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8 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques to Reduce Workplace Stress

Are you dealing with workplace stress?

A report from June 2020 reveals that 40% of the U.S. population is grappling with burnout, job-related uncertainty, and other work-related stressors.

Basically, you’re not alone—and you’ve heard it before, but these are trying times.

While sleep, diet, exercise, and proper communication can help mitigate workplace stress, there are a number of other techniques at your disposal as well. Among them are those associated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes CBT as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.

The practice is designed to help a patient reframe their thoughts and beliefs rather than focusing on their actions. There’s a marked emphasis on mindset—on shifting the way we think, and on transforming the way we see the world (for the better).

Though therapy is far too often stigmatized, it shouldn’t be. Fortunately, it’s been increasingly normalized—with methods like CBT being touted as solutions to the problems we face in our daily lives. Many experts believe that everyone can benefit from CBT.

With that, here are eight CBT techniques you might integrate into your life in order to reduce workplace stress:

1. Letting Go of the Past

Relinquishing the past can be challenging. We may focus on outcomes that we wish to change, or experiences that to this day don’t sit right with us.

The good thing here is that we can let go. It may sound easier said than done, but we have a number of strategies at our disposal—for example, we can examine what we learned from difficult experiences instead of lingering on what went wrong.

By shifting our perspective in this way, we can embrace the present and future instead of dwelling on the past.

2. Focusing on Probability

Dealing with a tough project? Concerned your boss is going to be angry with you about potentially missing a deadline?

Instead of allowing these thoughts to overtake your mind, you might focus on the probability of something terrible actually happening.

So the next time you worry about what might happen at work, ask yourself: What’s the likelihood of something bad occurring here?

When you realize—and accept—that you may well experience a positive outcome instead, you can lessen stress and anxiety. It’s easy to catastrophize the situations we find ourselves in, but doing so really isn’t necessary in most cases.

3. Steering Clear of Magnifying and Minimizing

Magnifying and minimizing are common practices known as distortions.

Perhaps you think that after a tense encounter with a colleague, that person simply hates you. You might assume that moving forward, they’ll go out of their way to make your life miserable.

This is highly unlikely. It’s also a form of magnifying.

What’s minimizing, you might ask? It’s the equally unfortunate practice of diminishing the positive. If you earn an award or are recognized for a job well done, and you deny the achievement, you may well be minimizing your contributions.

To improve your mindset, you’ll want to steer clear of this as well.

4. Avoiding Generalizations

All my bosses have treated me horribly, so of course this one will too.

I won’t get promoted because every company I’ve worked at has passed me up for someone else.

I calculated the numbers wrong. I’m hopeless—I must really suck at math.

These are all examples of generalizations. CBT will encourage you to shift your thinking and avoid jumping to conclusions in this way. A one-time or even periodic negative occurrence doesn’t mean you should make generalizations about yourself (or others).

Ultimately, you’ll be much happier if you avoid generalizations altogether—which brings us to our next technique.

5. Engage in Cognitive Restructuring

Tired of seeing the world in black-and-white?

Now you don’t have to. If you think your thoughts are spiraling, and you find yourself engaging in destructive black-and-white thinking, step back for a moment.

And engage in some cognitive restructuring—a popular CBT technique.

First, focus on your negative belief.

Second, make a list of thoughts in support of that belief.

Then, you’ll want to list items that contradict that belief.

At this point, the evidence laid out before you will help you see things more clearly. It will allow you to recognize the complexity of most situations and start seeing the world in color.

6. Conduct a Cognitive Flip

Feeling out of control?

Give your thinking the overhaul it deserves by completing a cognitive flip. This will help you reduce stress by focusing on what you can control.

Begin this process by considering a specific situation: for instance, your infant in the next room while you work virtually during the pandemic, who keeps crying during your meetings.

Next, ask yourself what actions—no matter how small—you might take to improve the situation:

· Conduct meetings in another room.

· Have your spouse spend time with the child during your meetings. You can return the favor!

· Hire a trusted babysitter who’s a part of your “COVID bubble” to care for your child during the busiest parts of the workday.

· Accept the reality of the situation, acknowledge it in your meetings, and no longer allow it to bother you.

You may well find that you’re more in control of the situation than you previously thought. By relinquishing your powerlessness and focusing on what you can do, you’ll be in a much better emotional state.

7. Exploring the Fallacy of Fairness

It’s human nature to linger on what we feel is or isn’t just or fair—but are these thoughts truly serving us?

While an objective focus on fairness can help us work toward a more egalitarian society, many of us take our preoccupation to the extreme. Life simply isn’t always fair, and in many cases, there isn’t much we can do about this.

By exploring the fallacy of fairness at work and in life, we can accept that not every negative outcome targets us directly—and that not every disappointing situation is a matter of fairness, no matter how unjust it may seem.

8. Journaling Your Thoughts

Journaling and mood monitoring go hand-in-hand.

By taking time each day—or at the very least each week—to journal our thoughts and feelings, we can gather and evaluate our belief systems and moods all in one place.

A CBT journal might include the time and source of the mood or thought in question, the intensity of the emotion(s) involved, and the reaction(s) you leveraged to deal with it.

While this technique may appear time-consuming, it can actually be efficient once you get a handle on it. And the benefits of reexamining your thought patterns, core beliefs, and emotional reactions are expansive.

This practice will equip you with the tools needed to identify and change your negative thoughts, and to adapt or cope with even the most stressful situations. Whether you prefer pen-and-paper or a Google Doc, we can’t recommend this strategy enough.

The truth is that there’s no better time than the present to start practicing self-care. And whether you choose to consult a therapist or integrate CBT into your life independently, we can’t recommend these techniques enough.

Have questions or comments on the benefits of CBT? Please share them below, or contact us for more information.

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