Cognitive Techniques for Stress Management

Cognitive-behavioral therapists use cognitive techniques to help people reduce their stress and deal with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic 1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a short-term therapy that focuses on how people's thoughts affect their emotions and behaviors 1. Understanding this concept helps people learn how to combat negative thinking and decrease stress.

Recognize Negative Thoughts

To help a person recognize irrational and negative thinking, a cognitive-behavioral therapist may instruct the client to stop at least five times a day and write down his thoughts and how he’s feeling at those moments 1. During the next session, the therapist will review these notes with the client and help him recognize negative thoughts.

Changing Your Thoughts

After the therapist has worked with the client to recognize negative thoughts, he will help her change those thoughts into positive ones. The Cognitive Therapy Center of Long Island reports that people who think about stress as a challenge and an opportunity recover more quickly than people who let the stress defeat them by thinking about it as overpowering. If you think that there’s no hope to change the stressful situation you’re encountering, then you’re less likely to move on in a healthy way.

One technique therapists employ when helping their clients change their thoughts is to teach them how to reframe negative thinking. For example, the client might say, “I’ve never done it before.” The therapist would reframe that thought to, “It’s a chance for you to learn something new.”

Problem-Solving Skills

Cognitive-behavioral therapists help their clients learn how to tackle problems in healthy ways 1. Instead of wallowing in bed and procrastinating, the client is expected to practice problem-solving and stress-reducing techniques. The therapist may teach the client to make a list of steps to solve a large problem instead of becoming overwhelmed by it. A client who experiences stress due to a large project at work may be asked to list the small things he needs to do to finish the project, then start completing those small tasks one step at a time.