The way we think events – past, present or future – affects our stress levels. Most of our thoughts speed past and remain below our level of awareness. By becoming conscious we have the ability to manage them rather than allowing them to manage us.
Learning to be more aware of your thoughts gives you the chance to make meaningful changes to the way you feel, think and behave. With practice, learning to reframe the situation, challenge rather than simply accepting thoughts and understand what makes you feel the way you feel, may help you reduce your levels of stress, motivate yourself and be happier.
Explore and reflect
When you’re having a stressful thought, it can be helpful to ask yourself:
- How accurate and valid is your appraisal of the situation? What assumptions are you making?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- Has what you feared ever happened when you dealt with this type of stressful thought in the past?
- What advice would you have for a close friend in a similar situation?
- How high on your priority list of things that matter most to you does this stressor fall?
- Can you do anything about the stressor? If yes, what can you do? Make a plan! If not, then you need to learn to let it go
The answers to the questions above can help you discern whether a specific stress response is adaptive and serves a function. Even if it’s adaptive, remember that staying in the stress state isn’t helpful, you need to make a plan and take action to resolve the situation. The only person in control of your thoughts and their impact on your stress levels is you.