9 CBT exercises for anxiety

This article will help us understand the various types of exercises utilized to help deal with anxiety. We will also explore the concept of CBT and learn more about the most effective exercises among all the exercises in CBT to help control anxiety. 

What are the exercises in CBT that help with anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exercises:

  • Identifying Cognitive Distortions
  • Treating Thoughts as Guesses
  • Constructive Worry
  • Catastrophizing
  • Fortune-telling
  • Cognitive Pie Chart Exercise
  • Investigating Thoughts
  • Acceptance Exercises
  • Mind reading
  • Negative filtering
  • Cognitive Techniques to Reduce Worry
  • Labeling
  • Overgeneralizing or Overgeneralization
  • All-or-nothing thinking

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the concept of changing negative thought patterns into positive thought patterns to decrease psychological distress. CBT helps in challenging our negative thought processes and replaces them with positive reinforcing thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy proposes that our thoughts, feelings are related to each other. Even if one component out of three is affected, it impacts the other two components as well. So if we are going through an adverse situation, it would impact our thoughts and feelings.

Following are the  steps in which CBT best helps to deal with 


Understanding and identifying negative events or situations in life

The events occurring in our lives impact our thoughts and feelings in the present and the future. To avoid or overcome any issues, we first need to identify the events that caused the changes in our thought processes. We need to identify such events that left a lasting impact on us. These events could be an elocution competition where you were required to speak in front of a huge crowd. Perhaps your performance was not up to the mark, and it left an impression on your mind. Try to recollect the thoughts and emotions that were revolving in your mind during that event. Relive that event now and attempt to understand how that makes you feel even today.

Identifying Automatic Negative Thoughts.

The most crucial step is to identify NAT (Negative Automatic Thoughts), which hinder our development by creating mental distress in our minds. They are thoughts such as, “I am hopeless,” “I cannot do it,” “I am unlovable,” etc. These thoughts pop automatically in our minds (hence the name negative automatic thoughts). We are often accosted by such thoughts when we are going through a distressing situation or an event. 

To identify these thoughts, we need to think back to a situation that left us feeling down. It could be anything, such as feeling socially anxious in large crowds. Try to recollect what were the emotions you were experiencing at that time. 

Also, try to pinpoint the thoughts that were associated with these negative emotions.

If the thoughts were for, eg., “I am worthless, and so one would like me” or “I am not good enough,” these thoughts can be identified as negative. 

Challenging the Negative Thought Processes

Now comes the essential step of negating the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. This could be done by rational analysis of those thoughts. If we have the thought, “I am not good enough,” then we should ask the question of “What makes us think that?” We should find evidence to support this unhelpful thought. Most of the time, we think of such thoughts without really thinking about the reasons behind them. But when we start to raise questions and reason, we realize that we have little evidence to support such thoughts.

Thus with three simple steps, cognitive behavioral therapy helps us navigate the unhelpful thinking processes.

3 best CBT Exercises for Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Pie Chart

Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses a pie chart to evaluate and analyze a person’s cognitive pattern in graphic form. 

It is can be used to examine the process behind our thoughts and their interpretations. The technique could be utilized in the following way.

Step 1:

Identifying the automatic thought whenever a triggering situation occurs. For example thinking, “I am useless and pathetic” after failing a test. 

Step 2:

Rationalizing the situation and coming up with alternative thoughts and explanations for the bad outcome.  For example, ”The test was difficult” or “There was not sufficient time to prepare” etc. 

Step 3: 

Now comes the interesting part of assigning percentages to each of these alternative explanations according to their contribution to your predicament. Suppose you assign 50% to the explanation that the test was difficult because that is the most contributing factor in you failing the test.  Remember that the addition of the percentages of all the explanations should amount to 100%

Step 4. 

In the final step use these percentages to draw a pie chart. 

This whole process aims to make you aware of other alternative factors that play a role in influencing your life that you cannot control. Thus it helps you in gaining a clear perspective and relieves the negative thoughts about yourself in your mind. Therefore pie chart is often used in treating anxiety to help erase the negative schema built into their minds

Investigating thoughts

We are often tormented with negative thoughts on a daily basis. “I am ugly”, “I am dumb”, “No one likes me”, “Everyone is selfish” etc, Aaron Beck, the father of cognitive therapy came up with a very interesting solution for this problem. He proposed that we should look ‘at’ our thoughts rather than looking ‘from’ our thoughts. In scientific terms, it is called metacognition. It is the ability to examine our thinking process rather than believing that all our thoughts are rational or true. 

