Stop Your Social Anxiety with a Cognitive Behavior Therapy Worksheet
Are you interested in how to use a cognitive behavior therapy worksheet for social anxiety? If you’d like to sign up for the free worksheets, jump to the bottom of this post. Otherwise, let’s dive in.
I first learned about behavior therapy when I was an undergraduate student. Part of my class involved doing a practicum, and each student was responsible for administering behavior therapy for a phobia to a client.
My “client” was dealing with a public speaking phobia. We met once a week and engaged in two different behavior therapy techniques: progressive muscle relaxation and imaginal exposure.
What this meant was that my client relaxed in a lazy-boy chair closed her eyes, and followed a serious of prompts to relax every muscle in her body. At the point that she was completely relaxed, I gradually had her imagine the situations that she feared.
Whenever she started to feel anxious, she signaled that to me by raising her index finger. Then we’d back off, do some more relaxation training, and try again. Over the course of about 8 weeks, we did this until she could imagine public speaking without fear. Then, she went into a real-life situation and faced her fear with much less anxiety.
The process worked, and I know that it worked because the previous year that “client” had been me.
While it would be several years later before I would be introduced to the “cognitive” part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, I always knew that our power lies in our ability to be aware of our thoughts and manage them.
I know you’re probably very new to the idea of cognitive-behavioral therapy and maybe are worried it will be a lot of work or confusing. While it does involve work on your part, it’s essentially a process of repeating the same set of steps until it becomes automatic. If you can learn to do it once, then all you need to do is practice.
One way to make this practice easier is to use a cognitive behavior therapy worksheet. Below I will give you the Coles Notes version of how to use a cognitive behavior therapy worksheet.
If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can sign up at the bottom of this post to receive your own cognitive behavior therapy worksheet that will help you challenge your socially anxious thoughts.
Identify Dysfunctional Thinking Patterns
Dysfunctional thinking patterns hold you back from overcoming social anxiety, depression, and many other mental health issues. Often times, you probably don’t even realize that they are happening.
To get a handle on my own dysfunctional thinking patterns, I started using an app called “Woebot” that helps you narrow down what types of thoughts you are having and replace them with more helpful ones.
I found that I was most likely to fall into the trap of “black or white” thinking, meaning that I see things as all good or all bad. That a situation is going well or it’s a disaster. This could easily play into social anxiety, such that you think you must act perfectly in every situation or it’s ruined.
I go over all the different kinds of negative thinking patterns in the cognitive behavior therapy worksheet that you can sign up for at the end of this post.
Understand How Thoughts Affect You
How do your negative thoughts affect you? In my case, if I was having those black-or-white thought moments, what would happen was that I started to spiral into negativity.
For you, in a social situation, that might mean thinking that there’s no point in trying anymore or that nobody likes you. Then, in turn, you would have more anxious behaviors, which would bring about the exact outcome you were trying to avoid.
(Watch the video below to hear how a therapist describes one CBT exercise you can use to start tracking your thoughts)
Track Your Negative Automatic Thoughts
The first step to managing your negative automatic thoughts is to start becoming aware of them. Eventually, you will be able to do this without having to pull out a pen and paper.
However, when you’re just getting started, it helps to keep a written record so you can start to see the patterns that develop. Once you start to recognize your patterns, it will be much easier to identify them on the fly. After doing this for a long time, I can quickly catch when I’m falling into black or white thinking.
Challenge Thoughts and Develop Coping Statements
It’s not enough just to catch your negative automatic thoughts—you’ve also got to challenge them and then develop coping statements to replace them. For example, if my negative automatic thought was,
“She’s frowning at me, I must have said something that she didn’t like. She thinks I’m an idiot.”
Take a moment and ask yourself how realistic that thought is in light of the situation. What you’re trying to do here is be totally objective and only use information that you can be absolutely sure of—not what you think might be true. Because we’ve already established that you can’t trust what your brain is telling you.
In this case, my coping statement might be, “She’s frowning, but I don’t actually know why. Maybe it has nothing to do with me. Why don’t I ask her a question in case there’s something on her mind.”
You see, this isn’t about being unrealistic and painting everything in a positive light. Instead, it’s about getting really clear on what’s a fact and what’s a story your mind is telling you.
That’s a very top-level overview of the cognitive part of using a cognitive behavior therapy worksheet. Of course, if you are afraid of social or performance situations, you would also eventually add in an exposure component.
If you’d like a worksheet that walks you through this process of challenging and replacing your thoughts so you can start to make it automatic, there’s a sign-up form at the bottom of the post!
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