- “This is so hard.”
- “I’m so exhausted.”
- “I’m completely overwhelmed.”
- “I can’t do this…”
Have any of these phrases escaped your mouth lately?
I will admit to 1, 2, and 3. And well, okay—4 slipped out a time or two, but what can you do? Expressing how we feel is the first step to relief.
And although expressing our feelings can be helpful, the real root of our stress comes primarily from the thoughts we focus on and the words we use.
When we think something, that’s one step. But when we express thoughts or feelings out loud, they start gaining momentum. After a while, whatever we say becomes true for us.
Our thoughts and feelings are the fuel for our attitudes, actions, and words. So when we feed them our energy and attention, we keep filling up the fuel tank with those same thoughts and feelings.
Not a bad thing if you’re happy and feeling good. But if you’re feeling frustrated or stressed, then not so good.
The stories we tell ourselves become the foundation we stand on.
When we focus on something—anything—long enough, it becomes “true,” and eventually our truths become our experience and our reality as we know it.
So how do we stop this habit? We mind our words.
Need a boost? Here are a few tips to help shift your words in a positive direction:
Replace. If the words coming out of your mouth are simply restating how frustrated or stressed you are, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider using some new words. Choose words that reflect what you want rather than what you’re observing. “I’m so stressed,” can become, “I’m noticing I need to take a timeout.”
Reframe. When we reframe a situation, we see it from a different perspective. And when we step back and observe the bigger picture, we realize that it could always be worse. Reframing is a skill that can be strengthened over time by softening our stance and being able to see more than one side of any situation. For example, “This pandemic is awful! I’m isolated at home,” becomes, “Yeah, but, I HAVE a home, I still have a job and income, I have Zoom to connect with people, etc.” Focusing on what we already have reframes our perspective and leads us to…
Appreciate. When we look at what is good and what is working in our lives, we can learn to appreciate the good things and good people—despite whatever we’re focusing on in the moment. Like reframing, appreciation is also a choice and a discipline, and over time, can develop into a healthy habit. Just notice how your energy and attitude shift when you think and speak about things you’re grateful for.
Distract, in a good way. Similar to reframing, healthy distractions help break the cycle of negativity (stinkin’ thinkin’) and help replace negative momentum with positive. Remember that whichever direction your thoughts are headed, you will go. So if you were on a bumpy road, wouldn’t it be wise to take another route?
Just Stop. Sometimes the simplest solution isn’t always the easiest, but it’s the best. Simply saying the word, “STOP” out loud to yourself or in your head can actually help break a cycle of chronic negative thought. Then, using reframing or a healthy distraction, you can start down a different path leading to a better feeling. Not convinced? Give it a try!
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a transformation coach, best-selling author, and founder of The White Box Club™ — live coaching and resources for people in career transition. Find his syndicated blogs on Thrive Global, Medium, and The Huffington Post. Learn more at connect.michaelcreative.com