Stress is a normal and expected part of everyday life – in fact, 58% of Canadian workers are stressed on a daily basis. It normal stems from a specific event, such as receiving multiple deadlines at work or being stuck in traffic on your way to drop the kids off at school, and your reaction to it.
This latter point is particularly important. It’s not the event itself that causes stress, but rather how you think, feel, or behave once it’s taken place. This can include worrying, feeling a tightness in your chest, or blowing up in anger when faced with an uncomfortable situation.
Simply put, what makes a situation stressful is how the client perceives it, feels about it, and reacts to it. Fortunately, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective way of learning to manage stress because it focuses on a client’s reaction to an event.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) & Stress Relief
Negative thoughts and behaviors can create more stress, affect your health, and make your existing emotional state worse. Your bad mood can also be pervasive, affecting those around you and causing you to treat loved ones and colleagues in a less-than-friendly way.
At its core, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on the fact that the way we think about events or react to them is what causes stress. For example, let’s say two cars are caught in traffic. While one driver might take the opportunity to catch up on their favorite podcast, the other driver might only be able to fixate on the time that they’re losing.
CBT teaches clients how to put a positive spin on stressful situations. This includes changing their way of thinking, practicing mindfulness, and using problem solving skills when faced with a challenge.
Some stressors cannot be controlled, such as a job you are unable to quit. A psychotherapist will work with clients to learn coping behaviors and techniques that will make stress easier to manage. This can include:
• Learning to Prioritize: When your to do list seems to be growing a mile a minute, you might find your stress levels rising in order to meet these increasing demands. A psychotherapist will help implement a way to prioritize tasks and let go of things that you have no control over or are comparatively unimportant.
• Use Probability: Many who suffer from high levels of stress are prone to thinking of the worst-case scenario when faced with a challenge. Therapists focus on keeping these destructive thoughts at bay by realistically assessing the likelihood of a terrible outcome.
• Monitor Your Mood: One of the best ways to take control of negative thoughts or behaviors is first to recognize them. Whether it’s keeping a journal or recording voice memos, you might be challenged to document a stressful or upsetting event. This can include the feelings you’re experiencing and the thoughts going through your head. Looking back at these notes later, especially once the event has passed, can help you challenge your thoughts and realize that they might be distorted or needlessly negative.
Top 10 Best Therapists
As one of Canada’s top 10 best psychotherapists, Melissa Cutler has spent the past 20 years gaining clinical and research experience across hospital, community and public sector settings, including as a social worker. With advanced training in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), trauma counselling and chronic pain management, she helps clients manage their stress levels in healthy and constructive ways. Book online for a psychotherapy appointment at her office on Yonge and Lawrence near the subway