Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts

Simple Tools to Counter the Stress of Negative Thinking


While dealing with all the challenges that are before us each day, it is easy to feel stressful. Quite often, our experience of stress comes from our perception of the situation which can send us into a downward spiral of unhappiness and negative thinking, and can cause us to be unfair or aggressive with others.

A popular definition of stress is, "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
In becoming stressed, people must make two main judgments:  First, they must feel threatened by the situation, and second, they must judge whether their capabilities and resources are sufficient to meet the threat. How stressed someone feels depends on how much damage they think the situation can do them, and how closely their resources meet the demands of the situation.

Perception is the key to this as most situations are not stressful in their own right. Rather it is our interpretation of the situation that drives the level of stress that we feel.

Sometimes we are right in what we say to ourselves. Some situations may actually be dangerous, may threaten us physically, socially or in our career. Here, emotions are part of the early warning system that alerts us to the threat from these situations. Very often, however, we are overly harsh and unjust to ourselves in a way that we would never be with friends or co-workers. This, along with other negative thinking, can cause intense stress and unhappiness and can severely undermine self-confidence.

Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking, and Positive Thinking are simple tools that help you to change this negative thinking.  They will help you manage and counter the stress of negative thinking.


Thought Awareness helps you to understand the negative thinking, unpleasant memories and misinterpretation of situations that may interfere with your performance and damage your self-confidence.

Rational Thinking is the technique that helps you to challenge these negative thoughts and either learn from them or refute them as incorrect.

Positive thinking is then used to create positive affirmations that you can use to counter negative thoughts. These affirmations neutralize negative thoughts and build your self-confidence. It is also used to find the opportunities that are almost always present to some degree in a difficult situation.

Thought Awareness
You are thinking negatively when you fear the future, put yourself down, criticize yourself for errors, doubt your abilities, or expect failure. Negative thinking damages confidence, harms performance and paralyzes mental skills.

A major problem with this is that negative thoughts tend to fit into our consciousness, do their damage and flit back out again with their significance, having barely been noticed. Since we do not challenge them, they can be completely incorrect and wrong. Yet, this does not diminish their harmful effect.
Thought Awareness is the process by which you observe your thoughts and become aware of what is going through your head.

One approach to it is to observe your stream of consciousness as you think about a stressful situation. Do not suppress any thoughts: Instead, you just let them run their course while you watch them, and write them down on paper as they occur.
Another more general approach to Thought Awareness comes with logging stress in a Stress Diary. One of the benefits of using a Stress Diary is that, for one or two weeks, you log all of the unpleasant things in your life that cause you stress. This will include negative thoughts and anxieties, and can also include difficult or unpleasant memories and situations that you perceive as negative. By logging your negative thoughts for a reasonable period of time, you can quickly see patterns in your negative thinking. When you analyze your diary at the end of the period, you should be able to see the most common and the most damaging thoughts. Tackle these as a priority.

Thought awareness is the first step in the process of managing negative thoughts, as you cannot manage thoughts that you are unaware of.

Rational Thinking
The next step in dealing with negative thinking is to challenge the negative thoughts that you identified using the Thought Awareness technique.  Look at every thought you wrote down and rationally challenge it.  Ask yourself whether the thought is reasonable: Does it stand up to fair scrutiny?

As an example, by analyzing your Stress Diary you might identify that you have frequently had the following negative thoughts:
•Feelings of inadequacy.
•Worries that your performance in your job will not be good enough.
•An anxiety that things outside your control will undermine your efforts.
•Worries about other people's reactions to your work.

Starting with these, you might challenge negative thoughts in the ways shown:
Feelings of inadequacy: Have you trained and educated yourself as well as you reasonably should to do the job? Do you have the experience and resources you need to do it? Have you planned, prepared and rehearsed appropriately? If you have done all of these, are you setting yourself unattainably high standards for doing the job?

