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  • Cognitive Approaches to Healing

    We all face stress in our lives but if we handle stress appropriately, we can overcome it easily. There are many cognitive approaches to healing and there is evidence that we can decrease the intensity of our anxiety, depression and stress by using the following seven (7) cognitive behavioral strategies:

    1. Thought Stopping: It is a technique that helps divert our mind from what we are worrying and obsessing about. When we get anxious, there are multiple thoughts that occupy our minds. If   we keep dwelling on these unproductive thoughts, the intensity of anxiety continues to escalate. However, if we use the Thought Stopping technique, we can lower the level of our anxiety. This is how you use the technique, Take a deep breath, visualize a big red STOP sign in front of you, then simply say the word CANCEL, or STOP. By repeating the word STOP, we put a brake on our racing thoughts just as we stop the car when we approach a STOP sign. When we put a brake on our thoughts, it empties the mind. After saying the word STOP, replace the negative thought with a positive counterstatement. It is important to note that the mind tends to recreate worry thoughts if you do not replace it with a counterstatement. Repeat the Thought Stopping technique as needed.
    2. Self Talk: Depressed and anxious people tend to indulge in negative self talk by berating themselves or thinking negative about self or others. This tends to reinforce negative thinking. Self talk is very subtle, automatic and telegraphic in nature. We make a variety of errors called, Cognitive Distortions in Psychology. These distortions could be overgeneralization, mind reading, jumping to conclusion, fortune teller error, magnification, minimization, mental filter, black or white thinking, mislabeling, and saying, “my fault”. Cognitive therapy holds that we need to be aware of our distortions and challenge them with Socratic questions, e.g. What are the odds of this really happening?, What is the worst that can happen?, Once we put our illogical statements to a scrutiny or rational investigation, we become more aware of our errors and open our mind to the reasoning and logic. This also helps correct our perception of the situation and we become more objective. Positive self talk helps reduce the intensity of depressive and anxious symptoms.
    3. Use of Affirmations: Affirmation is a positive statement that we use to replace negative self talk. For example, “ I am a good person”, ‘I can handle this situation”, “I have done it before and I can do it again.” It is like mind chatter that helps replace the negative programming into positive. It is important to make affirmations in present tense. It sinks better and it is also important to repeat them with conviction and emotions for optimal benefits.
    4. Acting As If: implies two laws of learning:

    A. The law of Association

    B. The operant Conditioning

    When we use Acting As If, we use operant conditioning. Acting As If reinforces the reprogramming we do to change our twisted thinking. For Example, act as if you are calm and relaxed by putting a smile on your face even if you are experiencing anxiety before making a presentation. When we act as if we are calm, our subconscious mind gets the message of relaxation and it makes us more relaxed and decreases the level of anxiety. Another example, start telling every  one, “ I feel great, it is a wonderful day” and you will begin to feel better.

    1. Use of Acronym CRAFT: This also helps ease the anxiety and helps view the situation correctly.

    C= Cancel negative thought

    R= Replace negative thought

    A=Affirm a positive statement

    F= Focus on the positive thought

    T= Train your mind to think positive

    6. Space of Time: It is important to create a space of time between what stresses you and your reaction to it. In order to do this engage in the following:

    A. Mind games

    B. Count to ten

    C. Deep Breathing

    D. Humor

    E. Imaging

     7.       Be a Problem Solver:

    Focus on the solutions as opposed to obsessing on the problem. Follow the following steps

    A. Describe and analyze your problems with questions. Use the five Ws- who, what, when, why, where to describe your problem.

    B. Ask what I want “more of” and “less of” in the situation

    C. What are my options?

    D. Take action

    E. Evaluate and adjust

    F. Reward

    These are proven techniques which are very effective in decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

    Rekha Shrivastava, MS, CRC.CASAC-T