What is ABC model for managing stress?

What is ABC model for managing stress? 

What is ABC model for managing stress?  ichhori.com


Feeling stressed due to some reason but don’t know what to do about it? Let’s see how to deal and cope with stressful situations using the ABC model 


It can often feel like stress is a part and parcel of our lifeEveryone experiences stress from time to time. The ongoing pandemic has been a major source of enormous stress and anxiety for all of us. But anxiety was on the rise long before any of us had heard of Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the uncertainty of pandemic left us dealing with stress and burnout with working from home and successive lockdowns a study found that 90% of UK workers feel stressed all the time. More recent studies have even described UK as a ‘stressed nation’ with 74% adults feeling so stressed at some point over the last year that they’ve felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. 


The outbreak of novel coronavirus continues to spread and has affected the lives of hundreds of people around the world and especially had a detrimental impact on our personal lives leading to stress. 


So, what is stress? 


Stress is a physiological response in the body that happens when we feel threatened or under pressure. When people experience stress, the fight or the flight response causes the release of hormones that help prepare the body to take action.Everyone experiences stress to some degree. But the way you respond to stress makes a big difference to your overall health and well-being.


So, being able to control our response to events we find stressful that can help us cope and deal with stress, which is where a useful and helpful method called the ABC model comes in.

The ABC model was created and developed by an American psychologist called Dr Albert Ellis and then later on adapted by Dr Martin Seligman. It works by helping us to understand what situations or events trigger our stress response, why it happens and what it causes us to do.

Dr. Audrey Tang, a psychologist, mental health and wellness expert shares her insight about the ABC model “ The key to the ABC model is ‘recognition’ and the model can help you get to the root of what’s making you stressed and help create practical ways to overcome it. 


So, let’s have a look of how the ABC model works and how you can use it in your day-to-day to help you deal and cope with stress more easily. 


What is the ABC model? How does the ABC therapy modelling works


The ABC model is derived from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). So, this model helps us explore and comprehend why we react to certain situations in certain ways.  It is also a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals reshape the negative thoughts and feelings in a positive way.Its name refers to the components of the model. Here’s what each letter stands for: 


  •     ‘A’ stands for adversity or activating event (situation or event)This is mainly the trigger that activate your stress response or your heightened emotion. An activating event could be positive or negative; so either way it’s an event or situation that’s going to send us into a heightened state of emotion where we act irrationally.
  •     ‘ B’  stands for  beliefs. Your beliefs  about the situation or eventso it involves both underlying thoughts about the event or situations, yourself and others. Basically, your explanation about why the situation happened.  So, when the activating event happens it will trigger a set of beliefs in us. These are automatic thoughts you start thinking when that event occurs
  •     ‘C’ stands for consequences that the activating event and your belief system around it create.  So, basically it includes the feelings and behaviour that are belief causes. 




Adversity—>  Beliefs 

—> Consequences






To explain this here’s an example: 


  •   You are stressed because you’ve received a work presentation from your boss, and you need complete and give that work. 
  •   So, firstly the activating event is your boss emailing you and telling you to give a presentation next week.  
  •   This might then lead to beliefs like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘The last time I did I failed’ or ‘No one will listen to me’. 
  •   The consequence of this is that you feel stressed and worried which leads you to have an accelerated heart rate and because of that you can’t sleep. 


So, the main idea behind the ABC Model is that one does not necessarily have to change their environment to become happier and healthier, they simply must recognise and change their reactions to their environment. This takes a little self-awareness which can be done with a bit of effort.


How to use the ABC MODEL? 


  •    Reflecting on the ABC model


Usually, our brains go through the reactions in the ABC model so quickly that we don’t even realise we’re doing it. However, knowing how the model works means we can use it to reflect on stressful situations and examine why they’ve made us feel this way. Once you have a better understanding of what causes you stress, you can prepare yourself to deal with it better. When we’re in a point of particular crisis we won’t necessarily be able to go through A, B and C. But, afterwards, when we’re away from that particular crisis,  we can sit down and introspect on stressful situations which can later on, help us process and deal with it.


