How to Reduce Stress Using the Power of Positive Thinking

Getty / Astronaut Images
Thinking positively can help reign in stress. Getty / Astronaut Images

The following article is from a series on stress reduction when you have social anxiety. Other articles in the series can be found at the end of the article.

Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Do you find it hard to go to that anxiety-provoking meeting or motivate yourself to hit the gym when it is filled with strangers? These are common struggles among those with all levels of social anxiety, from mild to severe.

We all struggle to find a way to cope with social and performance challenges, and we all experience stress over tasks we fear, as well as, stress over tasks we put off until tomorrow due to anxiety.

It is well known that stress can shorten your life and de-motivates. Besides, let’s face it, when your life is full of stress, who wants to live longer? With just a little effort, you can greatly reduce your stress level by making changes in the thoughts you have.

It’s not always easy. When you’re faced with a meeting at work, the phone is ringing, and all you wanted was five minutes of time to yourself, it can be hard to think positively.

However, if you catch yourself thinking, “Oh gosh, my life is so stressful,” understand that this kind of thinking makes you feel worse. It increases your stress levels when you perceive the situation as stressful. Believing the situation is stressful, guarantees that it will be.

Can you stop all negative thoughts from happening? It is unlikely. No one can stop all his or her negative thoughts from occurring. It is enough to try to catch that negativity when you feel your stress levels begin to escalate.

Stop. Breathe. Then, take a moment to make yourself aware of your thoughts.

Are you seeing only the worst in the situation? Is your fear or anxiety causing you to think more negatively than you might otherwise? How can you look at what’s happening from a different angle?

If you can successfully change what you think, you will experience real, effective, and potent change in your emotional state. You might think this is such a simple trick, how could it possibly work? If it does work so well, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about it?

It is true that we rarely say to each other, “Hey, change what you are thinking.” That’s because we don’t generally see our thoughts as controllable. However, changing what you think is exactly what happens if you are upset and tell a friend, who responds kindly. That person helps you feel better by helping you to see the situation from a different, more positive perspective.

Are you still unconvinced of the power of thought to create a less stressful life? Let’s imagine a stressful situation. Imagine that you have to make a phone call and talk to a colleague about a source of conflict between the two of you.

In addition, you have an afternoon meeting looming overhead, in which you will have to give a short presentation.

You go to the break room for coffee, notice a co-worker who makes you feel comfortable, and mention your fears about the phone call and upcoming meeting. Your co-worker responds by telling you the phone call will indeed be difficult, and that he or she does not envy you having to do the presentation. 

When you go back to your office, do you feel more relaxed and stress-free or do you feel more anxious about the upcoming tasks? Do you feel even worse about the phone call and meeting?

Now, instead, imagine that co-worker had said, “We all have to make those kinds of calls sometimes. Best not to get worked up about the worst-case scenario as it isn’t likely to happen. As far as the meeting—I’ve seen you do presentations before and you’ve always been spot on. Sure you will be a bit nervous, but I doubt anyone will notice.”

It makes sense to change what you are thinking to feel happier and live stress free. You can make this small change into a big difference, as long as you think it can be done. When you talk to yourself, do it in the same way as that helpful, encouraging colleague. In time, you will notice your anxiety lessen and confidence build.

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