How MBCT Counseling Can Help You Manage Stress And Anxiety

With tons of issues and uncertainties in the world, everyone is bound to feel stressed and anxious to some extent. But the question is—how are you coping with stress and anxiety? 

Stress and anxiety are a natural part of the human experience. These responses are there to protect us from potentially harmful situations. In most cases, however, our bodies’ survival response isn’t proportional to the threat at hand. In other words, we end up too stressed and too anxious. To help manage stress and anxiety levels, you can rely on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) counseling.

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MBCT is a type of psychological therapy that combines principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness strategies. In MBCT, you can learn how to recognize and understand your own cognitive and emotional patterns. Once you’ve done this, you could then move forward to developing healthier patterns to help manage stress and anxiety. 

MBCT was initially designed to prevent relapses in people with major depressive disorder (MDD). Since its conception, it has also been proven effective in treating other psychological disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and addiction.  

So how exactly does MBCT counseling work, and how can this type of counseling help you? This article explains a little bit about what is taught during MBCT sessions. Even if you’re not diagnosed with a psychological disorder, you might find the MBCT strategies in this article helpful. Read on if you want to learn how to cope better with stress and anxiety!

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How MBCT Works 

What comes to mind when you hear the word “mindfulness”? Do you think of yoga or meditation? While these practices do involve mindfulness, it is more than just that. Through MBCT, mindfulness is used for your mental health. Positive organizational psychologist Courtney Ackerman lays out five (5) points on how MBCT utilizes mindfulness benefits in improving mental health: 

  1. The clients will be able to discover their thought and mood patterns
  2. The clients will learn how to be present and appreciative of life’s small pleasures.
  3. The clients will learn how to prevent or stop a downward spiral from a bad mood or memories. 
  4. The clients will be able to “shift gears” from their present judgmental state of mind to a more aware and balanced one. 
  5. The clients will be able to access other approaches for dealing with difficult emotions and moods. 

These goals are then applied to the three MBCT course components:

  1. In-person sessions. An MBCT course usually includes 2-hour weekly sessions for eight consecutive weeks. During these sessions, you will do formal and informal meditation practices, discussed more specifically in the following section. The practices progress from paying attention to holding mindful awareness of mental events. 
  2. Homework. Aside from the in-person sessions, MBCT courses also have homework as a central element. MBCT clients are encouraged to spend around 45 minutes every day practicing the mindfulness activities that they learned. Some of these activities use video or audio guides.
  3. Psychoeducation and cognitive therapy. MBCT educates the client about their psychological state and tendencies. This psychoeducation is then coupled with mindful action plans that would help prevent relapses or unwanted thoughts. Mindful actions include listening to music or taking a walk in the park.
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MBCT Exercises And Practices 

Did you know that you can practice mindfulness while doing everyday tasks like bathing, eating, or brushing your teeth? 

While it sounds easy, mindfulness takes some practice. In MBCT, you’ll be taught various mindfulness techniques that you can use to cope with stress and anxiety. By regularly doing these practices, mindfulness becomes a part of your lifestyle, and coping with stress and anxiety becomes more automatic. Here are some of the most commonly used MBCT exercises and practices:

  1. Three-Minute Breathing Space. A lot of people think that mindfulness practices are long and boring. However, you can do short practices multiple times within your day. The three-minute breathing space is an example of these practices. It has three steps:
    • During the first minute, ask yourself, “How am I doing right now?” Try to pay attention to arising feelings, thoughts, and sensations and label these. 
    • During the second minute, be mindful of your breathing. 
    • At the last minute, expand your attention from your breath to the physical sensations you feel in your entire body.
  2. Body Scan. The body scan practice is for bringing awareness to the sensations felt across the body. In this practice, the counselor guides you by bringing awareness to the breath before bringing attention to each part of your body.
  3. Daily Mindfulness. As mentioned earlier, you can practice mindfulness even while doing simple tasks. Here are some examples of how you can incorporate mindfulness into your life:
    • Mindful showering: We are all prone to mindlessly showering as we’re often preoccupied with “shower thoughts.” To practice mindful showering, you can direct your attention to your senses—feeling the temperature of the water, the intensity of the spray, the smell of shampoo, etc. If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your attention back to your senses.   
    • Mindful eating: One of the most helpful tips for mindful eating is to put away or turn off your phone or the TV. Aside from the taste of the food, you could also be mindful of the food’s visual appearance, smell, texture, and even sound. 
    • Mindful teeth-brushing: Another task that we often do mindlessly is brushing our teeth. To be more mindful in this activity, try focusing on your senses—the feel or sound of your toothbrush’s bristles, the smell of the toothpaste, or the sting of your mouthwash. One tip to make mindfulness easier in this task is to brush your teeth using your non-dominant hand. Doing this would require a more deliberate effort and, therefore, more attention. 

These practices, among many others, will help in calming your nerves and relaxing you. They will also allow you to be in a better headspace to reframe your worries and anxieties. Hopefully, you can apply these practices in coping with stress and anxiety. 

Remember that stress and anxiety are natural, and we can never completely get rid of them. With the right tools and healthy practices, we can manage stress and anxiety and live our best lives.