The Power of Positive Thinking to Cope With Stress

Think positively. Be hopeful and realistically optimistic. Try to look at a stressful situation in a more positive way.
“When my boss yelled at me for doing something wrong, I was ready to quit,” says Mitch, sixteen. “I thought, who needs the stupid job, anyway! There was just too much stress. Then I realized that I like the work, and I need the money. I know I can do a better job if I want to, so I’m going to try. I concentrated on doing things better by being more careful, coming in on time, and things like that. Well, it worked. The boss was happy, so there was less stress. I even got a raise.”

When you’re “talking to yourself,” make up a positive or optimistic phrase that you can repeat to help reduce negative thinking, such as, “I can handle anything.” At the end of the day, think of something new and good that happened during the day. Don’t allow negative thoughts to overwhelm the positive. Stay away from negative people and people who resort to violence or use drugs to avoid their problems.
Sixteen-year-old Christie knows the value of positive thinking. “I had an argument with my friend, Alex, on a Friday afternoon. I’m afraid I said some things I shouldn’t have, and I may have hurt her feelings. I felt guilty and depressed, but I couldn’t talk to Alex all weekend. And the negative thoughts kept building up in my head; I was feeling queasy. I knew that I had to try to think of something positive or I would be stressed out. So I thought of all of the fun things we’ve done together.

“When I finally saw Alex on Monday, I had a positive attitude. I was able to smile and say ‘hi’ and really mean it. If I had let my stress build up, I may have been too angry, and who knows what I might have said. Instead, we worked things out, and we’re still friends. I think it shows.”

Having a positive attitude is one way of approaching stress and coping with it. However, your positive attitude must reflect your feelings. Holding in feelings and just trying to look happy without working through the cause of your stress can only lead to more stress. Whatever you feel is okay, including anger; there are no right and wrong feelings. It’s how you express your emotions, whether in a positive or destructive way, that is important.

Develop or maintain a sense of humor. Laughing is an emotional release. The person who said “Laughter is the best medicine” wasn’t joking! When you feel stressed, smile and say something nice to someone else. You’ll both feel better. Do something that makes you smile or laugh; but don’t laugh or joke about your serious concerns. You should take them seriously.

Crying can also help to relieve some stress, and may even prevent a headache or other symptoms. Holding in your emotions slows down the process of coping with stress. Crying helps clear your mind so coping can begin.

Avoid the three kinds of negative thinking that one counselor calls “mind traps”: exaggeration (“That’s the worst thing I could have done.”); generalization (“I always do the wrong thing.”); and negative self-talk (“Boy, am I stupid.”). Remember that everyone goes through stressful times and makes mistakes. Your situation is a normal part of the maturing process.