The Anxiety Skills Workbook by Stefan G. Hofmann uses a cognitive behavioural therapy approach to help you better manage your anxiety.
One thing I liked was the cautionary note in the introduction that the book wasn’t intended to address suicidality, severe depression, or problematic substance abuse, and anyone experiencing those should get in touch with a mental health professional. I always think it’s a good thing when mental health books are clear about what they can and can’t help with.
The book consists of seven modules: planning, mindful relaxation, rethinking thoughts, worries about worries, facing feared scenarios and images, changing behaviours, and progress on goals and relapse prevention.
The book has a good mix of text and exercises for you to do. It’s not a dense read, and it includes lots of white space. There’s some theory, but the focus is really on the practical. The book uses three characters presented at the beginning in scenarios throughout. At the end of each section, there’s a quick review followed by a set of home practice exercises.
For the exercises, given, examples are worked through so it’s clear how you’re supposed to be doing them. Tracking grids are provided for some of the exercises that the author suggests doing regularly.
Some of the topics covered in the book are distinguishing worry from problem-solving, progressive muscle relaxation, automatic thoughts, behavioural experiments, avoidance, and exposure. Thought records help the reader to challenge problematic thinking patterns.
One strategy that was mentioned was realistic probability estimation. You come up with a figure of how many times you had anxious thoughts about bad outcome X happening. Then you figure out how many times bad outcome X actually happened, and calculate the percentage of times that your anxious predictions were right. I liked that the author pointed out that this exercise isn’t about making unrealistic positive estimations instead; it’s simply about assessing whether your thoughts are realistic or not.
Another topic that was covered metacognition, i.e. thinking about thinking. I thought the author did a good job explaining how thoughts happen, but then there’s the extra step of metacognition as we decide how much to believe the thoughts and how much to pay attention to them. An example given was worrying. Worried thoughts tell us that if we don’t worry, bad outcomes are going to happen, so we worry more. The author pointed out that worry is a very poor predictor of the future.
Overall, I thought this book was very reader-friendly, with clear explanations and useful exercises scattered throughout. Whether or not you’re already familiar with CBT, I think this would be a good book.
The Anxiety Skills Workbook is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a reviewer copy of this book from NetGalley.