Carol the Coach: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

My grandmother always said “let nothing disturb the harmony of your thoughts“. Even in the 1950’s she knew that we all have the power to control how we think which in part controls how we feel and what we believe.

Her words of wisdom parallel one of the most effective types of therapy in mental health called cognitive behavioral therapy ( CBT). It is a model that advocates identifying what issues you are facing, your feelings about those issues, the thoughts behind the issue, and identifying any negativity within those thoughts.
CBT would ask you to write out the situation, identify the feelings attached to the issue and the many thoughts accompanying the problem. Next you would ask yourself what is the worst thought attached to the problem?

 Let’s take the common tax situation that occurs in April. This task can become arduous if you are claiming  deductions and are hoping for a tax refund. As you are gathering your materials, there is some trepidation about the event. Will you have saved all the needed information, will you have the appropriate time to find your documentation , will your taxes be audited, will your filings be accurate, and will you get a tax refund or will you pay?

I confess that I can have some negative feelings about tax time. Here is how I felt and how I adjusted my thinking.

 My thoughts: I feel some dread that it’s going to be a long difficult task. I feel some anticipatory anxiety that I am not sure whether I will do it properly and or get money back. I feel some anger that I didn’t start this process earlier. I believe doing my taxes will take a very long time. I feel some fear that I may owe some money for the 2018 tax year. The tax laws have changed and I am anxious that I will owe lots of money. I will have to dip into my savings that I am working so diligently on accumulating.

My hot thought—the  most uncomfortable thought: This is going to take me a long time to get it finished.

 With CBT you identify evidence that proves your worst fears and  evidence that disproves it. You put together a more realistic statement that supports the new thought you have created and then you identify how you feel with your new thought.

The evidence that proves it will take a long time to do my taxes: In the past, I’ve spent 10 to 12 hours compiling all my information. Evidence that disproves it is that I can do my taxes and find ways to enjoy the time. I can watch all my favorite shows that I have pre-recorded, or I can listen to music that I normally don’t get an opportunity to listen to while I do my taxes. When I combine watching my favorite tv shows or listening to my favorite music while doing my taxes, I feel better with a sense of excitement that I am going to enjoy this process which alters my fear that it’s going to be a long, laborious task. I have changed that “gloom and doom” to a feeling of “excitement/enthusiasm” which totally changes my experience and as a result makes my taxes feel a lot better.

It just makes so much more sense to look at things with a realistic but positive spin because we must go through them anyway, so we might as well find ways to enjoy them!