08/10/2016 11:36 EDT | Updated 08/10/2016 11:59 EDT

Changing Your Thought Patterns Can Help You Manage Stress

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Reflections and Dreams

If you are like me, you are probably getting tired of hearing: Think positive, remember the glass is half full etc...These sayings have been so overused, and frankly, if it was that easy, then everybody would be living a grand happy life. But it isn't this easy.

The power of manifestation and visualization is a bit more complex than just changing your thoughts. In part, one reason for this has been shown in recent neurobiological research which has shown that our though patterns are biologically wired in the brain, which are not easy to "undo."

Stress originates in the brain and initiates the stress response with a myriad of physical manifestations.

This is where Mental Stress Management or Mental Stress Competence come in, which is way more than positive thinking. As Kaluza says, positive thinking implies that everybody is able to think positively, if they only wanted to. This approach ignores the extent of the hard-wired patterns affecting each of our personalities and can lead to a lot of frustration and/or worse.

Mental stress competence focuses on identifying existing thought patterns and attitudes that do not serve us, releasing these patterns and replacing them by new thought patterns that are advantageous to us.

This also explains why different people react completely different to the exact same trigger. It is our personal evaluation of an external event that determines how we react, rather than the objective characteristics of the event.

Every situation is handled by our brain in a specific manner depending on our biographical experiences, our values, our attitudes, thought patterns, and habits. Stress originates in the brain and initiates the stress response with a myriad of physical manifestations.

However, the brain is also targeted by the stress response. The different hormones that participate in the stress response have an impact on our brain function, and in particular, on the neural pathways.

Therefore, it is our so-called "Personal Stress Amplifiers" that largely influence our stress responses. The ancient Greek knew this as well:

"It is not the things themselves that serve to unsettle the people, but rather their judgements and opinions of things." (Epictetus, 50-120 a.D.)

Common personal stress amplifiers (summarized) are:

  • Be perfect
  • Be popular and please others
  • Be strong
  • Be careful
  • I can't

So, where does this leave you now? More confused than ever? Keep reading for the five main pillars of mental stress competence and how you can get started on changing some of your thought patterns.

Reality check and clearer definition:

Here, you take a realistic account of the situation or event. What happened exactly, how do others who are involved view the event, different ways to explain the event, what individual things were said and done. Try to be as precise, uninvolved, neutral and realistic as possible, to gain a true assessment of the situation or event.

Distance yourself to put everything into perspective:

How will I view this in a month or year from now? How important is this really? How do neutral people view the situation? How would the situation look like from a higher standpoint? What advice would a friend give me in this situation? The idea here is to bring some emotional detachment into viewing the situation.

Focus on opportunities and the positive side of the situation:

What are the good sides to this situation? What could the situation be good for? What are the opportunities represented by it? What can I learn? What are my responsibilities in the situation? Is there another meaning? Here, you are trying to turn your viewpoint around, and view the situation as something positive, maybe a challenge that you can learn from and come out stronger on the other side.

Focus on your strengths and successes:

When have I successfully resolved a similar situation? How did I do it? What tools, strengths and wisdom did I use then? What am I proud of? What gives me courage and strength today? What can I rely on? What encouraging words would a trusted person provide? Try to list as many positive and supportive aspects about yourself that you can think of.

Focus on positive outcomes and de-mystifying:

What will it be like when I have succeeded? How will I feel then? How will others react to my success? How will this positively influence my life? What is the worst-case scenario? How bad would that really be? How realistic and likely is it? Concentrate on positive results and also familiarize yourself with the worst possible situation and ask yourself how you would come through it.

Please bear in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg of successful mental competence training and it is meant solely to serve as inspiration. And one last note: it takes a minimum of 21-30 days of committed daily practice to establish the new goal in your subconscious, to make it readily available to our conscious thoughts and change those neural pathways.

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