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The Anxiety Equation: Learn to cope with your anxiety and worry using this simple tool.

coping with anxiety
the anxiety equation

The anxiety equation (Mooney, 1986) can be helpful to hold in mind when trying to understand where your anxiety is coming from, and to help yourself feel less anxious.

In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), we often think about how our thinking might influence the level of distress we experience about an issue.

In the case of anxiety and worry, it is often relevant to consider how these factors are at play:

1. How likely is the thing I am worried about to actually happen?

2. How bad would it actually be if it did happen? Is my mind telling me that it would be much worse than it really would be?

3. Have I been through difficult situations before and somehow coped?

4. What other resources do I have that can help me cope with this situation?

Usually when people feel anxious and worried, they make predictions about how likely bad things are to happen (overestimating their likelihood), and how awful it would be if it did happen.

I am often helping clients work out the following: are they overestimating the likelihood of threat and awfulness? Is there evidence from the past that they have predicted things will be worse than they actually turn out to be? It is important to take note of these instances, as our minds are often biased to the negative, and thus easily forget positive examples and continue with catastrophic thinking.

Furthermore, a really important factor is building the belief that we *can* cope, even when things go wrong. There is often a lot of evidence from people’s lives that despite it not being pleasant, they have managed many difficult things better than they predicted, and again it is important to give yourself credit for this. People very easily discount their ability to cope with things once their prediction has not come true.

The anxiety equation can be helpful to hold in mind when trying to understand where your anxiety is coming from and how to help yourself feel less anxious: look at challenging any negative predictions about the factors in the equation. Of course, coping with anxiety can be more complex than this and it can be helpful to speak to a professional if you are struggling.

If you need help with anxiety and worry, I am a Clinical Psychologist who has extensive experience treating anxiety and I would be happy to help. Get in touch for your free 15 minute consultation by heading to my website or using the links below.

Written by Dr Zera Brittenden, Clinical Psychologist


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