It is estimated that the average person has about 70,000 thoughts per day.This fact might help explain why we often feel like there is constant chatter going on in our minds. Unfortunately, most of us fall into negative thinking “habits” and a high percentage of our thoughts become unproductive and even addictive. These thoughts run over and over in our minds like a broken record. Since our thoughts affect how we feel, these negative thinking patterns result in feelings of stress, exhaustion, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Whether your stress is related to work, relationships, finances, or something else, these seven habits when practiced consistently can break your stress addiction once and for all:
Step 1: Observe Your Mind
We all tend to believe our thoughts without any awareness that they are just thoughts. The voice in your head runs all day long. It says nasty things to put you down, judges, criticizes and blames. It contradicts itself all the time and is often just plain annoying. Yet we ride the wave of our thinking, blindly believing whatever the little voice says and then we wonder why we feel stressed. Start paying attention to the repetitive voice in your head and to the messages it is giving you.
Step 2: Question Yourself
Thinking is an automatic process, like breathing and digestion.You cannot control whether or not you think, but you can learn to choose your thoughts. The price of personal freedom is responsibility over each and every one of your thoughts. So instead of getting hooked into the drama of your own mind, start questioning yourself. For every thought, ask:
- Is this thought serving me well?
- How would I feel if I didn’t believe this thought?
- Would I say this to my best friend?
Step 3: Tame Your Mind
Your mind is like a wild horse, and it is time to tame it. Start observing your mind, watching its patterns, and gently start making friends with it. With firmness and patience, your mind will be tamed. Let’s just say that if you don’t commit to this, you will continue to be dragged around like a ragdoll hanging on by a rope behind your wild horse, taking all of the bumps and bruises. Ask yourself, “What is it going to take for you to commit to no longer indulging in mental conversations that are dragging you around?”
Step 4: Face Your Fears
When you notice a stressful or fearful thought, turn your attention inward and take a good hard look at what is happening in your mind and in your body.It is instinctual to try to escape from fear or to fight against it; however, when it comes to mental and emotional fears, the way to overcome them is actually counter-intuitive — we must go into the fear and deconstruct it. Fear can be relentless, so instead of trying to ignore it, stop what you’re doing and pay attention. Set a timer for five minutes and sit quietly. Observe your fear, patiently watch where is goes and what it does, and ask what it wants. Feel it, hear it, and then interrupt it.
Step 5: Interrupt the Fear Cycle
When you realize you are experiencing an unfounded fear simulation (hint: most are), re-direct your fear-based thoughts to something more positive and productive. The earlier you re-direct your thoughts, the better, because momentum builds very quickly – one fearful thought lead to another, which leads to another and in little more than one minute your whole nervous system is in fight-or-flight mode. So when you first notice a fearful or stress inducing thought, ask yourself, “Do I want to get stressed right now?”
Step 6: Get a Reality Check
Our minds play so many tricks on us. Most of what we experience is not real and is not actually happening, other than in our minds. When you experience feelings of stress, give yourself a reality check by asking yourself a few questions:
- Is this a real threat?
- Is there truly a problem, or am I creating my own stress?
- Is this even my problem or am I taking on someone else’s problem?
Step 7: Take Action
Once you have a clear perspective, it’s time to take effective action to do what you can to clear out any “real” threats. You may find that you need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, and deciding what to do about it. If you’re stuck, call someone who can help you explore options and solutions. Then take effective, immediate and massive ACTION to make some changes. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Fear that is not dealt with turns to chronic stress, and this will rob you of the peace and happiness that you deserve.