The power of reframing our experiences.
What if we could use our thoughts and feelings, the ones we believe are the cause of stress, anxiety and depression, to actually help calm ourselves down, and make us feel better?
Sometimes, it feels like we should be able to fix everything and anything. That’s because we live in a world where we always look for a solution to a problem. It’s great that we do, and we need to, because how else can we function and move forward? As humans, our two-step process is:
1. Identify the problem and
2. Fix it either ourselves or we enlist someone else to do it.
For example, if our car stopped working, we simply take it in to our local garage and pay the mechanic to fix it. The problem then goes away. Our car becomes functional again.
But what happens when we experience problems internally? For example, we may find ourselves becoming anxious and notice our heart is racing and our palms are becoming sweaty, and we feel unable to explain why. Or we may find our mood has dropped and we just can’t stop feeling so flat and unmotivated. We realise that perhaps there are some things that aren’t always so easy to fix. Even more so, it may last longer than we would like.
What happens next is that we may act in ways that prevent us from feeling better. This includes:
Being unkind to ourselves: We fight with ourselves by becoming self-critical, telling ourselves that ‘we shouldn’t be feeling this way’ or ‘just to get over it’. In essence we stop being kind to ourselves, when we perhaps need it the most.
Being avoidant: We avoid acknowledging our thoughts and emotions. We pretend that everything is okay, and bury it deep inside hoping that we never have to do anything about it.
For many of us, we may find ourselves turning to unhealthy coping strategies that deep down we all know doesn’t really help in the long run - that extra glass of alcohol or eating more than we need to. We may even engage in risky sexual behaviour or self-harming. The list is endless. The point here is that they all provide us with an escape because we are thinking or doing anything else but acknowledging what’s going on inside of us and doing something constructive about it. The end result is that we somehow, have made our problems 100 times worse and have become trapped in a vicious cycle that further erodes our confidence and self-esteem.
So what can we do about it? Well, perhaps we can create a Virtuous Cycle - a loop that produces more favourable results. One way to do this, is to reframe our experiences.
When reframing our experiences comes into use:
The way this works is that we start to see all of our thoughts and feelings (not just the happy ones) as tools that our brain uses to tell us information about ourselves. So we can see our thoughts and feelings as means of providing us with information about what we need at that moment in time for example, when we are feeling anxious or low or stressed.
Rather than getting caught up with thinking “I shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “I can’t cope”, why not try thinking ”it’s okay, it will pass” or “my body is tired and my mind is worn out, I need to slow down here and just take five”. What if by listening to what we are thinking and feeling, we see it as an opportunity to remember what’s important to us or that it is telling us something isn’t right here, so we need to make a change. By listening to ourselves and being kind, we might actually find ourselves looking after our mental health and wellbeing in a new way – from our own perspective.