Managing Stress: Attitude

Have you ever noticed how the exact same situation can stress one person out, while it might not affect another person at all? This difference can usually be explained by the way each individual thinks about the situation. Changing the way you think (a.k.a. cognitive restructuring) can help you manage stressors in your life. Here’s how.

Each time something happens in our lives, the information about that event enters our minds. We then interpret it; we form beliefs about what the events means, why it happened or how it is going to affect us. While we can’t always control the events that happen, we can control what we think about the event, which in turn shape our feelings about them.

Self-talk is an ongoing internal dialogue we each have. Oftentimes this conversation is overly critical, irrational and destructive. To reduce stress, instead of being your own worst critic, treat yourself with a gentle touch. Talk to yourself like you would a child who you care about very much.

Changing Your Self-Talk:
Think about a stressful situation you experienced recently.
Come up with both negative/irrational and productive/rational self-talk for the situation.

Example 1
Situation: I have a huge paper due in two days.
Irrational self-talk: I’ll never get it done. Why did I take that stupid class in the first place?
Rational self-talk: I’ve worked well under pressure in the past. I know I can do it again!

Example 2
Situation: I came home to discover my roommate left the kitchen a mess.
Irrational self-talk: She is so disrespectful of me. Can’t she think about anyone but herself?
Rational self-talk: I know my roommate has a lot going on. She would have cleaned up if she had time.

Your turn

Situation: ______________________________________________________________________
Irrational self-talk: _______________________________________________________________
Rational self-talk: ________________________________________________________________

Remember, you decide which self-talk you choose to listen to. Try to monitor your self-talk and replace negative messages with constructive, rational ones.

Distorted Thought Patterns
Are the messages that you send yourself causing distress? Self-defeating thought patterns can cause specific kinds of negative emotions. Do any of these seem familiar to you?

References and Resources