Science and Sensibility

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Ten Tips to Stop Feeling Stressed Out and Upset

Use ten top tips to overcome feeling stressed and upset.

An acquaintance questions your intelligence.  You find a stain on your favorite tablecloth. A neighbor wrecks your Dremel. You feel bummed out. You dwell on your gripes. Do you want to stop feeling stressed out and upset over matters that don't mean that much? Fight back with ten top tips. 

Ten Upset Kicking Actions

Negative stuff happens. How you handle yourself makes a difference whether you will feel miserable and out of control, or acceptant of reality and in control of yourself. Think of the following ten actions as an upset exiting strategy. Give progress points to yourself as you act to change what you can, and accept what you can’t change. These points add up to strengthened self-confidence.

1. Admit that you have extra vexing, negative, thoughts when you feel extra upset. Like parasitic mental viruses, they spread inner grief. If you've accepted that extra upset evolves from magnifying the event, and you believe you can wring the excesses from that thinking, give yourself one progress point.

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2. Separate normal emotions from needless upset. Can you separate real problems from the parasitic type where you layer a misery on top of a misery? If you have a proclivity for double troubling thinking, you may blow even a true tragedy out of proportion.  If you make the distinction between normal unhappiness and doubly troubling upset thinking, give yourself one progress point.

3. Hone in on ideas that trigger a parasitic upset.  What you think about an upsetting situation can trigger upset feelings. Does feeling extra upset result from believing that you can't control events that you believe you must control? Do you fear your own feelings? If you make the connection between your extra upsetting ideas and their amplified emotional results, give yourself two progress points.

4. Look for patterns of upsetting ideas. Do you emotionally exaggerate trivial events and flip out, say, over a damaged Dremel? Do you upset yourself because you think you lack intelligence, attractiveness, or an interesting personality? (This not good enough form of perfectionist thinking triggers a negative but changeable self-view.) Do you believe you have a birthright to feel perpetually blissful, and then doubly trouble yourself following a negative mood change? When nothing wrong happens, do you normally find something to complain about to discharge unexplained inner tension? Once you have taken steps to identify your patterns of upset, use this knowledge as an early warning signal to take quick corrective actions. Give yourself two progress points for this accomplishment.

5. Add depth to your problem understanding. For example, what does a stain on a tablecloth signify to you? Do you make the spot an excuse to vent pent up emotions? By tuning into your motivations and inner dialogues, you've taken a step to put an extra upset into a deeper perspective. Give yourself two progress points for taking this action.

6. Examine how venting upsets affects your relationships. If you routinely vent your upsets, how might this affect other people? Flip roles: how far would you get trying to reason with someone who made venting upsets a priority? Now, look back at yourself. Do you regularly exaggerate? Do you believe you have a right to complain continuously? Put yourself on a healthy relationship-building path by sharing experiences without whining. Give yourself two progress points for taking this direction.

7. Think about your thinking and classify it.  Upset thinking comes in different forms.  Especially look for these two common reoccurring thought themes: (1) exaggerations; (2) one-sided perfectionist expectations where you think you, or others, must achieve idealized standards.  You can dial down exaggerations by rephrasing emotionalized statements in factual and objective terms. Expectations that lead to exasperation may seem normal. That makes them challenging to expose. The answer to the question, "What expectations lead to my exasperations?” can help expose this thinking. Give yourself three progress points for taking this action.

8. Recognize that it takes time to combat feeling stressed out and upset. Although you may quickly see your pattern of upset, you may persist with it despite a heartfelt desire to do differently right away. It normally takes intent, time, and work to make progress. When you accept this reality, give yourself two progress points.

9. Test healthy and sensible corrective thoughts through action. Regularly take concrete corrective actions, by, say, toning down the rhetoric of upset by using less dramatic language. See if these "experiments" lead to less upset and greater self-control. Give yourself five progress points for actively experimenting with techniques to decrease upset thinking.

10. Guard against slipping back. Each day do a quick self-check: (1) Do I regularly address situations constructively and avoid upset? (2) Do I proactively cope by revising upsetting exaggerations and exasperating expectations before they spread like parasitic mental viruses? (3) Do I act as if I could roll with the punches? (4) Can I accept---not like---bad situations without giving myself extra stress over them? (5) Do I act with reasonable consistency using this problem-prevention approach? Give yourself ten progress points for changing course by daily following a prevention pathway.

How Do the Points Add Up?

Use the following as rules of thumb for where you stand on combatting parasitic upsets:

  1. Collect 20-30 points and you demonstrate that you have the tools to stop upsetting yourself. You may feel tranquil more often. This result can reward proactive coping.
  2. Collect 10-19 points and you probably see yourself in process of progressively mastering upset. 
  3. Collect one to ten points and you have made a start. More gains lie before you. What can you do to collect all 30 points?

If you put off any of the ten problem-solving actions, you likely have a procrastination hotspot(s). Take the free procrastination test to uncover procrastination patterns. Find the hotspot(s) and solutions at TipsOldBooksCombatAnxiety or TheCognitiveBehavioralWorkbookAnxiety. If you procrastinate on following through on what you’d wisely do to self-improve, go to to A Procrastination Test To Uncover Procrastination Patterns for information and solutions.

NOTE: I wrote this without the use of "is," "was," "am," "were," “are” "be," "been," and "being." In personal situations, the verb to be can lead to overgeneralizations that trigger feelings of extra upset and feeling overwhelmed. The label gives a false reading on reality. You also have thousands of traits and characteristics and thousands of examples where you acted efficiently.

General Semantics expert D. David Bourland calls writing without "to be" E-Prime, or the English language minus the verb. Dropping the verb can add precision to your thinking and speaking.   In theory, this exercise can improve clarity of thought, but who knows by how much?

(C) Dr. Bill Knaus, All Rights Reserved

 

Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

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