“When we aren’t rehashing the past or rehearsing the future we are in the present moment and are better equipped to feel and understand what emotions we are having so we can better decide how to deal with them.”– Dr. Rosy Benedicto
Life has never been easy, and with this current pandemic, it’s brought on some new challenges for all of us. Feelings of anxiety or depression are experienced on so many levels every day. However, when you’re stuck at home either with roommates, 20 family members, or just by yourself – it can create a pressure pot inside your brain.
The trick is to find healthy coping mechanisms or techniques to help you move past these negative feelings.
RAW’s Industry Exchange brought in LA-based psychologist, Dr. Rosy Benedicto for an interview during last year’s Mental Health Awareness month of May. During the interview, Dr. Benedicto describes CBT as one of the most well-established evidence-based therapies available. She also brings up that CBT is a great way to more effectively reduce mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic, etc.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a goal-oriented, short-term treatment in which both client and therapist work collaboratively to solve problematic thinking and behavior in order to resolve difficulties and change negative emotions. The basis for CBT is that our physical symptoms, thoughts, and what we do are all inter-connected. CBT can be practiced in various formats, such as: one-on-one sessions, group sessions, or by yourself. When practicing CBT by yourself you can receive guidance from a CBT self-help book, online workbooks/resources, or apps.
Below is a list of techniques and valuable resources that can help you get started on your CBT journey during quarantine.
START AT THE BEGINNING WITH YOUR ABC’S
The ABC approach is a great tool to map out any negative cycles. Physical symptoms are under “Autonomic”, what we do is under “Behaviour”, and thoughts are under “Cognitions”.
- “Autonomic” = Physical symptoms
- “Behaviour” = What we do
- “Cognitions” = Thoughts
THE 3 C’S:
This exercise focuses on the thought. Many times when we experience anxious thoughts, those thoughts aren’t completely true. So going through this process of asking yourself the right questions may help ease the anxiety.
- Catch it: What is the thought?
- Check it: What’s the evidence that this thought is true? What’s the evidence against it?
- Change it: What’s an Evidence-Based/Alternative Thought?
To practice the two previous methods you need to be in the present moment. If you experience dissociation or moments of anxiety where your brain is flooding with thoughts (and catching thoughts becomes an impossible task) – start with a grounding technique.
- Stomping your feet
- Holding a familiar object
- Breath: utilize breathing or relaxation techniques
- Image or Phrase
- Images: Imagining yourself walking along a quiet beach
- Phrases: “I am safe”
- Touch: Walking barefoot, petting your dog, etc.
- Taste: Chewing gum
- Smell: Smelling a flower
- Sight: Keep your eyes open, look around the room, notice your surroundings, notice details
- Auditory: Listening to the birds and the wind
Dr. Benedicto says when we try to suppress what is naturally happening in our brains this can cause a lot of suffering over time. If trying to negotiate with your brain about what’s true and what isn’t true feels like trying to get a monkey to stand still, it might be best to try the mindfulness approach.
- Judgment-free, notice the negative thought or behavior when it’s happening.
- Redirect your attention to what you’re doing at that moment (i.e. your work or your breath).
- Practice makes perfect! Consistency with this practice will make the thoughts become less powerful.
So now it’s time to try focusing on your behaviors. This method is all about increasing your activity level. Dr. Benedicto brought up that sometimes we often decide to “sleep in” because it seems very comfortable at that moment. However, in the long run, it may impact us negatively. So, if going for a run just seems impossible, start with something easier like a 10-minute yoga video, and you’ll start to see your energy level shift.
- ROUTINE – Regular types of activities we do often or every day. (Ex: waking up, general hygiene, cleaning the house, cooking, etc.)
- NECESSARY – Activities which we do for enjoyment (Ex: hobbies, hanging with loved ones, walks, sports, going to the movies, etc.)
- PLEASURABLE ACTIVITIES – things you would like to be doing, things you may have stopped doing since you felt low.
- Sort: Sort the list from easy to difficult (Make sure to label the activity with: ROUTINE, NECESSARY, or PLEASURABLE).
- Schedule: Start with easy activities, then build up to tougher ones over time, but don’t be afraid to mix it up!
*Utilize SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals to ensure the activity is specific and achievable.
- Do it: Follow the plan and not the mood! This is something you won’t regret.
- Reflect: After a week, reflect on what activities you managed to do.
- How did completing these activities impacted your mood?
- What are some other activities you could schedule for next week?
- If any activities were difficult to finish, ask your self why and consider:
- More achievable alternatives or breaking the activity down
- Calling a friend or partner to help you