The other day before a big test at school, I asked my daughter how she was feeling. She confided: “Mom, I’m freaked.” As a cognitive-behavioral psychologist and parent coach, this was my sweet spot. After talking about and empathizing with her feelings, I said, “Let’s tweak your freak.”
This made-up phrase—Tweak Your Freak™—has become our favorite new household slogan when someone is feeling anxious or stressed, and I’ve started using it with my patients, too. It’s a silly and catchy name for five steps, drawn from my background in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and human development, that can help anyone feel better faster.
CBT as a practice includes many more techniques and strategies, but I like these five, especially for families, because they are simple, effective, and easy to remember. Used regularly, these five steps can also build better mental habits and improve emotion regulation skills.
The first three steps—Notice, Name, Reframe™—go together. They are the cornerstones of basic CBT. Notice your thoughts, name them, and then reframe them; that is, see them from another (more constructive) perspective.
Steps #4 and #5 are intended to harness the power of your body to calm your mind, via breath and body posture.
1. Notice: This step is just as it sounds. Notice your thoughts. This is the first step toward being able to change them.
When teaching this to young children, I find it useful to tell them to pretend their thoughts are butterflies flitting around inside their head, and them ask them to take a butterfly net and catch one.
2. Name: After noticing our thoughts, we label them. This helps us to see the pattern of our thinking over time, and also helps us begin creating some distance and perspective.
When labeling your thoughts, try to do it as if you were observing yourself, like an anthropologist studying other cultures. For example: “I am having the thought that my boss is angry at me and is going to fire me.” Read More