Advice and development

CBT strategies can help you handle stress

On placement with a team of cognitive behavioural therapists, nursing student Lauren Ferrier learned some useful CBT techniques students can use to improve their sense of well-being and resilience. 

On placement with a team of cognitive behavioural therapists, nursing student Lauren Ferrier learned useful CBT techniques students can use to improve their sense of well-being and resilience

CBT
Improve well-being by learning CBT techniques. Photo: iStock

Nursing is a rewarding profession and we are privileged to help others, but it can sometimes take its toll on our well-being. Nursing students also have the pressure of meeting academic standards.

Pressures to succeed

I am just entering my third year of training, and have experienced firsthand the pressure to succeed academically and clinically. On placement with cognitive behavioural therapists (CBT) in my second year, I learned useful CBT techniques that other students could use to improve their sense of well-being and resilience.

CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment which manages destructive emotions, behaviours and cognitions through goal-oriented exercises. The principle is that thoughts govern emotions and behaviours, and by changing the way we think about a situation we can change the way we feel and react.

Therapists help participants to focus on current problems, treating thoughts as theories to be tested. Below are two CBT exercises which I hope will help nursing students cope with stress, and inspire further research.

Padesky’s 5 aspects model

Padesky’s 5 aspects model can help identify thoughts that trigger stress

  • Define the situation, such as going on placement in a new environment
  • Write down your thoughts. For example – ‘I don’t know what I am doing’ or ‘what if the staff don’t like me?’
  • Identify your emotions, such as fear, sadness or frustration
  • Write down your physical sensations, such as feeling sick, excessively tired, shaky or unable to concentrate. You will quickly notice a correlation between thoughts, emotions, behaviour and physical sensations
  • Write down any resulting behaviours, such as overcompensating to prove your knowledge, trying to disappear into the background, or asking endless questions

 

Thought record sheet

Keeping a thought record sheet can further help analyse your thoughts.

  • Outline the situation, your midway assessment for example
  • Write down all your emotions followed by a percentage of how strongly you are experiencing them, such as fear: 80%
  • Write down your physical sensations – what did you notice about your body and where did you feel it?
  • Write down your unhelpful thoughts. What went through your mind? What disturbed you? If you are worrying about getting a bad grade, examine the evidence for and against these thoughts. Evidence must be robust – the type that could be presented in a court
  • Identify alternative thoughts that are more balanced, such as ‘I am a conscientious student and should do well’ or ‘If I get a bad grade I will learn from it.’
  • Re-rate your emotions and you should notice an improvement

 

These are just two examples of a range of techniques used by CBT therapists and do not fully reflect the skills required to deliver a course of treatment. But used regularly, they can be highly effective and help make your student experience more enjoyable.


Lauren Ferrier is a third-year mental health nursing student at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen 

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