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Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Has Changed My Life

My thoughts on therapy, specifically CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), have been super positive. It’s been lifechanging for me and a really great outlet. I was introduced to Dr. Tulchin through one of my best friends who had post-partum depression. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t think therapy would actually help me, but slowly I see what I’ve learned from my sessions play a part during my anxiety attacks and make them more manageable.

A few tips I picked up: Anxiety is just a thought, a thought that we put weight on. It’s the same thing as thinking “what if I get kidnapped?” but that thought has no weight behind it. To take the weight off, my CBT therapist instructed that I start singing that thought. I’m terrified of flying and worried that my plane will crash. She told me to sing “maybe my plane will crash, maybe my plane will crash, maybe my plane will crash” and once you keep singing out loud, the weight falls off of that thought.

“What if” is exactly what it means. What if? But what if not? Always calculate the risk. The risk and likelihood of whatever you’re worried about happening is SUPER SUPER low.

You have one life. The fact is, it’s inevitable we all don’t live forever. When my therapist said that to me, I started panicking and having severe anxiety. She wanted me to sit with that anxiety for a few minutes and learn to accept the fact that my anxiety will never go away, my weighted thoughts will never disappear, but it’s how I handle them and react to them that will change my anxious feelings.

I’m spending my life (while I’m healthy and happy) worrying about when I won’t be healthy and happy which can either happen or not happen at all. But why waste that time when I’m actually in a good place? When it’s time or if it’s EVER time to cross that bridge, I will. I learned that we are all much stronger than we think.

I was worried that my husband or I would get sick in St. Barths and there were no real hospitals there where we could go if we needed emergency care. I mentioned these thoughts of friends who had been sick on vacation before to my therapist. One had kidney stones and had to fly home and the other had a burst ovarian cyst and had to go to an out-of-the-country hospital. But my therapist asked me this: “Are they okay?” And the answer was yes, they’re absolutely fine and back to their normal everyday lives.

Another tip which I have found super helpful is that when I’m lying in bed and my head goes into a dark place of anxious thoughts, I immediately have to redirect my thoughts to my 5 senses. What do I smell right now? What do I feel right now? What do I taste right now? What do I see right now? What do I hear right now? Redirecting my thoughts to my present senses helps change the direction that my mind goes in almost immediately!

My best friend gave me another tip on my vacation, she said, always ask yourself “is this a life-threatening situation?” The answer the majority of the time is no. There is no need to panic when nothing is happening and it’s just a “what if” thought.

So far this is what I’ve been working on. I’m not a therapist or a doctor but just a girl who deals with anxiety (specifically focusing on health) and trying to change the way I think. I hope some of these tips can help you all.

Illustration by: Hannah Kellner

By Arielle Charnas

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