Each of us experiences different levels of stress in our daily lives and we need to learn how to manage stress.
I want us to understand what stress is before we proceed to discuss how we can effectively manage it using cognitive behavioural therapy.
Stress is any change event or circumstance that causes physical, psychological and emotional strain.
A stressor is anything that causes the release of stress hormones, any events or situations that triggers our stress is a stressor.
Categories of stress
There are two main categories of stressors namely:
- Physiological(or physical) stressors
Physiological (or physical) stressors
These are stressors that strain our bodies Examples include, injuries/diseases, pain etc.
These are circumstances, events, situations, individuals, comments, or anything we interpret as negative that triggers mental or psychological stress. It can be a thing as simple as looking for the second leg of a pair of your shoes, looking for a key, running late to class or a meeting, inability to use the internet etc.
There are also different types of stressors but we will focus on the psychological stressors.
Types of psychological stressors
There are positive and negative stressors.
An example of negative stressors includes Job loss, unemployment, financial distress, debt, childlessness, infertility, relationship problems.
Examples of positive stressors include: starting a new job, having a baby, moving to a new house, etc.
All these events can be stressful regardless of whether they are positive or not.
What Is Cognitive Reframing?
Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique and process of identifying how we view experiences, situations, events, emotions and ideas, challenging them and altering them. There is positive and negative cognitive reframing, positive cognitive reframing helps us to detach negative feelings from an event or situation and rather introduce a positive one.
Cognitive reframing in concise terms relates to our perspective in different situations. Over time we can testify that the way we perceive things often affects how we react to them.
Cognitive reframing is a process we go through to create a cognitive shift. When we are presented with a situation, our first reaction might be negative and illogical but when we apply cognitive shift we can begin to examine our reasoning and thereafter arrive at a more positive conclusion.
By reframing, you can successfully and significantly alter your perceptions of stressors and, thus, relieve significant amounts of stress thereby creating positive experiences without physically changing our situation.
How Reframing Affects Stress
How Reframing Works
Using reframing techniques gets easier with practice/ continuous usage. To master the art of reframing there are preliminary steps we need to take.
Reframing Prelims include:
Understanding Thinking Patterns
The first preliminary step in reframing is to learn and understand positive and negative thought patterns and educate ourselves on the differences between them. Understanding negative distortions and how they affect and influence our stress levels is necessary to begin the cognitive reframing process.
Identifying Your Thoughts
This is the second reframing preliminary. You must take the time to observe yourself, identify your thinking patterns, especially negative distortions that often trigger stress hormones. Once you identify them, you can recognize the thoughts for what they are and then eventually start to challenge them. It almost appears like you are a spectator of your own thoughts. identifying your thoughts also provides a detailed and holistic view of your thought patterns.
Challenge Your Thoughts
To effectively manage stress you must challenge and reframe your thoughts. This will help you discover if your thoughts are accurate concerning the facts and evidence you have and ensure that you are not catastrophizing, maximizing or making a mountain out of a molehill. You view events and experiences for what they actually are. Challenge every negative thought and remove them. When you challenge every negative thought you can adopt a positive mindset.
Alter Your Thoughts and Replace Negative With More Positive Thoughts
I know it’s cliché but I will say it. “look at the silver lining in every situation”. This might be outrightly annoying to some of you. Some of you even hate to see those people you think are extra chirpy and annoyingly happy and positive. You might even argue that they aren’t being realistic because they react differently to situations. They take things in stride and don’t get as stressed as you do over the same circumstances. You might secretly envy them and wish you were more like them. This will definitely get you there. Whenever you find yourself in the middle of clearly stressful circumstances, you can react differently. Looking at your position and trying to find something positive —the silver lining.
An Example of a way we use cognitive reframing every day to turn our negative thoughts into positive thoughts in our everyday lives is: Suppose you walk into a room and you see someone furious and about ready to beat another person up and you desire to deescalate the situation, you can approach the person as asking what the problem is by saying “please can you tell me why you’re upset” this will calm them down as they decided whether or not they want to relay the events to you. However, if you ask “please tell me why you’re furious” it reaffirms and reminds them that they were in fact very furious before your conversation with them.
You can deescalate the situation and help people see negative events in a better light. Using cognitive reframing thereby significantly reducing stress.
That’s the gist of reframing and you can do it as often as you’d like. Most people are surprised at the impact reframing has on their experience of stress. Changing the way you look at your life can truly help you manage stress and change your life.