Updated: Apr 22, 2019
You cannot feel less stressed without shifting your mindset. You brain interprets the world through the lens of perception. If we do not shift how we see the world we will not shift the way we experience it.
There is a very powerful connection between your thoughts + your feelings. What you think informs you of how to feel emotionally. If you receive an email from your boss and your initial thought is "Oh no, I'm in trouble" then you will feel an emotion as a result of that thought (think stressed, panicked, worried). If you notice the thoughts that lead to your interpretation and shift them from something distorted (you're not a mind reader so how can you be certain that you are in trouble) to something truth-based, you will lessen your negative emotional reaction. This connection significantly contributes to our experience of stress and is one of the most effective strategies we can use to stressing LESS.
1) Identify the times you feel most stressed. When are they and who are you with? Are you engaging in particular tasks/obligations when you feel more stressed out? Identify the most common situations: who, what, where, and when.
2) Now for the why. What are the thoughts that add to your stress? Remember, situations are often benign on their own (taking care of the kids, going to work, checking your emails, browsing the internet, cooking dinner, sleep, laundry, etc.) but the thoughts that we use to interpret these situation are what contributes to our stress. What meaning do you add to the situations listed above? For example, when you husband doesn't take out the trash as you expect what do you tell yourself? It probably isn't "Oh that sweet man. He has so much going on he probably just forgot. I'll do it for him." It is likely something along the lines of "He should have taken out the trash! Now it's on me to deal with, as if I don't have enough on my plate." List the thoughts your brain secretes during moments of stress.
3) Know your power. Your power remains in your ability to interpret situations differently, perhaps less harshly, judgmentally, and distorted. Instead notice that you have the power to opt-in or out of negative thoughts. If you simply practice noticing thoughts versus buying into them immediately you will observe what I like to call 'a fork in the road'. You will notice that before you get yourself worked up you can choose a different lens to look through. What lens might help you see this situation in a less-stressful way? Write it down.
4) Tame your thoughts. Now that you recognize there is a fork in the road, you have an opportunity to decide which path to take (one of distorted thoughts that fuels stress OR one that gives you a better chance to lessen your stress and negative emotions through reality-based thinking). What might this opportunity look like in your life? Use your list of events from above as well as the interpretations your brain often secretes. Now make a list of alternative thoughts. What could you think instead? What helpful thought could you buy into? Write this list, one alternative for each trigger thought.
5) Post these thoughts around your environment. Do not stop after you write the list, because you will likely lose it or forget it exists. Take a few of your favorite alternatives and post them on your phone, on your mirror, on your computer or your desk. Keep them visible while you practice this skill. It takes time, but it will be worth every ounce of effort.
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