There are many studies that show that psychological therapies can help us to manage the way we think and behave. These therapies recognise that if we can alter our thinking and look rationally at difficulties that arise, we can shift from negative or unhelpful thoughts and reactions to more positive and problem-solving approaches.
Ways to improve stress management
A useful way to learn the connection between our thoughts and the way we feel is to take notes after stressful situations occur.
Recall a recent situation that you found upsetting or difficult: What happened? Where? Who was involved? When?
My colleague was abrupt and dismissive with me after I asked him to change something in a document.
What were you feeling? How strong was this mood? (0-100%).
Hurt 80% Angry 90% Frustrated 80%.
What was going through your mind? What thoughts did you have?
Sometimes the way we think or talk to ourselves is negative or unhelpful. Thoughts can increase distressing feelings or make us feel like we're not coping. Below are some examples of common unhelpful or negative thoughts that we're all guilty of from time to time.
Black and white thinkingI must get everything done today before I go home tonight, otherwise everything will be a complete disaster.
What ifs?What if I put all this effort in and fail? I'll never be able to look anyone in the eye again.
Spiral of negativesI'm not going to get the project finished on schedule, which means I'm useless. I'll end up losing my client at this rate.
Leaping to conclusionsMy colleague was abrupt with me today. He must be angry with me about what I said at the meeting.
Over-generalisingThat client has threatened to take his business somewhere else. Therefore all my clients must be unhappy.
Looking too far aheadIf this doesn't go well there are all sorts of bad consequences
Strong, uncompromising wordsI should ..., I must ..., I always ..., I never ....
Unkind or mean to oneself I'm a failure, I'm stupid, I'm a fraud ... someone will see through me one day and see I'm not all that great after all.
Challenging unhelpful thoughts
Ask yourself these questions:
If a close friend or someone I loved was thinking this way, what would I tell them?
Five years from now when I look back will I see things differently?
Are the things I’m jumping to conclusions about justified by evidence?
What am I ignoring about the strengths or positives in me, and how I’m coping at the moment?
Write alternative, balanced thoughts that could have been more helpful.
He’s not always like that. Maybe he’s stressed about his divorce and it’s got nothing to do with me. Maybe I should just ask how he’s going at the moment.
Rate your moods again after practising helpful thoughts. List any new moods (0-100%)
Hurt 10% Angry 10% Frustrated 20%.
There a many benefits of mindfulness for wellbeing. Mindfulness exercises make you aware of what you're currently experiencing in the present moment and focus on the now. By doing this, distressing memories or fears for the future can be managed and allow our thoughts to not stray in unhelpful directions.
The Smiling Mind app has some great mindfulness programs you can access for free.
Monitor your mental health
Monitoring how you're feeling can help protect and nurture your mental health. beyondblue’s Anxiety and Depression Checklist (K10) aims to measure if you have been affected by depression and/or anxiety in the past four weeks. By answering 10 multiple choice questions relating to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, your responses are automatically calculated and an assessment is given on your mental health status.
While this doesn’t constitute a diagnosis, how you score will provide a guide to how likely you are to be experiencing depression and/or anxiety. You will be given advice on any steps you should consider taking and links to useful information and support.
Your answers and results are completely confidential and none of your information is stored.