Stressed? Two Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Tools You Need To Understand


If you are struggling with stress there are two techniques that you need to know. Read on to find out how our Cognitive Behavioural Therapists in London use CBT skills to help our clients reduce their stress levels.

Psychologists and Therapists have many different ways of understanding and defining stress, however there two ways of understanding stress that tend to be most useful to people:

Stress reduction CBT - no stress image


1) External Stressors

2) Internal Stressors


In order to reduce your stress levels take a look at what each type of stress is, and some helpful suggestions to try.

External Stressors:

These are things in your life that mean your basic needs aren’t being met at that time. For example, basic needs such as food, clean water and adequate housing are the most basic needs that we have, but there are others too, such as financial security. If you are stressed, take time to consider whether these are being met as they provide a foundation to other changes you can make. Abraham Maslow, an influential psychologist researched the concepts of needs and argued that we have a hierarchy of needs in which more basic ones should be focused on initially.

In order to ensure that you have a good foundation for reducing your stress levels look at what external stressors are in your life and do the ‘magic wand test’.  This means that for each external stressor imagine what you would change about it in order to reduce the impact it has.  It’s important to remember here though that we’re assessing it from the standpoint of it no longer being a stressor – not trying to make it ideal.  For example, if a basic stressor in your life is financial security your answer to the magic wand question might be ‘having enough money each month to be able to pay the rent’, rather than ‘being able to win the lottery and never work again!’

Internal Stressors:

A key part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the idea that emotions (such as stress) aren’t always a direct result of life situation, but can be a result of how we think or perceive the situation. This is important because it means if you are feeling stressed, how you are viewing the areas that are causing you stress could be vitally important – and it’s this area that we are calling ‘internal stressors.’

A quick way you can check your stress perceptions is to ask yourself two questions:

1) How bad do I think this could this thing could be?
2) How Well do I think I can handle it?

Often, where our perceptions of how bad something is increase, and our perceptions of how well we can handle it do not match, the mismatch between the two is feeling stressed.  However large the gap, tends to indicate the level of stress felt.

What Can I Do Next?

If you notice that you don’t see yourself coping with the tasks that are required, it’s time to problem solve those tasks a different way, or to think about them a different way.

Why not take a look at our article on Common Thinking Errors to give you some ideas of how you are thinking might be increasing your stress levels.

It’s important to remember that often no single alteration you make will lead to large changes to your stress levels, but by systematically working through the range of stressors in your life using these Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tools small changes can add up to larger results.

If you need more help, why not explore how a course of private CBT could help you reduce your stress levels?  We offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in Bristol, London and a number of other UK clinic locations.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for stress