Worries about performance: Do you have the training that a reasonable person would think is needed to do a good job? Have you planned appropriately? Do you have the information and resources you need? Have you cleared the time you need and cued up your support team appropriately? Have you prepared appropriately? If you have not, then you need to do these things quickly. If you have, then you are well positioned to give the best performance that you can.
Problems with issues outside your control: Have you conducted appropriate contingency planning? Have you thought through and managed all likely risks and contingencies appropriately? If so, you will be well prepared to handle potential problems.

Worry about other people's reactions: If you have put in good preparation, and you do the best you can, then that is all that you need to know. If you perform as well as you reasonably can, then fair people are likely to respond well. If people are not fair, then this is something outside your control.

A few things to remember:
Don't make the mistake of generalizing a single incident. OK, you made a mistake at work, but that doesn't mean you're bad at your job.

Similarly, make sure you take the long view about incidents that you're finding stressful. Just because you're finding that new system, or new responsibilities stressful now, doesn't mean that they will always be so for you in the future.
Often, the best thing to do is to rise above unfair comments. Write your rational response to each negative thought on paper.

If you find it difficult to look at your negative thoughts objectively, imagine that you are your best friend or a respected coach or mentor. Look at the list of negative thoughts and imagine the negative thoughts were written by someone you were giving objective advice to, and think how you would challenge these thoughts.

When you challenge negative thoughts rationally, you should be able to see quickly whether the thoughts are wrong or whether they have some substance to them. Where there is some substance, take appropriate action as this may be an early warning system showing where you need to direct your attention.

Positive Thinking and Opportunity Seeking
Where you have used Rational Thinking to identify incorrect negative thinking, it can often be useful to prepare rational positive thoughts and affirmations to counter them. It can also be useful to look at the situation and see if there are any useful opportunities that are offered by it.

Affirmations help you to build self-confidence. By basing your affirmations on the clear, rational assessments of facts that you made using Rational Thinking, you can use them to undo the damage that negative thinking may have done to your self-confidence. Your affirmations will be strongest if they are specific, are expressed in the present tense and have strong emotional content.
Continuing the examples above, positive affirmations for these feelings might be:

Feelings of inadequacy: "I am well trained for this. I have the experience, the tools and the resources I need. I have thought through and prepared for all possible issues. I can do a superb job."
Worries about performance: "I have researched and planned well for this, and I thoroughly understand the problem. I have the time, resources and help I need. I am well prepared to do an excellent job."

Problems issues outside your control: "We have thought through everything that might reasonably happen and have planned how we can handle all likely contingencies. Everyone is ready to help where necessary. We are very well placed to react flexibly and effectively to unusual events."
Worry about other people's reaction: "I am well-prepared and am doing the best I can. Fair people will respect this. I will rise above any unfair criticism in a mature and professional way."

If appropriate, write these affirmations down on paper so that you can use them when you need them.
As well as allowing you to structure useful affirmations, part of Positive Thinking is to look at opportunities that the situation might offer to you. In the examples above, successfully overcoming the situations causing the original negative thinking will open up opportunities. You will acquire new skills, you will be seen as someone who can handle difficult challenges, and you may open up new career opportunities.

Make sure that identifying these opportunities and focusing on them is part of your positive thinking. In the past, people have advocated positive thinking almost recklessly as if it is a solution to everything. Positive thinking should be used with common sense. First, decide rationally what goals you can realistically attain with hard work, and then use positive thinking to reinforce these.

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Walking Your Way to Inner Peace

We all strive to live with inner peace embracing a calm mindset throughout each day. Once we have the condition of peace in us, we can afford to be in any situation. Even in times when extreme challenges invade our life, we are able to contribute our peace and serenity to the situation.

Sometimes that sense of peace disappears because something enters our mind and our thoughts and feelings start to weigh heavy creating anxiety, expectation and stress. Becoming overwhelmed by this can take us into a non productive state both physically and mentally. Just spending time to quiet our mind again reconnecting with our inner peace will put us back on the right path. One way to do this is to take a special kind of walk designed to help the journey called a “Labyrinth Walk.”

