Does it feel like your to-do list just keeps on growing? By the time you’ve planned your meals for the week, finished errands and binge-watched the rest of Squid Game, the weekend is practically over. Another Monday is on the horizon.
You’re not alone if your life feels overwhelming these days. According to Miranda Klimowski, our therapist at HealthOne, clients of all different ages are feeling modern-day pressure – especially millennials.
“It's evident that this is such a transitional time in the lives of this generation,” she says. “This group of people is really thinking about the future, and along with that there is added pressure from society, family, and the pressure we place on ourselves. Social media plays a really big role, too.”
The good news is that if you feel stressed or anxious, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Your mental health is valuable, and visiting a professional – like Miranda – can help a lot. A common modality they use to help people is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT. In this blog, we’ll be sharing more about how CBT can help reduce your stress and anxiety.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a common form of talk therapy. “The main goal is to identify and break down negative thinking patterns,” Miranda says.
CBT is based on the belief that our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected. “Let’s say a client comes in and they’re feeling low self-esteem", she explains. “We’ll talk about what the problem is – so why they have low self-esteem – and the core beliefs they have, such as ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘Nobody likes me no matter what I do’”.
Becoming aware of the presenting problem is the first goal of CBT. Once this has been established, a therapist will help the client challenge those negative thoughts and core beliefs. Usually, negative thoughts are just a feeling and not a fact. A therapist will help the person view their thoughts objectively and consider alternative perspectives on the situation.
“We’re really able to draw awareness and consciousness through CBT. My job is to reflect back to them what they’re feeling and thinking, then be that sounding board by challenging those things. Sometimes they can grasp that concept, but it can take a lot of repetition and saying it in different ways.”
Most of Miranda’s clients fall do anywhere from 6 to 20 sessions, but it’s important to point out that CBT is not a linear process. Everyone’s therapy experience is unique, and most therapists will weave in bits and pieces from other therapy modalities (such as DBT). It’s all done with the same common goal: to improve your mental health and have you think better thoughts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety
Everyone has experienced anxiety at one point or another. There's a big difference, though, between experiencing anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
Someone who is experiencing anxiety might feel worried, nervous, and have a rapid heartbeat. This might happen before a big work event or a social gathering, for example. Their symptoms subside after some time, though, and the anxiety doesn’t have any long-term consequences on their quality of living.
Someone who has an anxiety disorder, on the other hand, might experience chronic worrying and nervousness that interferes with their life. Their anxious thoughts might intrude on other thoughts, and their physical symptoms become a long-term state rather than a fleeting feeling.
The most common anxiety disorder in adults is generalized anxiety disorder, which we wrote more about in this previous blog. Other types of anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder and panic disorders, among others. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people who both experience anxiety and have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
A common thought pattern seen in people who experience anxiety is catastrophizing. They'll jump to conclusions and/or predict the worst possible outcome of a situation. Examples of these thoughts might look like:
- I got in a fight with my friend, so she probably never wants to talk to me again.
- My doctor scheduled a follow-up, so I must have a serious illness.
- If I fail my midterm, I won’t be able to graduate or have a successful career.
People who catastrophize often make these assumptions with little to no facts to back themselves up. Despite this, it can be incredibly difficult for them to prevent their thoughts from getting worse.
“CBT can give the person the coping skills and tools to stop their thoughts from spiralling. It can really help them develop new automatic responses. It helps them shift the responsibility back onto what they can control – which is their thoughts,” Miranda shares.
Following CBT, a person with anxiety might learn how to restructure their thoughts to things like:
- I got in a fight with my friend, but I can’t control what she does or how she reacts. I still want to be in her life, so I’ll give her space for a couple of days before I apologize and ask her to talk.
- My doctor scheduled a follow-up, but I won’t know the details until our appointment on Wednesday. I’ll focus on hobbies I enjoy to keep my mind off things in the meantime.
- I’m going to try my best on my midterm. If I get a bad grade, I’ll speak with my academic advisor.
If you experience anxious thoughts, a therapist trained in CBT can help. Negative thinking can often become habitual, but just like any other bad habit, it can be broken and replaced with a better one!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Stress
Anxiety and stress usually go hand-in-hand. And one of the biggest causes of high stress levels? You guessed it – work. Many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while others have adapted to new work environments (such as working from home or adapting to a hybrid model).
These feelings of work stress can come from internal and external factors. You might put stress on yourself by being a perfectionist or trying to please everyone, for example. Alternatively, you might have a boss who sets unrealistic deadlines and expects you to work overtime every day. In both scenarios, CBT can help.
“We’d talk about why they’re stressed and really emphasize and understand where the person’s coming from,” Miranda says. “And again, we’d point out what is within their control and what’s not. Your mental health and well-being should always be the priority.”
Of course, there are plenty of other things that contribute to high stress levels. Maybe you have family issues, financial strain, or you’re struggling to balance your social life with alone time and other priorities. Nothing’s off the table when it comes to attending therapy. And although CBT can help you melt away your stress, the overall experience of seeing a professional is useful, too.
That’s because having an unbiased person to talk to can be therapeutic in and of itself. Getting your thoughts out of your brain and out into the open can help you acknowledge them, make peace with them, and move on. While it’s easy to turn to a friend, family member or loved one to unload, sharing your thoughts with a professional is always a good idea.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Online
You’re definitely not alone if you feel anxious and stressed when you look at your to-do list. Life is incredibly busy these days, and it’s hard to fit everything in!
Luckily, most therapists such as the ones at HealthOne offer cognitive behavioral therapy online. With Miranda, it’s done using a private, secure network that’s easily accessible via phone, tablet, or desktop.
There are a lot of reasons why you might prefer to speak with a therapist online, like:
- You have a busy schedule.
- You live outside of Toronto.
- You don’t have time to commute to a clinic.
- You prefer speaking with a therapist virtually.
You’ll still be receiving the same high-quality mental health support as you would be in person. The only difference is that you’re viewing the therapist on a device!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Toronto
If you live in Toronto and experience stress, anxiety (or any other mental health troubles), HealthOne’s team of therapists are here to help. We have seven therapists, including Miranda, who can help you overcome even the most challenging of issues.
We also offer free 15-minute Meet & Greet appointments so you can get to know any therapist before booking your first appointment! It’s our way of making sure your experience is nothing short of amazing.
One Life. Live Inspired.