5 Ways to Change the Way You Think About StressNone By Homaira Kabir
Do you ever lie awake at night, stressing less about the stresses in your life and more about their effects on your mental and physical health?
You're certainly not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that well over half of Americans are troubled by the same nightly thoughts. Perhaps that's for a good reason: Stress has been linked to obesity and heart disease, not to mention the general impact it has on our moods and the people around us.
Given that there is little to zero chance we'll be doing away with stress anytime soon, we need to develop new and healthy ways to relate to stress so we don't get buried by it.
Skill # 1: Change Your Perception of Stress
The idea that stress is always bad is an often unchallenged belief. It's promoted in medical centers, it's doled out in books and articles, and it even lurks at the core of stress-reduction programs that promise to replace the discomfort of stress with feelings of ease and calm. However, this belief is not only false, but can be counterproductive. Research by Stanford psychologist Alia Crum shows that our "stress mindset" determines our biological response to stress. When we believe stress to be good for us, our bodies actually release hormones that enable us to face our challenges, and grow as a result.
Skill # 2: Modify the Meaning You Attach to Stress
Often there's an underlying fear of incompetence that leads to stressful reactions to stress. When we believe that we won't be able to cope with the situation, we debilitate ourselves with worry. The way out is to think of past experiences when you've risen to challenges, or to think of others who have done so in similar situations. This helps build self-efficacy and gives you hope that you can do the same. It's also important to notice if you're catastrophizing about what can potentially happen, thus blowing the situation out of proportion.
Skill # 3: Appreciate the Larger Perspective
Spend a minute or two reflecting on why a particular situation is stressful for you. Rather than focusing on wishing it away or doubting your ability to cope, focus instead on why the situation is important for you. You likely wouldn't worry much if your neighbor's child was doing badly at school, or if a colleague at work had a bad relationship with her parents, although you certainly may offer support. Think of worrying as a signal that the situation is meaningful to you—and, as such, something worth addressing