ll feel less of a need to try to avoid uncertainty and can push yourself to higher heights.
Written by Alice Boyes Ph.D.
The Author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit
Originally appeared on Psychology Today
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