Stress is in the mind - Part 2
Epictetus Greek philosopher professed that people were disturbed not by things but by the views they took on them. In other words, your perceptions and beliefs determine how you feel. The cognitive psychological view is that stress occurs when the pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope with it, which is just another way of saying that believing that you can overcome difficulties and challenges will lead you to feel calmer.
As you have gone through life, your beliefs about yourself, your abilities, and your life have changed and evolved. As a young child, you believed that anything is possible and just like a super hero you are capable of achieving anything in life. You could not see limitations and barriers and you looked at life with an awe of wonder. Then you became more conscious of your environment and others around you. You started to hear views such as, life is a struggle, it is not possible for you to do or to achieve certain things, you will never amount to anything, you are not pretty or handsome enough, you do not deserve rewards, you are not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, and so on. With that, the super hero in you began to diminish and slowly disappeared. You might not even have believed those negative statements at first however as life went on and you experienced failure on the way, you drew the conclusion that those ‘fake’ truth were facts and built a belief system around them.
No wonder, that you feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges when you do not have the basic belief that would help you to cope, which is ‘I can do it’. Knowing that you are able and capable to fight your battles and overcome difficulties in life would reduce stress in your life significantly. It might not always easy to overcome difficulties in life but it is certainly possible. I am certain that you could list a number of occasions when in the past, you did manage to do what you are currently stressing over and when things just turned out to be fine. I accept that sometimes things do not turn out the way they were planned however in order to reduce stress it is essential to look for evidence on the contrary.
A good way to start managing stress is by noticing what your mind is telling you. I bet that most of your self-talk is negative because if it was not, you would not experience high levels of stress right now. So, what is your mind telling you? I am guessing the most common response would be ‘I can’t cope’. When you hear yourself say that that is the time to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Where is my evidence that I will definitely fail or that I will not be able to do this?
What are my personal traits and skills, which will help me, cope with this challenge?
When in the past did I manage to overcome a similar issue? How did I do it?
Here are 4 short questions that you can ask yourself when challenging your own beliefs and assumptions:
Is it logical to think that way?
Is it realistic to think this?
Is it helpful to think this way? (How is this limiting way of thinking helping me?)
Where is my evidence for this assumption to be true? (Is it a fact?)
Let’s face it, most of our assumptions are fictions and have little to do with facts.
Taking all the above into consideration, it is fare to conclude that stress is in your mind.
By taking the standpoint of an observer and beginning to monitor the way you think about yourself and about possibilities in life you will start to reduce tension and stress in your life.
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Karen Hayns MSc - Future PerfectSeptember 11th, 2017