Separate Stressful Thoughts from Feelings

In order to manage your stress, it’s important to recognize the difference between a thought and a feeling. Most people confuse their thinking with their feelings. For example, if someone were to ask you how you feel about your best friend forgetting your birthday, you might say you feel that she was insensitive and uncaring.

But that’s really what you think. What you feel is upset, angry, and disappointed. This may seem like a minor distinction, but these differences are important in understanding your stress.

Here are some thoughts you might have in the course of a day.

  • No one likes me!

  • I’m going to screw up!

  • What if people see me freaking out?

  • What if something bad happens to my kid?

  • She should have remembered my birthday!

  • I forgot my appointment!

  • I’d really like some double-chocolate fudge-ripple ice cream.

Here are some feelings you might experience during that same day.

  • Happy

  • Afraid

  • Angry

  • Anxious

  • Worried

  • Joyful

  • Upset

  • Sad

  • Hopeful

  • Depressed

  • Guilty

  • Hopeless

  • Lonely

  • Helpless

  • Panicky

  • Embarrassed

  • Elated

  • Regretful

  • Resentful

  • Loving

Separating your thoughts from your feelings helps you identify those thoughts that are producing your stress. You’re then in a good position to evaluate your thoughts and, if need be, change your way of thinking.

Changing the way you feel and your level of stress can be the result of a number of changes in your life. Your world can change — you finally get that better job, you meet the person of your dreams, or your doctor tells you everything is fine.

Your needs can change — your monthly expenses are lower, you fall out of love with a person, or that promotion becomes less important than you once thought. Many of these changes can happen on their own. Having the ability to control how you look at yourself and your world gives you even greater control over how you feel and the amount of stress you experience.

Your thinking is an important tool in changing your feelings and reducing your stress.

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