Americans are suffering from higher stress levels than ever before. In fact, recent studies indicate that 44 percent of U.S. citizens currently experience more stress than just five years ago. Moreover, stress has been linked to 60 percent of all illnesses and diseases seen in humans. With such alarming figures, it makes sense to put an end to stress before it even takes hold.
There are a number of techniques you can employ when trying to eliminate daily stressors and reduce stress in both your career and personal life. Most of these strategies fall in the realm of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
CBT is a kind of psychological treatment meant to help its practitioners change their patterns of thinking. CBT exercises often focus on helping a person identify his or her reasoning errors and finding ways to practice healthier, more realistic behaviors and expectations.
While this blog is not a psychological blog, CBT has many helpful practices that most people can use to better regulate stress in their day-to-day lives. Below are six CBT exercises to consider next time you’re feeling tense or anxious.
1. Meditate on a Regular Basis
One of the most effective CBT exercises for stress relief involves regular meditation. Although the act is sometimes confused with prayer or associated with religion, nothing could be further from the truth. There are people from all walks of life, including religious and nonreligious individuals, who all enjoy the benefits of regular meditation.
2. Separate Your Career and Personal Life
Sometimes, stress from our career can carry over into our personal lives or vice versa. Apart from affecting your mental health, this can make it extremely difficult to maintain a positive mindset while you’re at home or on the job.
In short, make sure to leave your personal problems at home. Likewise, leave any of your concerns, issues or worries about work at the job. Don’t worry – they’ll definitely be waiting for you when you make it back.
3. Identify and Minimize Cognitive Distortions
A cognitive distortion occurs when our brain tricks us into believing something that isn’t actually true. Blaming others for our downfalls or shortcomings, frequently jumping to conclusions and a tendency to overgeneralize incidents and activities are some of the most common cognitive distortions. When a high level of stress is involved, cognitive distortions often manifest through negative thoughts or feelings, self-defeatism or a lack of confidence.
When trying to overcome such occurrences, start by simply recognizing when such thoughts enter your mind. Over time, this practice will allow you to minimize or avoid such thoughts altogether and focus on your goals, aspirations and dreams.
4. Establish a Quiet Space at Work
Although this isn’t a viable solution in every scenario or at every jobsite, establishing a quiet space for you and your peers can go a long way in fighting workplace stress. As workplace pressure from managers, supervisors and co-workers is cited as the top cause of stress within the United States today, it’s easy to see how a separate room, cubicle or section meant for quiet relaxation and reflection could actually increase the productivity of nearly any company.
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5. Focus on the Biggest and Most Important Tasks
If you have a tendency to take on too much work or responsibility on a day-to-day basis, you may actually be the cause of much of your own stress. In this case, try to focus on the important tasks and let go of the small, menial or meaningless activities. Apart from freeing up some of your personal time and lowering your overall stress, the effective prioritization of your daily responsibilities can actually lead to greater productivity around the home and on the job.
6. Develop Your Self-Confidence
Stress is often caused by a lack of self-confidence. While some are more naturally confident than others, it’s a trait that can work wonders when trying to eliminate stress. To develop your self-confidence, try focusing on the positive traits about your character, your appearance and even your thoughts. Remind yourself of your achievements thus far as well as your future goals and, if necessary, devise a mental map of your path to success. These CBT exercises for stress will build poise and assurance in nearly every circumstance.
Lowering Stress Now and in the Future
Now that you’re familiar with some of the most effective and popular CBT exercises, it’s time to put them to good use. Whether you’re tackling your stress on your own, with the help of a friend or through the advice of a professional, discovering what works best for you is the key to lowering your current stress level and preventing it from returning in the future.