You can do this simply by thinking through the ABC model when you have some alone time to yourself, or other than that by writing it down. However journaling can be really helpful way to reflect on our stressful situations because then  you can comprehend how to cope with it. 


  •     Analyzing the activating event: 


So, by understanding what has triggered our stress or heightened emotion can help us plan around it, prepare for it, avoid it, or take steps to minimize it. Thus, one should keep in mind that while we are writing down about the activating events in a journal it can help us establish the root cause of it. But it may not always be what we initially thought. For example, you might think that your sister really annoys you every time you see her. But it might not be true it can be really be something else your sister embodies that makes you feel stressed.


It’s always useful to think about whether we can minimise the trigger or activating event For example, if there’s a certain friend that really winds you up, could you put more boundaries down?”  However, we can’t minimise all events so in that case you have to think about how you can respond to it instead.


  •     Reflecting on our beliefs and changing the consequences: 


Reframing our beliefs about an event can help us change how we react to it. Claire Davis, a stress management consultant and founder of Midlife Mentors shares her insight on this: 

We can think that our belief patterns or our personalities are fixed, but actually neuroscience proves that the neurones in our brain can be rewired and we can build new neural pathways in the brain


So, understanding what our beliefs are about certain events is the first step to reframing and reprogramming the mind and changing our response about that event. Now, looking at the model you find that an activating event happens quite frequently and the consequences are that you become puzzled and can’t think straight. So, to get a clarity you can ask yourself several question such as:



  • ‘  What’s the belief system behind that? 
  •    What’s going on?’ you might then think, 
  •   ‘Am I overreacting?’, 
  •   ‘Am I overgeneralizing?,
  •   ‘Am I looking at the situation in a very finite way?’ 


It’s all about silencing that troubling little inner voice that makes us think we can’t do things when we can. So, what happens is we create belief systems based on things that have happened to us. So, in the past a certain circumstance may have caused humiliation, pain or sadness and to protect us the subconscious mind will create belief systems about certain situations even if they are not true. This can affect our inner dialogue or voice making us to overreact to certain situations However, we can learn to change these mindsets and  try to adapt. 



It’s suggested that we should use affirmations to reframe ourinternal dialogueSo, think about what belief system you would need to develop to change your response to an activating event. Then think about affirmations you can say to encourage yourself

So, based on the example given you can try these affirmations and repeat the phrases such as: 

  •   I am a really interesting person
  •   I am not boring
  •   I am good at presenting.
  •   I am a powerful presence in a room 

The more you try and think in a different way the more natural it will become. You can also reframe and reprogram the mind to choose your own responses and learn to be more positive about certain events. 



Use another alternative ABC model:

Another ABC model that is used in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) can also help us reframe our belief system and make us feel more optimistic.

In this model, the ‘A’ stands for ‘accumulate positive’ experiencesThis can help us build up a positive environment by doing things or keeping things around us that make us smile. So, this could be anything from spending time with loved ones that make us feel good or reading book you really enjoy.

“The ‘B’ stands for ‘build mastery’. Remember that Friends episode where Monica gets a bad restaurant review so she goes to a beginner’s cooking class and is the best in the class? That is building mastery by reminding yourself you’re competent and good at things.

The ‘C’, in this model, stands for ‘cope ahead’. Again, by understanding what your activating events and beliefs are you can plan and create a clear crisis plan that make you feel safe in stressful situations. This could be anything from having a fiddle toy in your bag you can play with when you get stressed or having an emergency tea bag on hand.” 


In conclusion, this pandemic has been really a stressful time to deal and cope with work and home lives. Prior to the onset of pandemic, we can see that people were and are currently also struggling to maintain a balance between professional and personal lives which is leading them to experience increased anxiety and stress. Solearning how the ABC model works and using it in your daily life could not only help ease anxiety but also help you become more positive. 











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