Ok, time for a short lesson in psychology. We have talked about the many stressors in modern life, but where is the actual stress located? Is the stress located at home, or at work, or on the highway? Nope, try looking a bit closer. Yes folks, it is all in your head.

How we react to events in our life and the beliefs we have about those events affect our stress level. If you have one of those temperaments that leave you fuming every time something doesn’t go your way, this is a good time to learn to reframe your responses and begin lowering your stress level.

Let’s use an example commuting time on the highway. If you begin each day by getting in your car and mumbling and grumbling all the way to work with thoughts of I hate this commute, people in this city can’t drive, I hate my job, I’m going to be late, my boss is a jerk, MY LIFE SUCKS, how do you think you will feel by the time you finally make it to work? You have been letting your mind run rampant awfulizing everything. If you reframe your thinking, you may find a solution. Ask yourself: what are the facts? I have a 45 minute commute every morning. That does not make all of the rest of the thoughts above true or valid. Do I really hate my job? No, most of the time it is OK. Will I be late? Maybe, maybe not, but being late once in a while is not a big deal. So the only actual fact is that I have a 45 minute commute every day. I can choose to spend that time grousing and becoming grumpy or I can choose to spend the commute in a more productive manner. I could spend the time going through my to do list for the day and giving myself an outline/plan for having a successful day, listening to my favorite music and singing along to wake up and get in a great mood for the day, or use the time for listening to a great audio book. I don’t have to spend that time letting my negative thoughts stress me out before the day has even begun!!!

When you begin to watch your inner dialogue, you can catch yourself before your mind has a chance to stray too far into the negative. This takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself. Begin by tuning in to your thoughts throughout the day and notice the overall tone.When negative thoughts crop up and you can’t seem to stop the tirade, visualize a big red stop sign and say STOP to your thoughts. Now work towards re-directing your thoughts towards something positive. You will be treating your mind like an unruly toddler with the stop and distract method. What do you do when a toddler is reaching for something breakable on a table? You say no or stop and redirect the toddler to a basket of toys in the corner. Then you put away the breakable item. Same concept for the mind: stop, redirect/distract, and leave the negative thought behind.

So what do we use to distract? How about thoughts and visualizations of things you love to do? Digging in the sand at the beach, flying a kite in the park, fishing at your favorite river, playing ball with the kids, and so on are thoughts you can turn your attention to. You can also distract by occupying you mind with a book, going for a brisk walk, or calling a friend. Use whatever works for you!!! I will be discussing self nurturing in a later article and some of those activities can also be used to redirect and distract from negative thinking.

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Filed under: Stress Reduction

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