Do you remember the anxious predictions we talked about in module 2? As a recap, they are the predictions we make when we feel anxious, because we think a rule for living may be broken.
For our third technique, we focus on challenging anxious predictions. The easiest way of doing this is to carry out behavioural experiments to test these predictions out.
One of the most common unhelpful behaviours we can engage in after experiencing a wave of anxiety is avoidance. This certainly occurs if we are overcome with anxious predictions regarding a future situation, and deciding it would be safer to not place ourselves where we may feel vulnerable to more anxiety. However this only contributes to the issue. So a helpful way to push ourselves out of our comfort zone is to do just that! We approach rather than avoid.
How do I do that?
There are several steps to set up a behavioural experiment.
Firstly, we identify what is that we are predicting will go wrong, that we usually try to avoid. Try to put a rating on how much you believe the prediction will happen too (i.e. 0-100%).
Then, see if you can push yourself to approach rather than avoid the task. Plan how you will do this.
Next, give it a go! Push yourself to do this to live your best life, and to overcome your anxiety and low self-esteem.
Then, review how it went. Did it go well? Did you anxious prediction happen? On hindsight, have you been envisaging the worst case scenario rather than the most likely scenario?
Finally, reflect on what you have learnt and re-rate your belief now in that original prediction? Has it come down?
Take a look at the example below:
Time to practise
Ok, so you have seen an example and hopefully have an idea of how to conduct a behavioural experiment to challenge an anxious prediction. Commit to using the worksheet below to plan an experiment out to try this week.
Top tip #1 – sometimes jumping into the deep end is too daunting for a first step, so trying smaller steps can be a better place to start. For example (continuing with the above analogy) you could maybe talk to one person about the idea before talking about it in a meeting. Or maybe you could role play your ‘pitch’ to a family member or friend.
Top tip #2 – if you get stuck choosing what to do, think about what you’d love to be doing if you did not feel so anxious. What things would you not be avoiding? How would a confident person handle that situation? use those questions to inspire your experiment.
We do have a Brighter Life Therapy behavioural experiments resource which you can download below: