Meditation is not only a fantastic tool, it’s also great way to practice being more aware of your own thoughts and feelings, such that you can then take full control of them.
This brings us to the concept of CBT – or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is essentially a type of psychotherapeutic intervention that teaches people who struggle with anxiety or other issues, how to better control the nature of their own thoughts.
This all starts with perception, and this is where you can use mindfulness. Remember the part of the meditation we discussed where we mentioned that you should ‘watch’ the contents of your thoughts? Try doing this the next time you’re stressed: what are you actually thinking
What you’ll find is that when you’re stressed, you are imagining the worst and this is what is causing you to get worked up.
And this is the big secret to stress: other than the physiological response that we’ve discussed, stress is really a result of your perception of what’s going on around you.
Related: WHY YOU MUST STRESS LESS
Put it this way: if you’re faced with a lion you will get a stress response as soon as you notice it. But if you believe the lion is your friend, then you won’t get the same stress response. Or if you think the lion is a hologram, you won’t get the stress response.
The reality doesn’t matter here: what matters here is what you are thinking.
And the same is true for all those sources of
chronic stress we’ve discussed so far. If
you are struggling with debt and with work, then your perception is that there’s a great big lion ahead
of you. But if you can convince yourself that there’s no
benefit to being stressed and if you can convince yourself that it’s not worth
getting worked up, then you can overcome
that stress and your response
will be the same as if
there was no pressure in your life.
So how do you do this?
The first step is to note the thoughts that are making you more worked up. If you’re stressed about talking in public, then perhaps you are filled with thoughts like:
- What happens if I stutter?
- People are going to laugh at me
- I won’t be able to talk
- I don’t know my script
None of this is helpful – it makes that lion seem bigger!
You want to replace these for more positive thoughts but simply telling
yourself it’s all alright won’t work. You need to genuinely believe it.
To do this, you use cognitive restructuring. A big part of this is ‘thought challenging’, where you challenge your assumptions and test just how accurate they’re likely to be.
Are you really likely to stutter? Do you normally stutter?
Would people really laugh at you? Are the people in your audience
that rude and unkind? And if they do laugh at you – why does it matter? You won’t have to see them again.
Everyone knows that people stutter from
time to time. And a little embarrassment never killed anyone: it will
just make you a better public speaker next time.
If you can do this as you go through your routine and be more aware of your state of mind, then you’ll find that you can prevent the stress response before it arises and rob your anxieties of all their power over you.
For more serious anxieties and phobias, you can even take this one step further and try what is known as ‘hypothesis testing’. Here, you simply test your fears by standing up to them and letting them happen. For example, you would go out onto the stage and purposefully stutter. You’ll find that no one laughs and nothing bad comes from it!
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