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4 Creative CBT Tools & Exercises for Anxiety

Life with anxiety can be overwhelming. When the anxiety hits, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a way to hit the metaphorical “pause” button – pause, reflect, and take a breath before reacting to the internal or external triggers. Just taking deep breaths is a common CBT technique that helps reframe one’s reactions to stressors. Another creative tool to have in your back pocket is to try one of these CBT exercises perfect for anxiety.

What is CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps you manage and even alter negative thought patterns. Anxiety CBT exercises often focus on techniques that help you feel grounded first, then analyze your anxiety triggers and how you can reframe them into something more positive.


Journaling is a very popular CBT technique and is commonly recommended by therapists. If you are just starting therapy, your entries can help you and your therapist work together to identify your anxiety triggers. A journal can also act as a log where you can keep track of good and bad days as well as how much of an impact your anxiety is having on your personal and professional life.

Beyond collaborating with your therapist, you can also choose to have a journal that is for your eyes only. While your journal can still provide the same benefits of identifying triggers or effective coping techniques, a private journal provides a safe space for you to write freely and process what you’re working through. Journaling can be very relaxing and an excellent CBT exercise in self-analyzing your anxiety. There are plenty of CBT journaling techniques that focus specifically on living with anxiety.

CBT Journal Prompts for Anxiety

  1. Describe three positive things that happened to you this week and how they made you feel.
  2. Recall the last time you were anxious. Write down what happened and how you felt with as much detail as possible.
  3. Make a list of what parts of your life are currently causing you stress and anxiety.
  4. Choose one thing from your anxiety list from prompt #3, and identify a way you can reduce the stressful impact.
  5. Make a list of all the CBT anxiety exercises and techniques you have tried or want to try to combat your anxiety. Highlight your favorites and cross out the ones that don’t work for you.
  6. Write down at least 10 things you are looking forward to this year.
  7. Identify your long-term goals: one-year, two-year, and five-year goals. This can be personal or professional.
  8. Make a list of as many triggers as you can identify. Update this list any time you notice something new.
  9. Identify your top five favorite songs and write about why they are your favorites.
  10. Write down everything you are currently grateful for.
  11. Write down at least three positive things about yourself.

Calming Jars

Creating a calming jar is one of the more fun CBT exercises for anxiety. There are several ways to make one of these jars, but the most common method uses glue, glitter, hot water, a bit of food coloring, and a clear jar. Once you have your jar, shake it up like a snow globe and watch as the glitter swirls around the jar, slowly settling to the bottom.

The idea behind these jars is to pause and relax when you’re feeling anxious. The swirling colors create a focal point for your attention to pull you away from whatever has triggered your anxiety. Try to take deep breaths while you concentrate on the movements of the glitter. You can even do this as a mini-meditation session.


coloring book with a pile of colored pencils

Whether you’re drawing something yourself or you’re filling in pages on a coloring book, letting your creativity flow can be incredibly soothing for someone with anxiety. From coloring to painting or even sculpting, making art forces you to focus on a simple activity instead of those negative or intrusive thoughts. If you loved art as a child, this is a great technique CBT exercise for easing your anxiety.

For extra benefit, consider focusing on art that helps you process your anxiety. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about visiting a family member’s house, you could color a picture of the flowers they have in their front yard.

Create a Feeling Thermometer

Sometimes it’s hard to put what you’re feeling into words, especially when you’re already feeling anxious and overwhelmed. A feeling thermometer can be just as useful for adults as it is for children. 

With this CBT anxiety exercise, you will create a thermometer that measures your emotions. You can draw something on a piece of paper that you simply point to when you use it, or you could get creative by drawing or creating some other shape or form that helps measure your state of mind visually. Once you’re done, you’re left with a visual that can help you communicate your emotional state and needs to others.

Reclaim Your Life

Anxiety does not have to rule your life. At Miami Hypnosis and Therapy, we are dedicated to helping you find ways to free yourself from those intrusive and negative thoughts. CBT and hypnotherapy work together to create a safe and supportive environment where you are free to explore the cause of your anxiety and what you can do to reframe those triggers into something positive. Contact us today to take the first steps in reclaiming your life!

Anna Marchenko

Anna Marchenko, LMHC, M.A., Ed.M. is the principal therapist at Miami Hypnosis and Therapy. She holds a bachelor's degree from NYU and dual masters degrees from Columbia University. Marchenko’s hypnosis certification is from the only hypnosis program in Florida that has been certified by the state’s Board of Education. She helps her clients by utilizing an integrative approach to psychotherapy, tailored to each individual’s mental health journey, drawing from hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, NLP therapy, EMDR, and more.

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