I have struggled recently with stress and anxiety. And though part of it was from external forces, the majority of my problem came from within. I learned a few things as I struggled through this difficult time and wanted to share it with you, in case you find yourself struggling as well.
You see our mind is constantly trying to make sense of the world around us. It creates this story to explain everything. All day long this internal dialogue is playing in our head. It tells us what is happening around us, about other people’s actions, even about ourselves. Most of the time we are not even aware of the story. it affects our emotions and then we react without rational thought.
Our perspective of the world is limited…So we don’t truly know what someone was thinking when they took a particular action or if they are really doing what it looks like. We end up filling in the areas we don’t know with assumptions. Unfortunately, more times then not we lean to the negative side. As you might guess this can create some bad situations and even ruin relationships.
- We think our girlfriend is flirting with another guy. When in reality they love you and were just being nice and saying hi to the person.
- We think someone is giving us a dirty look from across the room…When in reality they are zoned out and caught up in their own inner dialogue. They haven’t even noticed you across the room.
There are many more examples I could give and I am sure you are picturing a few right now yourself. The point is, sometimes we can make life difficult with our stories, especially when we don’t even realize we are doing it.
What Can We Do
1. Become aware of your stories (mindfulness)
It’s important to be aware of what these stories are and how they are affecting your life and your happiness. So each day start to notice what you are telling yourself and pay attention to how it is affecting you, physically and mentally. Many times we will get caught up in our stories and they will spin out of control before we even know it. This is the first and most important step, you can’t change it if you don’t know it’s happening.
2. Let it go
Many times we bring past hurts into the present. Someone broke our trust in the past, so now we think everyone is going to break our trust. As soon as someones actions even remotely looks suspicious, our negative self talk shoots into hyper drive. We replay the past in our heads and obsess over what can go wrong in the future.
We need to take time to forgive, heal, and realize the past does not equal the future. New friends are different from old friends. If you don’t let it go, you will be bringing old baggage into new relationships. An this will ultimately end up ruining what could have been an amazing relationship and future.
3. Create space
We get into trouble when we allow a story to get us so worked up and that we immediately respond in anger. As soon as you realize you are caught up in a story…step back and take a deep breathe. You need to create enough space to stop and see whats really happening. Try to step outside of the emotion and see the negative story for what it is. Just a Story…
We need that small space to realize that the truth maybe different then we perceive. That we may be spinning things in a completely different direction.
4. Change the story
This can be a powerful strategy. As I was struggling with my self talk, this is one of the things that really helped. Each time I started getting worked up about something, I would stop, create space, then work to change the story I was telling myself.
Once you realize that you are going negative, stop and change the story to a positive.
- If you are feeling depressed and feel like everything is going wrong…Then stop for a minute and start listing the great things in your life. What are you grateful for?
- If you are afraid your girlfriend is going to cheat (because other girlfriends have)…then remind yourself of how much love she has shown you. Remember that she has been hurt before to and would never do that to you.
- If you feel worthless..then start listing all the things you have accomplished and all the lives you have touched, even in the smallest ways.
- When I was really struggling I created a simple mantra…I would just repeat “Trust”. Anytime I thought someone was doing something wrong or I was having a bad day. I would remind myself to trust that person, trust God’s plan, trust that the universe would bring me what I need, etc..
I am not telling you to hide your head in the sand if something is truly wrong. I am just saying that there is always another way to look at things. Don’t make it worse by inventing a story that creates new problems that never existed.
This is another very important step. If you have concerns with someone, then share them with the person. If you are having problems at work, talk with your boss and share what you are struggling with.
Make sure to you approach them in a calm, open manner. If you go in with attitude, the talk wont go well. But if you share your feeling openly and with consideration for the other persons point of view, then you will be surprised how well things will go.
Negative self talk and stories can be a hard habit to break. But if you are able to get control of your inner world, then you will have amazing power over your life. You will be able to withstand the storms that life throws your way. Most importantly, you will be a happier and more positive person who attracts other happy people.