Stress less Thinking
Stress Less Thinking
Stress is everywhere. Deadlines to meet, bills to pay, difficult people to deal with…. Not all stress is bad – it can motivate you, keep you paying attention to what needs to be done. We’ve all got our different ways of managing it, and mostly that’s enough.
But it can easily switch from helpful to disruptive – and it’s pretty sneaky about it. Building bit by bit, so that at first you might not even notice. Maybe affecting your sleep, or making you avoid things which you used to take comfortably in your stride. As this happens, it takes more and more effort to manage, and can easily leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed.
And that’s where a lot of people get stuck. The more energy you put into trying to break the build up, the worse it seems to get. But it can be much easier than you might have thought, to switch off the stress, and get back to your best. But before I share an example, let me explain a little about the two parts of your thinking:
Your Conscious Awareness is what you notice – where you plan, reflect and evaluate, home of logic and reason; and it’s not much capacity. Research has shown that we can hold around seven pieces of information here at once; so the vast majority of your thinking goes on outside your awareness, in what I call Auto-Routines.
These are the patterns that your brain has made into habits. Activities like getting dressed, cleaning your teeth and walking can all happen on autopilot, leaving that valuable conscious capacity free for other things. Most of your Auto-Routines are incredibly useful, and once set, they stick (you never pick up a book and wonder if you’ll remember how to read). But sometimes your brain picks up a routine which is less helpful, and unfortunately becomes a habit too.
Like worrying over and over about the same things, or stressing out when you meet someone who once upset you. Your Conscious Awareness may recognise these Auto-Routines as unhelpful , but as it tries to reassure (or bully) the rest of your thinking into doing things differently, it can quickly turn into an internal struggle.
Most approaches to change are about bringing the auto-routine fully into the awareness, changing it for something without the unpleasant side effects, then putting it back and hoping it sticks (fuelling the conflict if it doesn’t). If you’re ready to call time on this tussle, here’s one easy way to help get the parts of your thinking back into balance – making changes inside the auto, in the way that those parts of your thinking actually work.
Take a few minutes, somewhere quiet, and try this out.
Think of something which stresses you. Noting too severe, but enough that you can clearly identify that stressed feeling. Take a couple of slow breaths, and close your eyes.
And just let yourself notice how you’re actually talking to yourself – it’s OK, every one of us does. Is only doing it out loud which is a little odd! Notice the characteristics of that voice in your mind. How fast is it talking, how loud? What kind of tonality is it using – does it sound worried, judgemental, insistent….?
Now it might be that you’re used to arguing back with that voice, trying to talk yourself round. Sometimes that can work, and sometimes it’s just hard work…. So instead of arguing with it, simply slow it down. Right down – so you can notice longer and longer gaps between the words.
Then once it’s talking really slowly, turn down its volume, so it’s speaking really quietly, in the faintest of whispers that you can hardly hear. And once it’s doing that, notice how the way you’re feeling has changed. It’s very difficult to give yourself a hard time in a slow-motion whisper.
You don’t have to change what it’s saying – that can just send the parts of your thinking into battle with each other. Simply have it say it in a different way, and enjoy the difference.
So the next time your mind’s racing, and there seems to be more to get done than there’s time to do it; take a couple of minutes to change the way you’re talking to yourself in your mind.
I took an unusual path into supporting personal change, from my roots as an Engineer and a successful career in manufacturing. On the surface they’ve nothing in common; but a focus on achieving results underpins both – keeping it as simple as possible, to get sustainable change, quickly.
I’m a Licensed Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a certified Havening Practitioner, and I hold Diplomas in Coaching / Hypnosis / NLP, and in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
Stress-Less thinking skills are my passion, and it’s my aim to share them with as many people as possible, helping to bring them firmly into the mainstream.