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How to ‘Reframe’ Anxiety Thoughts Right Now Using This Simple Tool


Before I began my journey in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), I had no idea what reframing was, but now I couldn’t live without it. This incredibly powerful tool has changed my life and I know this is something that can help others too.

So, what is reframing?

Reframing in its most basic form is coming up with a different interpretation of an event or experience. It is a cognitive behavioral technique that helps you to change the meaning of something and therefore change the way you feel about it and thus your experience.

So, for me, I have been using reframing in order to overcome my anxiety. Anxiety is having angst and fear about what may happen in the future; however, by reframing, I have been able to take a step back, look at my thinking objectively and then choose an alternative thought or belief that actually helps me to overcome my anxiety and thus make me feel physically and emotionally better.

How do I reframe?

Reframing is broken down into six simple stages, which I will explain for you, and to do this, I am going to use a recent example that helped me to overcome my anxiety about beginning physiotherapy for my neck and shoulder muscles.

1. Write down the situation or problem.

For example, beginning physiotherapy and feeling anxious about it.

2. Write down your thoughts about the situation.

Here, write what is going through your mind when you think about this problem. For me, my thoughts were:

This is going to be a very hard, long and painful process.

My neck and shoulders are stirred up and way too sensitive right now for physiotherapy.

This is going to take me more than four months to succeed.

I am dreading this process.

3. Write down what feelings and emotions you feel.

Here, list how those thoughts make you feel. In my case, I felt fear, worry, frustration, tired, overwhelmed, panicked, anxious, scared, dread and exhausted.

Now, we begin the reframe.

4. Create four alternative thoughts.

This is where we now change our way of looking at the situation and think of thoughts more congruent with the situation, such as:

Discomfort means I am strengthening the muscles, which is a good thing.

Physiotherapy is a positive experience that is getting me closer to my end goal of being completely headache-free. It is not a burden; it is an exciting healing process.

There is no reason it will take more than four months; there is no time frame. It could happen very quickly, in fact.

5. List evidence to support these alternative thoughts.

Here, simply find evidence that supports your new alternative thoughts you just created, such as:

I started physiotherapy once before and got running in the gym, so if I can do it then I can do it now.

This time, I am in a better and stronger place than I was before because I have learned so much since then.

Now, I am ready for physiotherapy because I have dealt with the underlying tension.

6. Write down what feelings and emotions you feel post-reframing.

Take a deep breath and evaluate how you are feeling after reframing and changing your view on the situation. For me, I felt relieved, confident, positive, grateful, I began to believe in myself again and I actually felt excited about starting my physiotherapy.

Now that is the power of reframing. I went from scared, nervous and dreading the physio to feeling excited, strong and capable. I was completely anxiety-free.

It is important to remember that thoughts are not facts, even though they might feel like it sometimes. However, by being able to reframe, you are able to view the situation through a clear lens and thus change how you feel.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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