Stress can be defined by different people differently. But the fact is that we all experience stress. It is just how we deal with it, differs from individual to individual. Potential stress is something that tends to threaten you or something that you give importance to. Life events like death, loss of a job, divorce, separation, marital conflict, abuse,domestic violence, physical and emotional trauma can all cause stress to the person as they put a threat in the person’s life and the person feels insecure. Over a period of time, if these life events continue to happen, the person becomes very stressed out and also can suffer from mental illnesses, like PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and thought disorder. The memory, images of these events pervade in the life of the person and evoke pain and suffering. Once the person is healed from these traumatic events, the person adopts a healthy attitude and moves on. Thought process is something that needs to be mentioned here. These are internal triggers for stress in the absence of these stressful events. It is important to be aware of the traps that we fall into which cause stress in the person’s life. Following are the ten cognitive distortions that can create stress in the person’s life. One needs to be cognizant of these distortions in order to reframe the faulty thought patterns:
1. Often we tend to believe every thought that comes to our mind with so much conviction that it begins to appear real and causes the person to feel stress out. In reality, thoughts are just thoughts and they do not necessarily represent objective reality. There is a subjective bias element that begins to operate in these situations. This is when the person distorts the reality and imagines all kinds of scenarios related to the event. In this way the perception can be responsible for the feelings of anxiety and insecurity that the person is experiencing. Therefore it is vital to check the reality before jumping to conclusion and making silent assumptions about the situation.
2. When the person begins to believe that all thoughts are true just because the individual has them it is called the “Thought are True Distortion”. This seems to be irrational because human beings have a tendency to form opinions and make value judgments about people, situation, and events. Again, the subjective bias can creep in and distort the reality. When you begin to base your conclusions on merely what you think, you can fall in trap with this kind of distortion. Sometimes random thoughts cross our mind and put irrational seeds in our mind. This can cause stress because you could be imagining many things that are really not present in the situation. Thoughts just exist but they are not necessarily true or false. They can be misrepresenting the reality and this can cause unnecessary stress.
3. When the person begins to believe that all thoughts are equally important, he or she can be making an error in thinking. Some thoughts just represent our opinion and evaluation. Some of them might be important and others may be just irrelevant. However, the person does not discriminate between the important thoughts and irrelevant thoughts and draw a conclusion that leads to stress. We need to be aware of the thoughts that are exaggerated and generalized. It is important to say that these thoughts are not important so try to withdraw your attention from them. So it is good to not take all thoughts seriously and give every thought the same high importance.
4. As mentioned earlier, we sometimes tend to take each thought seriously and begin to act on them as if someone has ordered us to do that. Remember, this is the person’s own creation and just because the thought crosses the mind, does not mean that the person has to take it as on order and act on it compulsively. We become tense and angry as the thought triggers a stress response. It is good to be mindful of these thoughts and not act on them the moment they arise in your head.
5. Sometimes we imagine a threat in every situation and begin to believe every thought that comes in our mind. Not all thoughts are real, some of the thoughts pose unnecessary threat to the person and they are dysfunctional thoughts. But the person who gets them, tends to believe them and feels threatened leading to feeling stressed out. We need to watch out for this tendency and not give in to every thought that comes to our head.
6. Sometimes, we create scary pictures of the situation and begin to believe in them as they are real. This can cause stress too. For example, you may have experienced being trapped in an elevator once. Now you begin to imagine that all elevators are going to malfunction and you will be trapped in them no matter what. You have memory and images from the past that pose danger in your mind, but, remember these are just images and they do not exist in the present and real moment. Stress and anxiety can be avoided by rational and positive self talk with the help of affirmations to reduce stress.
7. Sometimes we get trapped in a thinking style that encompasses permanence, pervasiveness and personalization. According to Richard Blonna, ED.D, these traps can cause immense stress in the person. When the person begins to believe that stress is going to last forever, this is called the permanence distortion. In reality, very few stressors last forever. By dwelling in the aftermath of it and thinking about it, the person tends to prolong the stress. Losses, grief can be dealt with adequately and with time, the person can get over it and move on too. Pessimistic people tend to have a distorted perception about their losses and suffering and believe that temporary setbacks will affect their lives permanently. If you are optimistic, you will have a more functional approach to such life events and they can avoid the stress by just thinking differently. They will have a positive self talk which will help them cope with their stress better. They will believe that the storm will pass and they will resume their normal and healthy functioning soon. One should have a context specific view point and not generalize it to every aspect of life.
8. When the person tends to believe that the effects of stress are all pervasive and they will affect every aspect of their lives, they are making an error in their thinking and need to reframe their thinking style. Just because the even affected one aspect of your life does not mean that you will be affected by it in every aspect of life. Pessimistic people tend to make the over generalization error and begin to believe that just because they have weakness in one area, they will fail in all other areas of life too. In reality this is not true and it can cause so much stress to the person.
9. Sometimes, pessimistic people take every events personally and feel stressed out. An objective comment can be mistaken as criticism and the person will start to feel attacked and criticized. Then they blame the other person and do not take the responsibility to correct the situation. Optimistic people are always taking responsibility and do not blame external factors for their setbacks and failures. They are more guided by the internal view personal responsibility so they take charge of the situation and make healthy and wise decisions to cope with the situation.
10. Sometimes we have old and outdated viewpoints about ourselves and we let them guide our present situation. Again, the irrational thoughts and scripts could be causing stress to the person. These outdated thoughts and faded snapshots are no longer representing who you are today so it is not a good idea to base your current conclusions on them. They tend to undermine self-confidence and misrepresent the reality.
In this way we see, we can deal with our stress more effectively when we try to manage our stress by controlling our thoughts and not giving in to every thought that comes to mind in relation to a stressful event or situation. Notice if you are making any distortion in your conclusion and reframe your thoughts with healthy and functional thought patterns. Writer has written blog post entitled, How Thoughts Affect our Mind. Readers are referred to this blog post on the website for more details. Hypnosis can also help ease symptoms of stress and anxiety. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.
Reference: Stress Less, Live More by Richard Blonna, ED.D