Understanding our emotions using CBT resources can be a powerful way to manage overwhelming feelings or thoughts. By understanding of the evolutionary purpose of our emotions, we can relate to them better and learn ways to settle our minds and bodies. We can use mindfulness meditations to help us manage our emotions and thoughts. Here is a CBT worksheet to understand the fight or flight response when we are feeling threatened.
CBT Resources – Anxiety and the body
This explains why we feel so differently when we are anxious, irritated, frustrated or angry compared to when we are relaxed. This is our bodies natural automatic response to threat. It signals to us to take action now. We need this response to keep us safe and to protect us from being violated or our loved ones from being violated. We have evolved to fight or run away and this is still sometimes the best way for us to respond to threat. However, at times it may not be the best way to deal with our difficulties. This is the trade off of evolution. It’s not a perfect design. But we can learn how to deal with difficult emotions rather than reacting to them, as our bodies urge us to do.
This page contains mindfulness exercises to help us respond differently to our natural automatic reactions in our minds and bodies. If you find these resources helpful and would like to learn more, get in touch for CBT coaching sessions by contacting the team here.
Mindfulness exercises involving our breath, body and our senses can be helpful ways of managing when we are experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, depression or stress. By using mindfulness, we can help ourselves create a more secure and grounded feeling. By deliberately engaging in a mindfulness exercise, we are signally to our mind that we are safe, that we can cope. We are creating an anchor to hold us steady whilst feeling strong emotions until they pass. The aim is not to try to get rid of thoughts and feelings, as this is an impossible task. Our body will likely make us feel our emotion more intensely or it will be exhausted trying not to feel or think. Instead we are finding a hook, a sense of control whilst the storm is happening.
Simple breathing exercise is designed to train the body and mind in attention and focus. There are other breathing exercises where you can count the breath, but this technique is about practicing bringing your attention to your breathing as often as your mind wanders, which may be often in a short exercise. Your mind is wired to think and to keep your attention on thoughts. This exercise helps you to relate to your thoughts and feelings differently by training you to notice when your attention wanders and then without judgement return your attention on the breath.
The rate and rhythm of breath which you find comfortable may vary each time. So initially it is worth taking a little time to find your rhythm before settling into a pattern which feels comfortable. There’s no rush to find the right pace; just keep your in and out breaths of equal length, without holding your breath at any point.
You can experiment and be playful with these exercise. There’s is no right or or wrong way to practice, just set aside a few minutes a day to give it a go and you will soon get the hang of it.
Mindfulness Meditation Exercises
Here is an audio of a guided simple breathing exercise using mindfulness
Here is an audio of a guided breathing exercise for relieving tension from the body
Here is an audio exercise to help accept distress
Here is an expansion exercise from Russ Harris’ The Happiness Trap book
Workbooks – CBT resources
Here are three workbooks to help manage the emotional difficulties of managing through a pandemic.
If you are interested in more CBT resources and self help materials check out NHS mood juice website here: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health.