Have you ever looked back on a past situation and think “I wonder why that had me so worried and anxious? It seems so small to me now!”?
Sometimes we might magnify or minimize the impact of an event soon after it happens. For example, we might think that by arriving a little late to a meeting, others will think we are irresponsible and rude. This can cause us to feel stressed and anxious – making smaller inconveniences seem more serious and detrimental than they actually are. We might start to feel anxious about how often we speak in the same meeting, constantly questioning whether people think our ideas are valuable. Others, however, may not think that arriving late was very rude at all. Perhaps they thought you were busy doing valuable work for the team, and they are actually grateful to have you in the meeting.
If you find yourself thinking about a stressful event, consider how catastrophic it seems on a scale of 1-10 (1 being unimportant, and 10 being a disaster). Would you consider it a major or minor stress? Then pause and take a deep breath. Now consider all the possible positive feelings you can still experience in this moment of stress. Where would you rate these on a scale of 1-10? Now think of how big the gap is between both these positive and stressful feelings. Is the gap smaller than you expected? Does this reframe the initial feelings of stress? How catastrophic does the event seem when also recognizing the positives? When we forget to acknowledge the positives in a situation, by comparison, we might overestimate the impact of any negative events in our lives. However big or small, like all other stresses in the past, they too will pass. This is a key component to managing negativity and practicing emotional regulation.
Feel free to return to this exercise anytime you are stressed and feel a need to recenter and appreciate the gifts and positive experiences in your life. Even in our hardest times, we can still find the positives in any situation.
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