Four steps to changing your perception of stress so you can let it go
Following on from ‘So you think you might be stressed’? Part 1. This article offers a four step process to changing your internal meaning around stress. In the last article I invited you to become aware of your current thinking about stress – what it means to you and what you tell yourself about it.
So let’s explore that in a bit more depth here:
Close your eyes, think of whatever it is you are calling stress / stressful. As you bring that to mind do you have a word, story, picture or feeling that helps you to know that you are stressed? Just spend five minutes getting as much detail as you can around that.
- What words come to mind? Write them down – all of them
- What story are you telling yourself? Is it about unfairness, injustice, lack of control, overwhelm – write the story down as if you were explaining it to someone else starting with “it is like…”
- What picture or metaphor or analogy describes ‘stress’ to you most effectively? Write it down – or draw it (do it in such a way that someone else can get it – feel it too)
- What do you feel in your body and where do you feel it? Write it down.
Now take a moment to decide whether or not that “stress” is resourceful to you in any way. Or are you ready to let it go, recognising the dis-stress it is causing for you in your mind, heart and body.
If you are ready to let it go – and only if you are ready (it is a choice) – go through your list and change each one. On a new sheet of paper:
What words would be more resourceful? Keep it true, so you can believe it. This is not about trivialising your experience or excusing poor behaviours, it is about reframing your experience, so it can be beneficial for you. For every word you have written down – offer an alternative way of looking at it and describing it. Anger may become determination to do something about it. Stuck may become taking time to make a very clear decision. Pressure may become the driver I needed to take action. Stay with it until you have an alternative for every word and imagine erasing the old words in your mind, and writing the new words or phrases where they used to be.
Now look at the story. You may find with changing the words the story has already changed. Using the new words, how does the story pan out? Rewrite the story using the new plot. Putting you back in charge.
How has the picture / metaphor changed now? Do whatever you know will work for you to make it a positive, resourceful image. With you empowered, successful, joyful (you can choose the words and emotions you most want to feel).
Finally – notice how with new words, a new story and a new picture the feelings have changed. Take a moment to notice how they have changed and make a mental note how you can do this again in the future with other situations (if you should need to), so you can be the author of your own empowering in the moment; so that you know where tin find that new feeling again instantaneously.
This technique is powerful – and should not be used to tolerate poor situations, or to put you at any risk. What it can be useful for is to empower you to make positive changes to ensure you are in control of your own response to whatever situations arise. It is clear from the literature that stress is becoming a normal part of everyday life. Life is fast pace, uncertain, unpredictable and often like a roller coaster ride. We cannot change all of the world around us, or how some people choose to be in the world. We can though take absolute control of how we react and respond. Use this four step process to put you back in charge. By changing your perception of the stress in the moment (and when reflecting on difficult events) – you can make wiser decisions of what needs to happen; Do you act or walk away? Do you voice concerns or breathe quietly? Do you seek support and advice or do you support others? We always have a choice – this technique will help you create the space to see the choices available and make a wise response – just by changing your perception of the stress. By changing how we view stress we hugely reduce its opportunity to have a negative impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. That too is a choice…