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  • Upbeat Liverpool

Anxiety Management Course - Session 4

Welcome to Session 4 of the course. Paddy will lead you through the session and in between the videos is the information from the course booklet.

The Problem with Should...

Another way in which we increase our stress and anxiety is if we have a tendency to use the word should.

Should is a word that prods and pushes and tells us that someone hasn’t behaved in a way that we believe is right. It may be us or it may be other people but the result is the same – it can act as a trigger for stress and anxiety.

It can be useful to make a list of our shoulds and then think about where these beliefs about what is right have come from and whether we want to keep hold of them.

Examples: Belief I should be able to cook better than I can.

Where did this come from? I grew up at a time when most of the cooking was done by women so as a woman I believe I should be good at it.

Do I want to keep this belief? No. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking and times have changed.

Belief People should have good manners.

Where did this come from? I was taught to have good manners as a child.

Do I want to keep this belief? Yes. Good manners are important to me. But I could reduce my stress about other people’s bad manners if I work on accepting that not everyone is going to share my belief.

Belief Men shouldn’t talk about their feelings.

Where did this come from? I grew up at a time when men never talked about their feelings and was told that, ‘Big boys don’t cry.’

Do I want to keep this belief? No. Men are now being encouraged to talk and it’s healthier.

Exercise Try to identify three of your beliefs, where you think it came from and whether you want to keep it.

Challenging Thinking

It’s important to be aware that our thinking can become distorted so we can challenge our thoughts and come to more accurate conclusions. This is an important part of managing and reducing anxiety.

When something happens practise noticing how you’ve interpreted the situation.

Is there a distorted thinking pattern at work?

Challenge yourself to check for evidence to support your interpretation.

Can you balance it with a different interpretation?

How would you have thought about a situation like this in the past?

With practice we should eventually find we’re spending far less time worrying and over-analysing.

Another helpful tactic can be finding statements to say to yourself to bring you back to more rational thinking. For example:

I’m thinking like this because I’m feeling anxious. I’m just creating stories again.

And this one is key –

A thought is not necessarily true just because you think it.

A > B > C

This is a way of looking at what drives our reactions to things that happen. We can also use it to explore the link between thoughts, feelings and behavior.

A stands for Activating Event. In other words, something happens.

B stands for our Beliefs about the event. These may include thoughts we have about ourselves and assumptions we make about others.

C is for the consequence – what happened as a result of A.

Here are some examples:

A I haven’t heard from my friend for a while.

B She doesn’t want to bother with me. She thinks I’m boring. People don’t really like me.

C Feel unhappy with my friend. Make excuses not to see her when she does make contact again. Avoid people generally. Become isolated. Become depressed.

But if we challenge our beliefs (B) we’ll probably find that we don’t have any evidence to support them and we can respond differently to the situation.

A I didn’t get the job I went for.

B No one thinks I’m worth employing. I haven’t got any skills.  I made a fool of myself at the interview. I’m a failure.

C Loss of confidence.

Loss of motivation.

Feelings of hopelessness.

And sometimes another piece of evidence arrives to challenge our view.

Once we understand how our beliefs affect the outcome of any situation we can see how challenging them can be really useful.

Just like thoughts, beliefs aren’t necessarily facts and they may have been distorted by anxiety.

A On the way to work today I found myself in a traffic jam and the cars were going nowhere.

B Oh, no here we go again. I’ll be late for work and everyone will be mad at me. Why does this always happen to me? I could be stuck here for hours. I can’t stand it.

C I start to get angry and honk my horn, winding down the window and shouting at the other drivers.

"When I get into work I’m in a right old mood and bite anyone’s head off who comes near. As a result no one comes near me and I think, no one cares about me."

But look what happens when a colleague finds themselves in the same situation.

A On the way to work today I found myself in a traffic jam and the cars were going nowhere.

B Oh well, there’s nothing can be done. I’ll ring in and tell them I’ll be late.

C I put on my relaxation CD and chill out till we start moving again.

"I get into work in a good mood and can make up for the lost time easily as all my work colleagues chip in to help."

Challenge your beliefs, choose your response and change the consequences.

Can you think of something that happened to you (A) and fill in the Belief and Consequence?

Here are two extra elements to think about. D is for dispute. When you dispute B, your beliefs and interpretation of the event you can start to challenge how you’re thinking about what happened.

You might think of alternate interpretations or recognise how your current negative beliefs may be affecting your interpretation. Can you identify some of the thinking distortions such as catastrophizing? Have you over-reacted and can you now try to put things in perspective. E is for the effects of challenging then changing your interpretation.

You might find it useful to practise this exercise so you can get into the habit of challenging any unhelpful thinking patterns which anxiety has caused.

Thought Swap

Anxiety often leads to repetitive worrying. It may be that we keep imagining upsetting events like our loved ones being in danger or coming to harm. And while the thoughts are invented they can be very vivid and cause us to feel upset as we think of the consequences of what we’re imagining.

If you find a particular unpleasant thought keeps coming to mind you may find this exercise useful.

1.  Find a rubber band that is big enough to fit loosely around your wrist.

2.Think of an alternative thought, something pleasant and calming, that you can swap for the upsetting thought. Any happy memory will work well but make sure it’s something you can visualise clearly.

3. To practise the technique, bring your unwanted thought to mind then shout, stop! And at the same time snap the elastic band against your wrist. This distraction will cause the thought to disappear for a moment.

4. Then immediately start counting backwards from 10 to one out loud. When you reach one, bring your pleasant thought to mind and keep thinking about it for 30 seconds.

5. Then repeat the steps above two or three times for practice.

6. Practise several more times but each time make the, stop! and the counting quieter and quieter until you’re saying them silently to yourself.

Now you can do the technique anywhere.

And after some practice you should be able to stop using the rubber band.


Anxiety affects how we interpret the things that happen.

Our interpretations and how we react to situations affect how we feel and how we then behave.

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