Are you feeling stressed out? Too many things to do, too little time? One more thing added to the To-Do list and you feel like you’ll explode?
Whoa there, no exploding allowed! You can handle it—just listen in.
Listen? To what?
To your self-talk. Not yourself talk, but your SELF-TALK. Listen in to the demands you’re making of your time, but more importantly listen in to how you’re saying them and what you’re saying.
(by: Dr. David L. Thomas)
Many of us don’t pay particular attention to what we’re saying to ourselves. We’ve never been taught the importance of how damaging it can be to us nor have we been shown that we can use it to feel much better. You can literally un-stress yourself by using your own self-talk.
Listen in for â€“need-, -have-to-, -must-, type statements that you make to yourself.
“First I need to drop the kids off, then I have-to go to the grocery store, then I need to stop at the bank, then I have-to get home and work on those taxes before having to go back out and pick up the kids.“
You’ve just created a lot of demands on yourself. And yes, in order for your life to continue like you want, you would prefer to do all those things exactly as you have envisioned. But you don’t NEED to, HAVE-TO or MUST.
By using demanding statements on yourself, you open up a lot of opportunities to say irrational things to yourself that create stress.
When you use demanding statements, you then create a scenario of “what-if“ in your head. And when the “what-if’s“ back-up, then watch out stress level!
“What if I don’t get it done, what if I don’t get there in time to get the kids, what if this, what if that.“ This is when you really go into stress mode!
Asking such open-ended questions is the origin much of your stress. You often answer with “that would be awful, that would be terrible“ which compounds the stressful feelings even more.
Since awful and terrible are labels way beyond bad, (actually labels that are beyond definition) you’ve created a situation in your head that ends up with you saying to yourself “â€¦and I couldn’t stand it if that happened,“ or “â€¦I couldn’t stand feeling that way!“
It’s indeed a vicious cycle of thinking that is common to all of us. Fortunately, once you know how, you can think your way out of these situations as quickly as you got in.
So where do you start?
First, flag such have-to, must, need-to statements in your head. Then replace the needs, musts and have-tos with preferences, desires, and wants.
Then when something doesn’t go according to your desires, reduce the awfuls and terribles to simply, bad. Then rest-assure yourself that you can stand it.
What if you don’t make it to the bank? What if you’re late picking up the kids?? Well, it’s not what you wanted, it may indeed even have consequences which may be bad, but in the overall scheme of things it isn’t awful and you CAN stand it.
A great deal of stress is caused from within by this “I-can’t-stand-it-it is.“
Remember: whenever you hear yourself saying “need-to, have-to, got-to, etc“ replace it with want-to or would like to. Substitute needs with desires; musts with preferences.
And remind yourself that awful things will not happen if your desires are not met. You may not like the results if things don’t go your way, but you can indeed stand the feelings. It may not be good if things don’t fall into place like you want, but the world will continue to spin and you will be able to handle it.
It takes some practice. Don’t expect it to happen for you like magic. Pay attention to your self-talk, listen for the what-if statements, flag the must and need statements. Dispute them with wants and desires. Do it vigorously. With time it will become second nature, and you’ll notice the lack of stress in your life.
Dr. David L. Thomas, LMHC
About The Author
Dr. David Thomas is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a practice in Tampa, FL. He has been counseling people to feel better for over 21 years. This article is posted at www.stressgroup.com. He is also the co-author of Quit Smoking-Be Happy!—see www.quitsmoking-behappy.com to learn more.
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