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50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety -- page 5
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.

Initial cognitive training teaches the basic skills that help change irrational beliefs or inaccurate thinking.

Index to 50 Tools

Listen to 50 Tools


Initial Cognitive Training

Cognition means “to think.” Cognitive training means to change or improve the process of thinking. Because thinking is such a natural process almost like breathing, people often don't consider that how they think can be changed. However, as you just learned above, how we breathe can have a profound impact on how we feel. The same is true of how we think.

You have learned to think a certain way from all the experiences you've had throughout life. You were not born thinking. You were born experiencing. Thinking developed as you experienced the world, as you interacted with others, as you went to school, as you obtained knowledge. Therefore, you have already been trained to think.

However, some things may have been left out of your training, or you may have learned some inaccurate thinking along the way, or traumatic experiences may have influenced what you learned. Most of us have developed at least some inaccurate thinking in our lives. All you have to do is watch a romantic comedy and you are likely to learn irrational thinking. Or, read a fairy tale: “And they lived happily ever after.” How irrational is that? Yet, many unhappy relationships have been built on the notion that once you meet the right person nothing else is required.

Therefore, we need to think about our thinking. Otherwise our emotions will be influenced by it and our behavior will be driven by it without our consent. That seems sort of funny, doesn't it? To have to give consent to our thinking? Yet, without such consent we are not truly in control of our lives.

Although you are reading this to learn how to manage panic and anxiety, it is necessary to address your thinking in all areas of your life, not just the thinking that is directly related to the anxiety. The reason for this is that any thing that creates stress in your life can contribute to the anxiety you experience. And a big part of our stress is how we perceive problems and how that perception can interfere with resolving problems.

In addition, learning how to maintain balance in life can aid in controlling panic and anxiety. Although the relaxation methods described previously can help create greater balance, often certain thinking styles can interfere with practicing those methods. For instance, the perfectionistic thinking “I have too much to do. I don't have time to relax. I'll relax when all this is done.” interferes with using the relaxation methods. The cognitive training helps to change the thinking about anxiety as well as the thinking related to using the tools presented here.

Suggestion 11: Read Articles About Challenging Thinking

Learning how to recognize the irrational thinking that contributes to anxiety as well as to other problems is the first step to cognitive training. Excel At Life provides many articles about the thinking styles. The best article to start with is How Do We Change Irrational Thinking? It will provide you with an overview of cognitive therapy and how it works. In addition, How to Manage Panic and Anxiety addresses some of the specific thinking related to Panic Disorder.

Once you have a general overview, then read the articles about specific styles of irrational thinking that can contribute to anxiety and depression. In addition, many good CBT books are available. In particular, I recommend anything by David Burns. His latest book “When Panic Attacks” is especially helpful for learning the CBT techniques for managing anxiety.

Reading is not just for understanding the cognitive concepts. It is also to help with changing the thinking. The more you read, the more it helps change your thinking. The reason for this is that the core mechanism of cognitive restructuring is repetition. We change thinking by repeating the new thinking over and over. Thus, reading is a form of repetition and can aid in this process. In fact, many of my clients say that reading the same articles again and again can be helpful. READ MORE: page 6

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