Simple ABC Technique for Stress & Anxiety
Updated: Aug 11, 2019
A = Awareness – notice what triggers your stress/anxiety:
Keep a simple diary, noting what you have found yourself worrying about each day. You can start to build awareness about what leads to you feeling stress or anxious.
Look for patterns, i.e. is there a day of the week, which is worst, do you find yourself worrying more when you see a certain person, what do you say to yourself when you are getting anxious.
Identify Your Thinking Errors
- Black or White thinking: ‘You’re with me or against me’, ‘Take it or leave it.’
- Over-generalisation: ‘This is just my luck, something always goes wrong for me…’
- Filtering: ‘I told you so, I knew it would happen.’
- Disqualifying the positives: “Yes, but …’
- Mind Reading: ‘I know they don’t like me …’
- Catastrophising: ‘It’s all hopeless, the end of the world…’ - start playing a movie in your head
- Magical thinking: ‘Oh everything happens for a reason…’
- Predicting the future: ‘Believing that we know what is going to happen in the future’
- What if thinking: ‘What if this happens’
- Blaming and labelling: ‘I am so stupid’
B = Breathing - How to handle panic:
As soon as you start to feel anxious, concentrate on your breathing.
Take deep breaths in through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.
Imagine you are trying to inflate a balloon in your tummy (directing the in breath to the bottom of your lungs).
Breathe. You may feel that you can’t, but you can. Just concentrate on your breathing.
Slow down your breathing and try to relax.
If you can count to ten slowly in your mind, breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth as you count slowly.
Tell yourself you are OK.
Place your feet firmly on the ground and look around and notice what is around you.
Just concentrate on relaxed breathing.
Breathing slowly and deeply allows your brain and body the chance to switch off your “Fight, Flight, Freeze” response.
*Practice deep breathing often, create a new habit and train your brain/body, this is what it feels like to be relaxed.
C = Control – Get back in control and calm down:
Challenge your unhelpful thinking, once you have identified that you are using unhelpful thinking, challenge your thinking by asking questions such as:
- Do I have any evidence to back up my thought?
- Would this stand up in a court of law?
- Am I thinking negatively about myself?
- Are my thoughts based on facts?
- Am I disaster movie thinking?
- Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
- Where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10?
- What would you say to a friend who had this thought in a similar situation?
- How will you feel about this in 6 months’ time?
Progressive muscle relaxation technique
- Its important to retrain our brains and bodies, how feels to be relaxed. When we are suffering with stress and anxiety we often forget what it feels like to be calm and relaxed. This is a great exercise to do just before you go to sleep.
- Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths. Breathing in through your nose and our through your mouth. Establish a calm breathing pattern.
- When you’re ready, focus first on your right foot.
- Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Like you are trying to pick a tennis ball up with your foot.
- Hold for a count of 10.
-Then relax your foot. Notice how your foot feels as it becomes limp and relaxed.
- Next focus on your left foot. Again trying to pick that tennis ball up for 10 seconds and then relaxing the foot.
- Move slowly up through your body, tensing and then relaxing the different muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation sequence:
o Right foot, then left foot - imagine picking a tennis ball up with your foot
o Right calf, then left calf - pushing your heals down as far as you can
o Right thigh, then left thigh- pull your toes up towards your nose.
o Hips and buttocks - imagine cracking a nut between your buttocks
o Pelvic floor - pull up like an elevator, floor by floor - the muscles that stop you weeing
o Stomach - suck in your tummy to your back - loose a few inches.
o Lungs/Chest - breathing in and holding for as long as is comfortable for you. Don't make yourself il or turn blue.
o Hands - make tight fist with both hands.
o Right arm, then left arm - stretch out and lift hand towards you - feeling the tension
o Shoulders - hunch your shoulders up to try to touch your ears
o Face - wrinkle your face, make a funny face
o Eyes - scrunch your eyes up and then open - be careful if you are wearing contacts/false eyelashes or a monocle
*Just stretch as good as you can and do what is comfortable for you. Enjoy the relaxation.