This is a guest post from Andrew Laux, Founder of Kopely – A Stress Relief App
Stress management techniques like deep breathing and reframing are proven strategies to reduce stress and negative thinking. These positive coping strategies not only help reduce stress in the heat of the moment, but may help stress sufferers shift their negative mindset toward optimism and resiliency.
Unfortunately, most people don’t deal with their stress in a positive, healthy way. They use bad habits or negative coping strategies to avoid stress such as avoiding the problem or reaching for bags of potato chips, pints of ice cream, or even misusing alcohol. Although these coping strategies may help alleviate stress in the moment, they usually have negative effects on your physical and mental health. It doesn’t end there either – individuals who experience stress and don’t have the proper tools to deal with it are more likely to stay stuck in negative thinking patterns.
Where Does Stress Originate?
Being a person isn’t easy and according to the NIH one in five Americans will experience a mental health problem every 12 months (1). And according to the APA, stress across generations isn’t equal either – Millennials and Gen Zs are more stressed than any other generation with increasing rates of stress, anxiety, and suicide (2).
People are also really good at manufacturing their own stress and it usually manifests itself in the form of negative thinking. A 2017 study found that most of our nations’ stress is originating from five major aspects of life (3) which are as follows:
1. Unforeseen Future of Our Nation
The best way to combat negative thinking is by honing your positive coping strategies through deep breathing and reframing, so let’s delve into these methods.
Deep breathing is a stress management technique that helps reduce stress responses and the physical symptoms of stress such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and headaches. There are dozens of breathing techniques but we are going to focus on one of the most widely used techniques, the 4-7-8 breath (also known as the relaxing breath).
The 4-7-8 breath is simple and here’s how you do it:
Inhale for 4 seconds (using your nose only).
Hold for 7 seconds.
Exhale for 8 seconds (using your mouth only).
Use the 4-7-8 breath anytime you feel the first signs of stress. By applying this technique, you are much more likely to prevent or stop the spiraling of negative thoughts and other stress related fight-or-flight responses.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to calm your stress response, but what happens when your stress compounds and you catch yourself being your own worst enemy? Calling yourself names, obsessing over your mistakes, or feeling like you’re not worthy of anything good?
Say “hello” to reframing. Reframing is a cognitive technique that helps you gain more awareness around your own self-talk and then helps you correct your own negative thinking. Reframing is one of the best ways to combat negative thinking.
Let’s introduce one of the most effective reframing techniques followed by a few examples of how you can start reframing your negative thinking immediately.
When it comes to combating negative thinking, no one is better received than Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good. Dr. Burns is one of the godfathers of cognitive psychology and has created a handful of techniques to combat negative thinking. One of his most popular techniques, the Triple Column technique, helps individuals recognize their negative thoughts, understand why the thought is distorted, then reframe their negative & irrational thought with a positive & rational thought.
In short the Triple Column Technique helps you restructure the way you think about yourself whenever you fall into the tendency of negative thinking. The goal is to substitute more objective, rational, and positive thoughts for your illogical and harsh self-criticisms.
Here are several examples of the Triple Column Technique:
Stress is something that every person deals with on a day-to-day basis. It is a fact of life, however stress shouldn’t rule your life. And it is important to note that stress is only considered a bad thing if it is chronic and has negative effects on your health and well-being. With the proper tools you can relieve stress more efficiently and effectively. If you want to learn more about negative and distorted thinking read my post on everything related to negative thinking.
In conclusion, you now have the tools to fight back against stress. Just remember, the next time you feel your hands get clammy, or your heart rate rise because of some new, challenging event – just breathe. Focusing all of your attention on your breath until you can properly inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Completing this breath will help you ward off a stressful fight-or-flight response. And, the next time you catch yourself in negative thought loop, take a step back and analyze your words. Use the reframing technique we outlined to stop your negative, illogical narrative with more more honest, logical thoughts.
Andrew has two degrees in psychology, worked as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, Director of Operations for boutique fitness gyms, owner of his own mobile training company, and as a consultant for a health and fitness start-up in NYC. Andrew is now spending his time building Kopely, a mobile app that is trying to solve the problem of increasing rates of stress and anxiety around the globe. Sign-up now for Kopely’s Free Trial – launching July 2020. Connect with him on Facebook and Instagram