When feeling stressed what we often and very typically tend to experience whirling thoughts which can focus upon anything, what happened, what might happen, what should have happened and so on. If left unattended then these thoughts will continue to whirl and add to our stress levels. Inevitably we end up dealing with multiple inputs in the here and now as well as worrying about the future and allowing the past to gnaw away at us too.
We have three distinct time zones usually in stress related thought patterns:
This blog will focus on the past and how to begin to calm thoughts around things and events that have already happened.
‘The Past is another place, things were different there’
The past may as well be a different location, one that is unavailable to us in a very real sense as there is actually nothing that we can do to change the actual ABC of events that occurred in the past. Tough as this may be to grasp, it is a very real truth. We may wish to change the past, we may have some very strong emotions connected to the past but there is still nothing we can do to change the actual events and occurrences of the past.
So where does that leave us?
We can only change how we respond to thoughts of past events, the thoughts that occur in the present that relate to past events and possibly bring up some strong emotions. Thoughts create a reaction at a physiological level and so it is the thoughts of the past that are creating the response in the present.
If those thoughts relate to traumatic events or the event is part of a complex chain of events with multiple participants, then this is probably too simplistic an approach and specialist intervention may be required. NLP and hypnotherapy are excellent agents for change in trauma and I am happy to discuss a way forward if that is the case for you. Please contact me using the information at the bottom of this blog or on my website for a confidential discussion.
Let us therefore assume that the events that are currently praying on our mind are just those in the recent past and form part of your stress burden. How do we alleviate those?
Review the Day
This technique relies upon making a regular and thorough, planned review of the events that occurred during the day or past few days. We basically run a movie of the events.
Imagine a cinema screen upon which you are about to watch a movie from a comfortable location, possibly quite far from the screen if that makes you feel better in the beginning.
The movie that is going to play features a person who looks a lot like yourself and covers the events of the time period that you are covering. It is a fly on the wall documentary. The more frequently that you do this then the shorter the movie will be. Start with a relatively straightforward and easy day to get the hang of it.
You begin to watch yourself on the screen, possibly in black and white and if necessary without the sound, these can come later. You are watching someone who is doing the things that you did and in the way that you did them. You in your cinema seat have full power over the remote control and can pause and rewind etc., at will.
Play the movie and notice what went well as well as those that went not so well. It is very important to notice both and there will be both types of event during that time period. Be thorough.
Celebrate what went well, congratulate yourself and notice how that occurred, what were you thinking, doing, feeling and behaving like when things went well. How do you know they went well? Pay attention and note the distinctions that let you know that things went well. This is important stuff to note and learn from so that you can have more of it in your life. Also, nothing is too small to notice and give yourself credit for. If you don’t, who will? So take care of it and be happy for yourself that some things went well. It’s too easy to just focus on the negative, just like everyone else will, so give yourself the credit. Train yourself to cheer yourself on and enjoy more of that in your life.
Similarly what went not so well? Here train yourself to think in terms of ‘what could have gone better?’ rather than beat yourself up about what went wrong. Again this is really important. There is nothing you can do to change those events in the past. In that case your only option is to think of them and to study them in terms of what can you learn from them? To be able to learn from this event or series of events is to be able to move on from this event and give yourself more choices and options in the future should this type of thing happen again.
By doing this technique regularly, you can begin to notice that there is usually more balance to the events of your life and it’s not all bad.
Note: For those who are going through trauma in the here and now, this may be too simplistic a method, it’s really best as method for coping with and balancing stress, however, in traumatic times to seek out something that is ‘positive’ whole and resourceful outside of the self has been shown to help with resilience. The art of being grateful and thankful for anything that we can has been shown to help with symptoms of depression and to reduce anxiety. It may be a blooming flower, or a bird singing or a really good cup of tea, a small act of kindness, anything of this nature will help.
For more information on coping with stress and developing resilience please contact me for a personal consultation.
+44 7856 382832