Cognitive Techniques For Stress Management

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Therapists commonly use cognitive-behavior techniques in an effort to help people overcome the stress experienced in everyday situations or after enduring traumatic events. Negative emotions and thoughts that accompany a stressful situation commonly exacerbate effects endured by the body. Cognitive techniques often involve identifying the negativity, making changes and adopting problem solving skills.

Identify Negativity

Set some time aside at the end of the day to evaluate a stressful event that occurred. Write down in detail your initial thoughts, feelings and reactions. Expand on the list by attempting to explain why the situation made you feel a particular emotion or come to a specific conclusion. Viewing the situation as an obstacle that cannot be overcome erodes your power. Try re-framing the incident as a challenge and explore the potential for growth. Perhaps the circumstance provides the chance to learn a new skill or develop a better means of communication.

Problem-Solving Strategies

Instead of allowing a situation to become overwhelming or insurmountable, therapists recommend that individuals approach the problem as a puzzle to be completed piece by piece. Make a list of all the ways, small tasks or behaviors that come to mind, which will end in a desired outcome. In this way, the work project, flailing relationship or other stressful situation becomes a mole hill instead of a mountain.


Take a step back and prioritize if daily tasks or work requirements seem to pile up and create stress while you are trying to meet everyone's expectations. Sometimes we place too much of a burden on ourselves by accepting unrealistic goals. You can reduce daily stress by putting unimportant or unnecessary demands at the bottom of the list. Focus your energy on what absolutely must be accomplished in the time frame given.

Mental Breaks

It is not uncommon for the mind to begin wandering when feeling overwhelmed or stressed during the day. Catch yourself during these times and step away to get a cup of coffee, a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air or whatever you need to be able to re-engage in the activity. Find a quiet space, practice deep breathing and visualize a more pleasant location. These simple moments of relief may be needed at least once during the course of the day or every few hours depending on the task at hand.

Logical Probability

Whenever negative thoughts begin to invade your mind, prevent them from creating negative emotions, physical stress and a sense of impending doom by using logic and probability. On a scale of one to 10, consider the chances for the particular situation to come to the cataclysmic conclusion that you perceive. If the chances are low or next to nil, tell yourself to stop wasting time on worry. Some therapists also warn that compulsively seeing the negative in circumstances can also lead individuals to subconsciously contribute to a catastrophic outcome.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Cognitive Techniques For Stress Management," in, March 25, 2016, (accessed March 21, 2023).