Stress reduction and the power of thought

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. 

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Why this matters

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. Exploring your options can help when you're ready to do that.

Remember, The only person in control of your thoughts and their impact on your stress levels is you.

When we understand the Link between our emotions, thoughts and behaviours, we become more aware of how this works for others. This awareness is directly linked to emotional intelligence. It can help us improve our ability to manage our own reactions and respond more effectively to others.

Take action

The next time you have a stressful thought that is difficult for you to manage, use the approach in Exploring your options to consider what you can do about it?


Contributors include.articlesDr. Joti SamraWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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