In a previous post I discussed the relationship between one’s view of themselves in reference to the threat or stressor that they face. Seeing yourself as small and the threat as big produces a sense of inadequacy and anxiety (often called stress). Fortunately, there are some relatively easy ways of shifting that view of one’s self, and/or that view of the threat, in order to feel more confident and prepared (and hence less stress).
The most effective use of your time is to focus your efforts on strengthening your view of yourself. Increasing your confidence in your abilities to respond to threats will best prepare you to handle threats that are legitimately big/serious as well as those that can be recognized as appearing bigger than they truly are. The first step is to take an inventory of your strengths. When we feel overwhelmed with stress, we tend to solely focus on our weaknesses and we quickly lose sight of our strengths. Making a list of your strengths (the things you are good at, what you do well, what comes naturally to you) can change your self-evaluation to a positive, strength-based picture. This alone can make you feel more confident. Making a list of strengths can also help you identify what tools you already have in your “toolbox” that can be used in various situations. Do you have good listening skills? This can be used to defuse someone’s frustration by letting them know that you understand and care about what they are saying. Are you good at setting boundaries? This can be used to help establish structure in situation that has too many potential options. Do you have good organizational skills? This can be used to help organize clear action steps to help with getting things accomplished.
The second step would be to add to your “toolbox” by sharpening existing skills, learning new skills, and practicing over and over again. Learning and practicing new skills (can I emphasize practicing enough?) helps you feel more prepared for whatever comes your way and you feel less pressure to avoid situations where you feel unprepared. Learning certain skills would have a big impact, depending on the nature of the threat, such as: Communication skills, Assertiveness skills, Conflict resolution techniques, Active listening skills, Cognitive restructuring (challenging your assumptions and thinking about something differently), and Perspective taking (seeing the other person’s perspective) just to name a few. The more equipped you feel, the more confident you will become to handle whatever situation arises, which leads to seeing threats as less threatening, which leads to less stress. Learn to identify your strengths and how to practice your skills by working with an LCL clinician. Call LCL now!
Shawn Healy, PhD