2-Second Stress Cures
Rewriting Your Internal Dialogue
Imagine that you’re stuck in a traffic tie-up so massive it will be a miracle if you make it to work by lunch — let alone in time for that must-attend monthly staff meeting. Sweat running down your forehead, you clench the steering wheel until your fingers turn numb and wail, “I’m going to be laaaate! (Insert expletive.) My boss is gonna fire me!”
Not a pretty picture, huh? Now, using the same visual, substitute this audio: “There’s nothing I can do about the traffic. In the grand scheme of things, this is not that big a deal.” Soon, your breathing becomes normal, and the feeling returns to your hands. What you’ve witnessed is the power of words — and how using the right ones can help deflect a full-blown stress attack.
Life doesn’t always go as planned — a flight is canceled due to weather, your knee starts to throb at mile 16 of a marathon. But it’s how you respond to these situations that can make all the difference. “The majority of the stress we experience occurs because of the way we talk to ourselves and others about normal life events,” explains Frederic Luskin, PhD, a psychology researcher at Stanford University and author of Stress Free for Good (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). When we rewrite this dialogue, our emotional reaction will change too, he explains. Fortunately, by adding the following words and phrases to your repertoire — some that you say to yourself, some that you say to others — you can maneuver gracefully through awkward situations and everyday anxiety traps.