Stopping Mental Stress

How does negative thinking affect a person’s stress level?

If you have been reading this blog from its very first post, you may have already learned about the modern stress model or the sequence of events that lead to the physiological stress response.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, here’s the summary:

  1. Person experiences or thinks of something that is stressful. His negative thoughts and emotions combine at this phase.
  1. Person triggers psychological stress. He may begin experiencing signs of mental stress.
  1. Psychological stress, if left unregulated, triggers the physiological stress response. Person may experience physical symptoms of stress such as clammy hands and an elevated heart rate, even if he is at rest.

Why should you practice control over your own thoughts?

If we would look carefully at the modern stress model, we would come to the conclusion that the actual, physiological stress response only comes to the surface during moments of mental stress.

Mental stress on the other hand, doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. A person only experiences mental stress if his thought patterns and emotions are working toward this particular outcome.

With these facts in mind, it becomes very clear that in order to stop physiological stress in its tracks, you need to address the causative agent, which is mental stress.

Why do we think the way we do?

I often encounter individuals who beat themselves up over the fact that they have a tendency to think and feel in certain ways especially when they have to contend with common stressors.

Your habitual responses to stressors are actually determined by 3 different yet interlocking factors:

  1. DNA – Your parents’ genes are partly responsible for your tendencies and general temperament.

In addition to the way you were raised, there’s also the fact that you inherited your parents’ chromosomes, which also means that you’ve inherited at least part of their personalities.

So if one or both of your parents are aggressive or hotheaded, you may have the same inclinations because of your DNA.

  1. Childhood – Sigmund Freud, the old father of psychoanalysis, often analysed people’s childhoods to get to the bottom of strange neuroses.

It turns out that Freud was spot on when he determined that early childhood experiences have a lot to do with how we fully develop and mature as adults.

Our individual responses to stressful situations are partly determined by how we were conditioned to respond when we were still young.

So keep this in mind when you are raising your own children; your children are not only absorbing the world at large, they are also absorbing your behavior and thought patterns!

  1. Life Itself – Our DNA and early childhood experiences comprise only a small portion of the totality called the self. Your experiences as you grow older are also strong determinants of your behavior toward stressful situations.

We can’t do anything about past experiences, may they be good or bad, but we can do something about our beliefs and values in the present time. We must not allow past negative experiences to dictate how we live in the present time.

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Now that you are more familiar with how the mind works and why it operates in a particular manner with regards to stressful situation, it’s time that you learned how to control unstable and stressful thought patterns.

How can you control seemingly unstable thought patterns?

Thought patterns are powerful, but they are never more powerful than the person itself. A thought, no matter how destructive, does not have free will or a life of its own. All negative thoughts are vulnerable and extinguishable, remember that!

Easy Mind Control Exercise

  1. Find a quiet place to perform the Easy Mind Control Exercise. Get a piece of paper and write down 5 of the most horrid thoughts you’ve been having for the past few months.
  1. Below the first 5 items, write down 5 beautiful thoughts, memories or ideas that are directly in contrast with the first 5 items you wrote down.
  1. Focus your mind’s power on each of the undesirable thoughts and as you do, give your mind a firm command to remove the thoughts.
  1. Visualize a blank space where each of the undesirable thoughts used to be. Begin placing pleasant thoughts on this blank space, to replace the bad ones that have just been driven out.
  1. Repeat the exercise until you are satisfied and try again tomorrow.