Ep 37: How do you see your world?

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Our experiences help us form rules about the way life works for us. But it’s easy to get a distorted vision of life that keeps you stressed out.

Over the next few days, I’ll be unpacking some common thinking errors that may be adding to your stress.

Learn what to look for in this episode.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 37: How do you see your world - young woman standing outside looking through sunglasses

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

What is the biggest thing that stresses you out?

  • Is it your boss?
  • Is it crazy traffic?
  • Is it trying to keep up with your busy schedule?
  • Or maybe it’s just constantly feeling like you’re on the run.

All of these external things play a big role in how empowered you feel in managing your day to day.

But the way you think is the biggest predictor of how you well you will actually manage your stress.

When we’re kids, we watch others around us and how they behave. We take mental notes on how to respond to things.

If your mom freaked out on you every time you broke a dish, you may have learned that breaking things is a catastrophic failure.

So guess what happens when you break a dish as an adult?

You hear that voice in your head screaming at you asking why you’re so clumsy.

But you may also freak out over being late to work in the same way as if you broke a dish.

That’s an extreme example. Seriously if you’re still breaking dishes as an adult you may want to consider paper plates.

But this illustrates how we get into unhealthy ways of thinking that just aren’t helpful to us.

You see the world through your very own set of lenses.

Your lenses were formed by the rules you made up about your experiences.

Have you ever played a game with someone where they made up the rules as they went along? Were you frustrated by that? I certainly was.

But this is kind of what we do with our life experiences. We form rules based on what we go through.

For everything that happens to you, big or small, you subconsciously ask yourself a series of questions.

  • What’s happening right now?
  • Have I seen this before?
  • What should I make of this experience?
  • What does it mean for me?
  • And what do I do now?

How you answer those questions creates your specific view of how you think the world works for you.

So if the screaming mom was your experience, then everything you do, big or small, you will want to treat as a very big deal, even if the situation doesn’t call for it.

Everything that happens to you in life passes through that lens you create. Each new encounter adds another layer.

So the next experience will have to get through this filter in order for you to come up with a response.

You tell yourself this is how the world works and this is how I should respond.

But it’s very easy for those experiences to get distorted.

In therapy we call these cognitive distortions. If you’re not trying to be fancy, they’re called thinking errors.

This happens when your lens is so thick that it distorts your view of what’s really going on. You react based on how you’ve reacted before, not based on what’s in front of you.

And this absolutely impedes your vision and keeps you from finding solutions.

Over the next few days I’ll be talking about some of the cognitive distortions that contribute most to your stress.

Maybe you’ll recognize some of these in your own life.

I’ll start with a common one: should statements.

These are internal comments like, “I’ve been eating clean for a month now. I should have lost more weight.”

“I was so cranky at home last night. I should be a better mother.”

Or this one: “I’m almost 50. I should be further along in my career.”

Should statements can also be directed at other people.

“I can’t believe my boss snapped at me. She should know better, she’s supposed to be a leader.”

Should statements set impossible standards for you.

When you don’t reach those standards you feel guilt, shame or anger.

And when you direct them at others, you portray yourself as the victim because others haven’t met your standards. Also a recipe for anger.

Should statements set you up for all kinds of emotional instability and leave you feeling disappointed by yourself or others.

So what do you do if you recognize should statements in yourself?

First, you have to lower your expectations a bit.

You may have set up some ideal situation for yourself that really isn’t realistic for you. Or maybe at least just for right now.

And for others, well you have to remember they are just as human as you are. And as humans we will make mistakes no question.

We’ve got to learn to give each other a little bit of a break.

As Depeche Mode said back in the glorious 80s:

People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully?

If you find times this week where you feel overwhelmed, write down the thoughts running through your head. See if you find any should statements floating around in there.

Don’t tell yourself you shouldn’t feel this way.

Just look for ways to give yourself and others room to learn and grow.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s episode where we will look “at all or nothing thinking” and “emotional reasoning.”

You can find articles and videos about stress and mental health on my website at LoriMiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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