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How are you managing your stress?

by Dr. Kaye Busiek

Are you thinking that you want to “finish strong” this semester, but you aren’t quite sure if you have the physical, emotional, or mental strength to get there? It’s that time in the semester when major papers, projects, and final exams are coming due, and it might be helpful to read a few tips that can help you do your personal best.

Positive thinking means we look at the unpleasantness in the world—and there’s plenty of that—in a way that is hopeful and aims to get something done well rather than avoid it. Those thoughts that pop into our head when we have difficult or challenging things to accomplish are called self-talk. Some of us tend to have more negative self-talk (pessimism) than others. Conversely, some are prone to letting positive self-talk (optimism) rule the day. There are some major benefits that positive thinking, or positive self-talk, can provide. Some of them include lower rates of depression, greater resistance to illness, better coping skills during difficult times, and even a longer life span.

In order to tell if you are a negative thinking or a positive thinking, you might consider the following forms of negative thinking. (1) Even after a day of completing tasks ahead of time and receiving compliments at school or work, do you focus on the unfinished tasks and forget about the compliments? (2) When something bad happens, do you automatically blame yourself, even though there were other people who influenced the outcome? (3) When a graded test or paper is returned to you, do you automatically expect to get a bad grade—even though you know you prepared well and may have felt pretty good when you turned the test or paper in to the teacher? (4) Do you feel like you’re a failure if you aren’t perfect (by your own standards)?

So, how can you turn your negative thinking into positive thinking so that you “finish strong” this semester?

* Identify areas to change. Focus on at least one area that would make a big difference if you thought about it in a positive way. One area may be to “chunk” your reading, writing, and general studying tasks because they may be more easily accomplished if you don’t have so much to do at one time. You may also benefit from taking breaks between the “chunks.”

* Check yourself. Positive self-talkers check in during the day to make sure they are focusing on what they are doing well and not all that still needs to be done. They reward themselves in healthy ways, and refrain from thinking or saying condescending or derogatory comments about their performance or attitude.

* Be open to humor. We need to laugh—sometimes even at ourselves—so that we break the cycle that makes every task a “make-it-or-break-it” obligation.

* Follow a healthy lifestyle. Do you eat healthy throughout the day—and while you are studying? Do you take a 5-minute break about every hour of studying? Do you practice deep breathing to relieve the occasional stress? Do you get plenty of sleep in order to avoid feeling tired or “fuzzy” throughout the day?

* Surround yourself with positive people. Positive self-talk is much easier if we surround ourselves with people who are also thinking positively about you and about themselves.

* Practice positive self-talk. Replace any negative conversation you’re having with yourself into positive affirmations and gentle encouragement.

Most importantly, don’t forget about the power of prayer! God is ready for you to give your concerns to Him. He knows your struggles and your negative thoughts, and He’s ready to guide you as you strive every day to “finish strong”!

Summarized from Healthy Lifestyle, Stress Management, by Mayo Clinic Staff


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