CBT posits that our cognitions (thoughts), behaviours and emotions are all linked together. Unfortunately, we don’t have direct control over our emotions. If anyone has ever given you the advice “Just don’t worry about it!” then you know that trying to just change an emotion is a difficult feat. Fortunately, we do have control over our thoughts and behaviours. By utilizing CBT coping strategies, we can shift and change our thoughts and behaviours in order to impact how we feel.
Behavioural management techniques run a very wide range. We are often engaging in behaviours that are not improving our mental health, so CBT looks to identify ineffective patterns of behaviour and replace them with behaviours that are clinically proven to help us feel better. Some examples of behavioural changes are:
Decreasing avoidance behaviours can be a significant piece of work for many people. When we feel worried, distressed or anxious about something, we quickly learn that if we avoid the trigger, we don’t have to feel those ways. For example, if I avoid public speaking then I don’t have to worry about it. Avoidance is a perfect short-term solution to emotion management. However, as a long-term solution, it’s the pits. When we avoid, we don’t get to have experiences that may be in-line with our goals and values. Additionally, avoidance maintains difficult emotions. Usually, whatever we are avoiding is not as bad in reality as it is in our thoughts. So, if we engage in something we want to avoid, we will likely gain the evidence that it wasn’t so bad and next time we try it out it will be easier.
Managing thoughts is also possible and helpful to our mental health. CBT states that the way we perceive a situation is more closely connected to our reaction than the reality of the situation itself. Therefore, we shouldn’t always listen to our thoughts! There are two main themes of thought management techniques: distraction and thought replacement: