Managing Anxiety: CBT Techniques I've Learnt And That Work

If you're a regular reader of my blog then you'll know I've had my battles with anxiety over the years, but never more so than I did a few months back. At the end of February I had some unexpected problems with my health that I am still in the process of getting to the bottom of. The health problems kicked off what became quite severe health anxiety and the health anxiety caused quite intense horrible panic attacks. At the time, it felt like the fog would never clear, but with the help of some pretty amazing people around me, including my wonderful Husband and my Mum, as well as time being a great healer and some sessions with a CBT therapist, I have learnt how to feel on top of my anxiety and my health and can now see that the fog has cleared.

When I was going through my worst, I felt such an overwhelming support from so many of you - so many of you offered advice, sent nice messages and some of you even shared your own experiences with me. It mean't so much to me at what was quite a scary time and now that I am better I feel like I want to sit down and tell you about what worked for me and what could (hopefully) work for you too.

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Anxiety is different for everyone, but these are some of the things that have really helped me..

1. Write down how you feel, get everything in your head down on paper. Take a few moments and then go back to it. Now re-read what you've written but imagine it was a friend who was talking to you and asking for your advice. What would you say to them? Write down your reply. This will help you with two things: 1. Writing down all of your anxious/overwhelming thoughts might make you realise that there isn't quite as much going on as you thought. And 2. You wshould be able to approach and challenge your thoughts with a different clearer perspective if you imagine you're giving advice to a friend.

2. Get familiar with 'Unhelpful Thinking Habits'. Understanding these will help you to understand how and why you are feeling anxious. Once you recognise which of the unhelpful thinking habits you're mind is often having, you can start to notice them more and then start to challenge them naturally. This has been one of the best things for me, I now naturally stop myself when I notice my mind having one of these unhelpful thinking habits.

3. Read The Chimp Paradox. I've not been asked to write about this book, nor was I gifted it. I picked it up in Waterstones, realised it was going to be brilliant for me and then bought it on Amazon where it was cheapest. I am only a little way in and already it's helped to change the way I think. From what I've read so far, it helps the reader to see their brain as two sides - the chimp side (the emotional side) and the human side (the practical side). It explains how sometimes our chimp side can try and be in control and take over and how we can learn to manage our chimp. Like I said, I'm only a little way in but I honestly think this is one of the best books I have bought in years.

4. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Which rises first with your breathing? For me, it's usually my chest but apparently, this is typical for someone who feels anxious. When you feel relaxed and calm, apparently your stomach will rise up first. Being aware of this helps me to try and calm my anxiety down especially when I am struggling with physical anxiety.

5. Change the focus of your attention. If you notice physical anxiety or anxious thoughts acknowledge that those feelings are there, but try not to let them become the focus of your attention. Try and carry on as normal as much as possible to distract yourself away from unhelpful thoughts or anxious physical feelings by doing things that you know will take your mind off of things and stop you from thinking inwards, whether that's watching a comedy, going for a walk, playing with your kids etc. If you're in bed, there are some things you can do such as trace the room with your eyes, describe out loud or in your head what you can see (imagine you're describing the room to someone who can't see it). When I was at my worst with insomnia I would count backwards from 100 to help me to distract my mind and help me get to sleep.

6. View anxiety as just your body's alarm system. It's a bit like a car alarm in that it's there to protect you. Sometimes however, that alarm goes off when it doesn't need to (also like a car alarm). And remember no matter how awful it can sometimes make you feel, the feelings do and will pass. You've got through it before, you'll get through it again. Focus on how you'll feel when the alarm turns off and it passes.

7. Start small with anxieties that have become fears. Avoiding things that make you anxious completely, from experience, doesn't help. So write down what it is that makes you anxious, or what scares you about whatever it is. Then order those worries in order of worst to least, start with the least and work your way up until you finally feel able to confront your anxiety.

8. Talk, open up and don't ever feel ashamed or embarrassed. If you had a headache you'd take tablets to feel better. If you had ongoing pain in your leg you'd seek help, speak about it to professionals and do what you could to feel better. Anxiety is the same thing after all our mind is just another part of our body.

9. Work out what is triggering your anxiety by writing down where you are / who you are with / what you are doing. See if you can see any patterns to it. Then refer back to the unhelpful thinking habits and see if you can challenge any of your thoughts or work out if there is anything you can do physically to help ease your anxiety.

It's also worthwhile taking some time to practise mindfulness activities, Claire from Life, Love and Dirty Dishes has shared 10 mindfullness activities to make you feel happy and content over on her blog and I'd really recommend trying them out and making them a part of your everyday routine.

I hope this post has been helpful. Please do feel free to share your tips with me below and let me know if any of these have resonated with you.

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Thank you for reading. 
  Alex xo 


  1. These are great tips. I suffer with depression and anxiety so reading tips from someone else who has been through it really helps

  2. Great tips. So helpful. I've shared it with a friend too. Thank you x

  3. I've heard some great things about CBT from different people, sadly it isn't a therapy that works on me but I am so glad it does on some others.

  4. I totally agree that you should talk and not feel ashamed or worried about admitting you're suffering x

  5. I too am going through a health scare which has triggered some serious anxiety. This is a very helpful and informative post, thank you! Wishing you all the best with your own health journey.

  6. Amazing tips hunny some I do already to manage my own anxiety. I think my hubby has this book I need to read it now. You have come so far so proud of you. And you have been so supportive for me during my health issues myself thank you ever so much. Big hugs. We got this!!!

  7. Amazing post Alex, I had really bad anxiety in my 20's and while its never gone away I've learnt over the years how to try and control it. Sometimes I struggle but I always get through it in the end.

  8. This is such a helpful post. As someone who has suffered with anxiety for years, these tips are so useful. I really like your car alarm analogy!

  9. Those are all definitely going to help with anxiety. It's good to find what works best for you so you can overcome anxiety as fast as possible. I hope people who deal with anxiety get to read this post. So helpful.

  10. The chimp paradox book sounds like it's been a great help. Thanks for the tips

  11. I've heard good things about CBT. These are some really helpful tips for people suffering with anxiety, sometimes you just don't know where to turn.

  12. I love all of these tips. I would love to study CBT at some point as part of my coaching training.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I especially like tips No. 5 and 6. I have anxiety and have worked with CBT a bit, I find it helps me sometimes. I also want to look into DBT (Dialectal Behaviour Therapy). I recently took a few courses/groups at my local mental health resource centre- Food and Mood, Stress and Anxiety and 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Those have helped and also it's been good to talk to people in similar situations.

    Hope you're feeling a bit better. :)


  14. The most difficult part for me is to accept that I suffer from anxiety in the first place. I consider myself to be weak when I'm anxious or depressed. This means that it only piles up until it explodes. I have a lot of work to do.