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Do you struggle with anxiety? Today we will be looking at sample exposure plans to help you overcome your fears.
If you fear riding in the car as a passenger…
• Sit in the car, with a safe person & the engine off for 1 hour
• Sit in the car, with a safe person & the engine on for 1 hour
• Ride with a safe person driving on quiet streets at a quiet time of day for a half-hour
• Ride with a safe person driving on quiet streets at a quiet time of day for an hour
• Ride with a safe person driving on a busier street and busier time of day for ½ hour
• Ride with a safe person driving on a busier street and busier time of day for 1 hour
• Ride with a safe person on the freeway at a quiet time of day for 1 hour
• Ride with a safe person driving at a quiet time of the day to a specific place you want to go
• Repeat the previous step but during a busier time of day
There are a number of CBT techniques that are commonly used to help people challenge worry including: thought records, thought stopping, worry time, challenging the value of worry, problem solving, experiments to increase intolerance of uncertainty and cognitive exposure. Let’s take a look at them one at a time:
Experiments to build tolerance of uncertainty: Uncertainty tends to increase our anxiety and anxiety tends to reduce our tolerance for uncertainty. People who worry a lot tend to be more anxious and less tolerant of uncertainty compared to people who do not worry. One way to think about this is that change and uncertainty is always a double-edged sword. In times of uncertainty there is always risk (threat) as well as opportunity (challenge). When faced with uncertainty, most people who worry a little can see both the risk (threat) in the situation as well as the opportunity (challenge). Unfortunately, people who worry see only the threat and no the opportunity. One way to challenge your intolerance of uncertainty is to always ask yourself “What is the risk or threat here?” but don’t forget to ask “What is the opportunity?”
Another way to challenge worry (the “What if…?”) is to try to increase your tolerance for uncertainty. This can be done either by conducting experiments to see what happens or using the exposure techniques that are described in the Panic Program. The first step is to figure out what behaviors you do to reduce your worry. For example, many people who worry need to do things the same way all of the time, do a lot of checking, or need to constantly ask for reassurance from family friends and doctors. One way to think about these behaviors is that when you do them, they reduce your anxiety for a little while but only until you have the same worry again. The trick is to challenge the behavior, experience the uncertainty and an increase in anxiety and then not do the same thing, or check or ask for reassurance and see what happens. You can get more information about how to do this kind of exposure in a gradual step-by-step way by using the Panic Program. (www.paniccenter.net)
Does this strategy work for you?