What is a Labyrinth?

Labyrinth is a metaphor for our own spiritual path and it touches our joys and sorrows, our memories and present issues. It is a safe place to simply experience ‘being.’ The Labyrinth is an ancient sacred walking path and its pattern and derivatives were placed in Gothic cathedrals in France in the 13th century. In the past decade it has been reintroduced to the United States as a tool to connect with the Divine Spirit. The path, having historical significance in its geometric and numerical design, is one winding continuous flow to the center and back that can be imprinted on portable canvas, permanent stone flooring, or part of a garden landscape. Labyrinth design offers a way of finding peace and clarity through movement. It has a singular, well-defined path that leads to the center and back out again. Many use this space for prayer, meditation, and introspection, nourishing their connectedness to self and spiritual renewal. Any insight or transformations are possible in this sacred space if the walker can let go of ‘expectation’ and simply experience its treasures.

Walking a Labyrinth
People of all faiths have found peace through labyrinth walking because they are considered non-denominational. The labyrinth has only one path to the center. There are no dead ends or wrong turns. Everything on the path is a metaphor for life’s journey. It symbolizes the path to be followed, in daily and seasonal cycles, in life, death and in rebirth.

There are three stages of the walk:

Purgation (Releasing) ~ As you start the walk you are releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions and a time to open the heart and quiet the mind.

Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stand, sit or lie down and stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation, reflection and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.

Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is symbolic of joining the healing forces at work in the world and symbolic of how you walk in your life with what you have received. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.


Benefits 

A labyrinth presents an opportunity for thought, peace and awareness. Because there are no decisions to be made, the walker can let go of the outside world and worries while following the path, circling toward the center. A labyrinth can be a transformational tool that creates a mind-body-spirit connection and a feeling of wholeness. Many people find labyrinth walking to be a calming, centering experience which embraces peaceful reflection. Some people find themselves overcome with powerful emotions as they journey inward. People often respond to the labyrinth without actually knowing why. They simply like how they feel in its embrace. It gives people a chance to charge their batteries again before going back into the fray.

In general, labyrinth walking is used to promote relaxation and relieve stress. Anyone looking for some peace and quiet can benefit from taking the journey to the center of a labyrinth. It has come to represent the inner pilgrimage we make to the center of our being. Walking the labyrinth is not about escaping into the center and leaving the world, it is about experiencing the spirit in the center so that you can live in the world in a more blessed way.

Most of all, labyrinths have healing qualities on many levels, emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual. This comes at a time when we greatly need healing. Healing must be an inside job, which is exactly how labyrinths function. Labyrinths are undergoing a great revival because at times of spiritual crisis they help restore the balance and the inner awareness that the world lacks. We, too, are the world, so eventually; the world itself changes as a reflection of our personal change.

Labyrinths have a long association as elements in gardens and other places of a spiritual, religious or medicinal nature precisely because the point of labyrinth is to help the person who chooses to walk it with intention to find mental and emotional peace and in turn to carry that peace out into the world.

Locations
Labyrinths are more common in the modern world than you might think. Many people have built private labyrinths on their own property so they can walk at their leisure to feel the peaceful affects it brings to their life, but there are many beautiful public places to start your walk as well. There are thousands of permanent labyrinths in use today in the United States alone and can be found in many churches, parks, hospitals, colleges, gardens, community centers, retreat centers and even airports.

The Worldwide Labyrinth Locator
http://labyrinthlocator.com provides a directory of labyrinths throughout the world. See if you can find one close to your work or home and start “Walking Your Way to Inner Peace!”

Expand your knowledge and enlighten your mind with the tools you need to excel in your life! Work with a Business and Life Management Coach with over 20 years experience empowering people to attain self-defined success in their professional & personal lives. Book a free session at
http://www.densiedema.com to start your journey to fully experience the richness of any given moment.

CNN Blog Link on Labyrinths