I used to be a stress head. One of those that worried all night. “I should have said this. I shouldn’t have said that. I wish this had happened. Oh my gosh, what if this happens?”
What I really wish is that someone had taught me earlier that all the stress I was experiencing had nothing to do with what was going on around me and everything to do with the thoughts that I was having.
Think about it.
Two people in a plane about to jump out of it to parachute for the first time. Person A is excited and can’t wait and is smiling. Person B is scared and feels sick and looks terrified. The event is the exact same event for each of them. The only thing different between person A and B is their thoughts about what is happening.
Person A might be thinking things like ‘This is so exciting, it’s going to be amazing, I will feel like I am flying, I am so lucky to be doing this…’
Person B might be thinking things like ‘What was I thinking, I could die, I want to go home, get me out of here….’
How you feel is determined by what you think.
Let’s do a quick exercise together so I can prove it.
Think back to a time years ago when you did something embarrassing. Really put yourself in the place. Remember the people around, what you did, what you said, how people reacted. How are you feeling right now? Was there a wave of embarrassment that swept over you as you recalled the event? You are not there right now… so what created that feeling? That’s right! Your thoughts about it created the feelings in you.
Now think about a time where you felt so much happiness you were bursting. Hold that in your mind. What was the day like? Why were you so happy? What was happening? Who was around you? Hold it all in your mind and breathe. How do you feel? Are you smiling just remembering? Your thoughts about it created the feelings in you again.
So if you don’t want to feel stressed then you can change how and what you are thinking.
Yes, that can be tricky. And yes, you have to practise every day – like anything you want to get better at in life. So how?
Start just by choosing a better feeling thought. Look at it from different angles, and perspectives, see the opportunity for learning, focus on the positive, see what it is telling you about what you want in life.
As thoughts come into your mind sift through them and let the ones that aren’t helpful go (they are the thoughts that blame you or someone else, or feel like it is unfair and unjust).
Create and choose thoughts that soothe you. Here’s a list of some that have helped me manage stress.
- This isn’t permanent.
- From this I have learned that ‘X’.
- This doesn’t mean that it can’t be different in the future.
- I have survived worse than this.
- In 5 years this will not even rate on my ‘things that matter’ list.
- If this happens again then I will know better.
The quickest way to shift your stress is to shift your thoughts.
Belinda Jay is founder of School of Stuff That Matters, designing and delivering online programs for teens to help them find more happiness. Courses cover #REALGOOD relationships, self-worth, mindset, health, stress management, emotional wellbeing, confidence… you know… the stuff they don’t teach you at school.