Much of how we think about stress lies within us, say Ruth Donde and Graham Hart in the August issue of Employment Today.
Expose two or three people to a similar situation and it’s likely each will ascribe different positive or negative meanings to the situation. What one sees as a ‘motivating challenge’ may be a source of anxiety for another.
Breakthrough findings from neuroscience show we have two distinct ways of experiencing the world, say Donde and Hart. There’s a ‘narrative’ circuitry and a ‘direct experience’ circuitry. The narrative circuit is our default mode, they say. When we’re not actively doing something, our mind wanders as we daydream, ruminate and plan. The direct experience circuitry, on the other hand, is more about taking in data in the moment.
The good news is there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the narrative circuitry so long as we don’t allow it to become too negative. In this case, they say, we can undermine and disempower ourselves with negative self-talk that leads to anxiety.
Change your thinking style to regulate emotions
Donde and Hart explain how cognitive change—or thinking about the situation differently—can help regulate emotions and foster resilience. When you’re in one circuit, you are not in the other, but by learning cognitive change techniques, you can activate the direct experience circuitry and nudge your thoughts back to the present rather than focusing on your worries.
To learn more about their strategies for managing your mental state and fostering resilience, download this PDF of Staying cool under pressure.