Is it possible not to think

Feeling and thinking under stress (3/4)

Whether angry, aggressive, panicked, afraid, insecure, or irritable, our feelings have a lot to do with what we think. In the respective situation, but also generally about the world and about ourselves. If you think on a particularly stressful work day: "My God, how am I supposed to do this?", You will have different feelings than when you are in the supermarket Stand in line in front of the cash register and groan inwardly: "My God, this is going slowly again!" Your thoughts, experiences and attitudes mainly determine whether stress makes you more anxious or angry.

Perceiving yourself helps

Check out how you feel when you are under stress and what you think about it. You will find that your thoughts and feelings are similar in different situations. If you do this systematically for a while, you will get to know your thinking habits better under stress. Not only that: You can then also check whether what you are thinking is actually realistic or whether you are worrying about thoughts that are actually completely pointless.

What good does it do, for example, if you're stuck in a traffic jam in the morning, slapping the steering wheel in anger and getting upset: "What kind of idiots are here in front of me! Can't you drive off faster?" Or if you think: "Oh no, I'm late! Terrible! What will my boss think of me ?!" and get into a sweat? Does that change anything about the fact that you are stuck in a traffic jam? Will it help you get the traffic going again? And: Do you have to think that and create anger or fear in yourself? No. You could also say to yourself: "Shit, I'm stuck in a traffic jam. Can I do anything about it? No, not at the moment. So just calm down. Call, let me know, and then listen to a little radio." So you will get through the traffic jam with less stress.

How we put pressure on ourselves

Often we ourselves are our strictest drivers. With demands like "always do it perfectly" or "make sure that everyone likes you" put us under pressure and deprive us of options. Such inner drivers are often not consciously present, but are effective internally. We believe that we absolutely have to meet them. If not, we fear something terrible could happen. Most of the time we don't even know what it could be. But with a little questioning of yourself, it is possible to find out.

Often it is very simple, personal catastrophes that we fear. For example, not being loved. To be abandoned. That fear is a child's fear. Because permanent deprivation of love is life-threatening for a child. It therefore develops strategies to avoid it. And then it often helps: don't make mistakes. Always be nice. Be careful. Or if the withdrawal of love is already a reality: to learn to cope on your own.

Our demands on ourselves are successful ways of avoiding such catastrophes, learned at an early stage. And because they have proven effective in the past, we usually do not question them even as adults. The price for this is fear and stress is situations in which we believe we cannot meet these demands.

Stress-enhancing attitudes

A few examples of attitudes that can make life difficult:

  • Be perfect! Make no mistake about it.
  • Be popular! Avoid conflicts.
  • Be strong! Don't show weakness and just don't make yourself addicted.
  • Just watch out! Make sure you are 100 percent certain before you make a decision.

Reality check

Do you see any of this in yourself? Then ask yourself how realistic these requirements are and whether you really need to always and completely meet them. Perhaps you will discover that "always" really only has to mean "sometimes". Perhaps you can see that the consequences you fear wouldn't be so bad for you today. Find out at which point you might be able to forego the demand and give yourself the freedom to act differently: Let five be straight. Or to express your own opinion clearly. Or to accept help when it is needed.

Positive self-talk

In stressful situations, thoughts like "I can never do this", "This will go wrong" or "I am incapable" often arise. If you notice such thoughts, you can try replacing them with more encouraging thoughts. It takes a little practice and a little preparation. This is how you do it:

  • Write down the thoughts that went through your head during a stressful situation.
  • Divide them into positive and negative thoughts.
  • Think of positive thoughts instead of negative ones. It is important that you can accept the positive formulations. So instead of "I'm sure I'll make mistakes" don't say to yourself, "I'm sure I'll make no mistakes", but rather "If I make mistakes, it doesn't matter." What matters is that you largely believe the positive thought you are trying to use to be true.
  • Think of other positive thoughts that you can use to support yourself.
  • If the stressful situation reappears, replace your automatically emerging negative thoughts with encouraging thoughts as soon as you notice them.

Instead of saying to yourself "I can't do this" or "This will definitely go wrong" when facing a challenge, you could say to yourself, for example, "Try it first" or "Do it step by step". If you are in the middle of it, you might get automatic thoughts like "Shit, I'm so nervous again" or "Oh God, I'm going to fail" or "My heart is beating like crazy". You might then find help with thoughts like "Just calm down, relax" or "Well, you're excited, that's fine". And then when the stressful situation is over, be kind to yourself no matter how it ended. If everything didn't go perfectly, thoughts like "Great that I got through this" or "I did as well as I could. It's okay that I'm not perfect yet" can help.

Gain distance

Sometimes in a stressful situation it also helps to simply ask yourself: What will I think about this situation in ten years? That puts a lot of things in perspective.

Find out more about ways to cope with stress in the TK brochure "Stress". Or just learn how to cope with your stress online: With the online stress management program in TK HealthCoach. Simply log in to "Meine TK" and get on board.