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Cognitive Restructuring


Techniques Managing Stress > Cognitive Restructuring

Description | Discussion | See also



1. List negative internal action

Think about the times when you have felt stressed and uncomfortable. What did you way to yourself? What pictures did you imagine? What happened inside your head that took you from feeling ok to feeling bad?

List and describe all of these internal words and/or pictures that lead to the stress you feel in the situations you want to manage.

2. Identify irrational drivers

Review the negative list and ask of each one, 'Why?' and 'How?' Identify the internal patterns that lead to that negative self-talk and imagining. In particular, think about what beliefs you are invoking, such as what you should or should not do.

3. Develop neutralizers

For each negative trigger identified in the previous step, develop a way of counteracting the power of the thought to increase stress. This can be anything from telling an internal voice to 'shut up!' to changing an imagined scenario of failure to one of success.

4. Practice!

Finally, you have to turn these plans into practice. It may be difficult at first, but perseverance is very important and it is amazing how much change and stress reduction you can achieve with this method.


A person has difficulty in asking others to help her. On reflection, she finds she tells herself that she should 'stand out her own two feet' (which her grandfather often said) and imagines others thinking less of her for having to ask. She counters this with a thought of 'Don't be arrogant' and imagining people being pleased to help.


There are common patterns of belief by which we lead ourselves into uncomfortable places, such as with Ellis' Irrational Beliefs and Kahler's Drivers. It is surprising how often people do not realize they hold these beliefs until they consciously think about what is going on.  It is also surprising how easily such dysfunctional beliefs can be challenged.

These negative beliefs may appear as self-talk or imagined sights and sounds (which way depends in practice on the preferences of the person and the specifics of the situation). The cure consequently must be designed and proven in practice. A simple rule in this: if it doesn't work -- try something else!

See also

Beliefs, Kahler's Drivers, Ellis' Irrational Beliefs


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