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Retrain Your Brain: The Key to Anxiety Relief

By September 20, 2016Article

Every day in my practice at the Renewed Freedom Center, I see patients seeking anxiety relief. In order to gain relief from anxiety, the first step is to understand what it is and why we experience it. Anxiety is the result when a person perceives danger. Anxiety is not unhealthy or abnormal. However, for some of us, anxiety elevates to a level that distorts reality. When we get stuck in these “mind traps,” that is when stress and anxiety spirals out of control.

We believe our thoughts to be valid and accurate. In reality, our thoughts and belief systems are often flawed with biases and misperceptions, especially when we experience anxiety. They often don’t reflect what is truly happening externally to one’s self. To overcome anxiety, you must learn to confront your fears and identify the flaws in your thinking in order to modify your beliefs to more accurately reflect reality. So how do I work with patients to achieve long-lasting anxiety relief?

Cognitive-Behavioral Training (CBT) has repeatedly shown over the last 30 years to be the most effective approach for decreasing stress, worries, and anxiety. Brain scans conducted by leading researchers over the last decade have proven that by changing the way you think and behave, you’re actually creating new neuro-pathways in your brain. In essence, CBT is basically exercise for the brain. The more you flex those brain muscles, the stronger you become.

The Cognitive Component in CBT teaches you to identify negative thinking patterns that aren’t serving you. These mental thought traps are basically negative self-talk that causes havoc to your emotional and physical health. Unfortunately, many people are oblivious to the negative thought traps and unproductive behaviors that lead to stress and anxiety. When you make such comments as, “Why does this always happen to me?” “I should be better.” “I hate…” or “I can’t…”, you will likely also engage in ways that won’t help to resolve the situation, thereby, creating more undue stress. Correcting these negative thought patterns allow you to adopt more accurate perspectives about yourself, situations, and the world, so you can engage with life in more productive ways.

The Behavioral Component helps to weaken the connections between troublesome situations and your habitual reactions to them. Such reactions as fear, depression, or anger are self-defeating behaviors that cloud your ability to think logically and inhibit your capacity to resolve stressful situations healthily. Mindfulness training, intentional breathing, and yoga practice assist this process by providing methods to calm your mind and body, so you can feel less stressed, think more clearly, make better decisions, and approach the problem situation with more adaptive skills.

To achieve anxiety relief, CBT is the evidence-based approach. It is short-term with lasting benefits. It provides you with specific tools to overcome the mind traps that hold you prisoner to stress and anxiety. Unlike medications that come with a whole host of negative side effects, a more effective solution for defeating anxiety permanently is through training your brain with CBT.

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