A great way to access our metacognition is to ask ourselves simple questions such as “What would I tell a friend if he were in this situation?”. Thus with the help of such simple questions, we can tap into our metacognition and help relieve our negative thoughts and beliefs. 

Worry Reduction Method

If neglected for a long time our worries can snowball into a much bigger problem. Therefore it is very important to reduce or eliminate them. Following are some important questions that could be asked in a stepwise manner to eliminate worry. 

Following are the question that could be asked to evaluate worries.

  • What are you predicting will happen and what is its likelihood of happening?

 This question helps us in realizing our true fear or anxiety. If we are afraid of social situations the underlying problem could be that we are afraid of being rejected or embarrassed. Whatever may be the underlying fear it is important to recognize it. Because once we identify our fear we might realize that some of our concerns are unfounded and unreasonable. 

  • What are the best-case scenario and most likely scenarios?

In these instances, we can help ourselves realize that only bad things don’t need to come out of the situation. We could have a pleasant experience as well. But due to our irrational worries and fear, we tend to overlook this part and only choose to focus on the negative part.

  • What is the worst-case scenario and how will you cope with it?

By imagining the worst-case scenario we expose ourselves to our deepest fear in order to understand that even the worst-case scenario can be managed if handled effectively. Suppose a person has stage fright and the worst-case scenario for them is making a fool of themselves on stage and everybody laughing at them Now while this situation looks dire it is not impossible to overcome. People forget things easily and that person can surely make a comeback with another performance which will make them forfeit about the previous debacle. Thus by thinking about our worst-case scenario and coming up with solutions to overcome it we give ourselves a chance to improve ourselves. 

Thus these exercises help us in learning about our anxiety. Their root causes and uprooting causes from their roots in order to ease our minds. There are various types of exercises used in CBT for anxiety but the above-mentioned exercises are the most effective as well as utilized by therapists and psychologists. 



Thus with the help of various effective exercises and strategies, we can help relieve our symptoms of anxiety and also try to adopt a healthy way of thinking. This article helped us gain a deep insight into the process behind these techniques and how they help us treat anxiety. 

Frequently asked Questions

What helps severe anxiety?

Anxiety can be relieved and treated with the help of psychotherapy commonly known as talk therapy or even counseling. In psychotherapy, a therapist helps the client resolve their anxiety issues and also helps them in alleviating the symptoms caused by anxiety.  Sometimes when the anxiety is very severe and people also get panic attacks then they might be prescribed medications by the psychiatrist. Both medication and therapy work together in combating anxiety.  One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy in treating anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

How can I reduce anxiety immediately?

To help alleviate the symptoms immediately there are some important steps. The steps could be utilized by anyone and almost anywhere. Ther are as follows.

Take deep and calm Breaths. Oftentimes people forget to breathe during panic attacks or when they are feeling overly anxious. Therefore it is necessary to remind yourself to breathe and try to calm down your racing heart. Name what you’re feeling.

Try running or any kind of physical activity to distract yourself.

Try to think about something funny or even watch something that would make you laugh. 

If possible take a cold shower

Try engaging in your favorite hobby such as dancing painting or even singing to help relieve your anxious mind. 

What calms anxiety naturally?

Anxiety could be calmed down naturally with the help of a few natural remedies. They are listed as follows

  • Staying active and healthy both mentally and physically
  • Abstinence from alcohol or other substances. 
  • No smoking or consumption of any kind of tobacco products.
  • Cutting down on the daily caffeine intake
  • Make sure to get a good 8 hours of sleep every night. 
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness
  • Consume a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Relaxation exercises such as deep breathing

How do vitamins cure my anxiety?

According to a recently conducted study on young adults, anxiety can be reduced markedly with sufficient levels of vitamins such as B, C, and minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Another study conducted in 2018 claims that multivitamin supplements may be beneficial for people who have mood disorders such as anxiety. 

Can you use CBT for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective, validated and, reliable technique that helps in treating various types of anxiety disorders. It has been proven effective on generalized anxiety as well as social anxiety. It is a goal-oriented and extremely structured therapy treatment and therefore it is very useful in dealing with anxiety disorders. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapy exercises Los Angeles: CBT interventions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://cogbtherapy.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-exercises 

3 steps to treat your anxiety using CBT | psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/mindful-anger/201906/3-steps-treat-your-anxiety-using-cbt 

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