Using CBT to Reduce Worry

Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Reduce Worry & Doubt

Estimated watch time: 5 mins 36 secs


Everyone worries, but excessive, unrelenting worrying is one of the primary symptoms of anxiety. Learn how to identify your worries so that you can then let them go or develop problem-solving strategies to approach them. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) outlines strategies that are helpful in reducing needless worries.

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Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to Reduce Worry

In this lesson we will discuss using cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce worry.

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is worry. Everyone worries. If you’re interested in reducing worry, it’s probably because you’ve decided your worry is excessive. That it intrudes in your life and keeps you from feeling happy.

CBT techniques are based on the premise that we don’t actually need worry to keep our lives afloat.

Problem-solving and letting go of needless worries are more effective approaches to healthy living.

Identify your typical worries. These are the things that interfere with your concentration during the day and keep you up at night.

Things like: Am I going to lose my job? Is my best friend mad at me? Is my partner cheating on me? Will my bills get paid this month?

Examine the cost versus the benefit of those worries.

The cost of excessive worry usually includes things like poor concentration, impaired focus and lost sleep. You may exasperate your friends and alienate colleagues with your constant worries.

It’s not that worry is irrational. In most cases, there is a kernel of truth to the worry. You might lose your job, your best friend may be mad at you, your partner could be cheating and your bills may not get paid. These things are theoretically possible, though probably highly unlikely.

That kernel of truth provides the benefit when you take time to examine it. Instead of worrying, you may have a problem you can solve.

What’s the likelihood that the worry is true?

What’s the probability on a scale of 1 to 100 that you’ll lose our job? Your friend is mad? Your partner is cheating? You can’t pay your bills? Often you can see that the likelihood is very low, maybe 5% or less that any of these things are likely. We don’t usually worry about rain when the chances are 5%. See if you can remind yourself of the low likelihood.

What’s the evidence in support of the worry?

Is there evidence your best friend is mad or your partner is cheating?

If there is literally no evidence your worry is realistic, it’s time to try to let go of that worry. When the worry comes, and it will, you must remind yourself that you’ve determined there is no evidence to support your worry. Then return to what you were doing. Keep reminding yourself of the facts and redirecting, allowing the worry to fade.

Remember, everyone worries. It’s not the worry that’s the problem, it’s hanging onto a worry that’s baseless.

Use problem-solving to address your worry.

Let’s say you’ve identified a reasonably high likelihood that the event is possible, or decided your worry has some validity. Then it’s time to see if you can come up with a way to solve the problem.

Say you’re worried about losing your job because your boss seemed a little cool during the last few weeks and you haven’t gotten any feedback about your performance. Try to come up with a plan to solve the problem of not knowing where you stand at work.

Plan A. Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your work, and maybe your concerns. You may get feedback that reassures you or you may receive constructive criticism that you can act on.

If you continue to worry, go to Plan B.

Plan B. Set yourself a reminder 30 days out to follow-up. This way, if the worry resurfaces, you can remind yourself that you put your plan in place and you will be following up in 30 days. Then set aside the worry for now.

The basic structure of problem-solving for worry is to:

  • Come up with an action plan or two (Plans A and B) to solve the problem. Try Plan A, assess, try Plan B if necessary, assess, keep going. When the worry returns, remind yourself you have a plan.
  • Distract yourself, or use relaxation skills, if a simple reminder isn’t enough.
  • Identify your favorite healthy distractions. Common healthy distractions include things like exercise, talking with a friend, listening to, or playing music, or reading.
  • Identify ways you can relax. These can include things like abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, meditation, yoga, a hot bath or a hobby.

You can always come up with another plan. Sometimes you realize there really isn’t much evidence to support the worry and it’s time to work on letting go. Remind yourself that worry isn’t what holds your life together.

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