Major contributors to job stress are negative thinking along with the feeling of having to give into perceived unreasonable demands, lack of information, poor environment, lack of control over work and the pace of work, frequent distraction, and frustration of goals. People can also find that the demands of their jobs conflict with their values, beliefs or goals.
Another stressor can be a lack of information, particularly at a time when people may be insecure about their jobs. We tend to think negatively when we fear the future, put ourselves down, criticize ourselves for errors, doubt our abilities, or expect failure. Negative thinking damages confidence, harms performance and paralyzes mental skills.
In this article you can find helpful methods on how to fight these negative thoughts. Start today! Download our books about stress management if you would like to read more about this topic.
View your thoughts objectively
Whenever we are strategizing about any activity and feel a nagging sense of foreboding, it is useful to sit down quietly, take four or five deep breaths and enter an introspective frame of mind.
Look at every negative thought that has crossed your mind. Ask yourself whether the thought is reasonable: Does it stand up to fair scrutiny?
For instance, while preparing for an important review presentation with the CEO you might identify that you have frequently had the following negative thoughts:
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Worries that your performance in your job will not be good enough
- An anxiety that things outside your control will undermine your efforts
- Worries about other people’s reactions to your work
Starting with these, you might challenge these negative thoughts:
- Feelings of inadequacy: Have you trained and educated yourself as well as you reasonably should to do the job? Do you have the experience and resources you need to do it? Have you planned, prepared and rehearsed appropriately? If you have done all of these, are you setting yourself unattainably high standards for doing the job?
- Worries about performance: Do you have the training that a reasonable person would think is needed to do a good job? Have you planned appropriately? Do you have the information and resources you need? Have you cleared the time you need and cued up your support team appropriately? Have you prepared appropriately? If you have not, then you need to do these things quickly. If you have, then you are well positioned to give the best performance that you can.
- Problems with issues outside your control: Have you conducted appropriate contingency planning? Have you thought through and managed all likely risks and contingencies appropriately? If so, you will be well prepared to handle potential problems.
- Worry about other people’s reactions: If you have put in good preparation, and you do the best you can, then that is all that you need to know. If you perform as well as you reasonably can, then fair people are likely to respond well. If people are not fair, then this is something outside your control. Often, the best thing to do is to rise above unfair comments.
The best way to face negative thinking is to set aside your ego and look at your negative thoughts objectively, imagining that you are a third person, maybe your best friend or a respected coach or mentor.
Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations
Having identified the rationality of your negative thoughts, you could prime yourself up positive thoughts and affirmations. These must be specific, garbed in present and demonstrate emotional content.
Continuing the examples above, positive affirmations might be:
- Feelings of inadequacy: “I am well trained for this. I have the experience, the tools and the resources I need. I have thought through and prepared for all possible issues. I can do a superb job.”
- Worries about performance:“I have researched and planned well for this, and I thoroughly understand the problem. I have the time, resources and help I need. I am well prepared to do an excellent job.”
- Problems issues outside your control: “We have thought through everything that might reasonably happen and have planned how we can handle all likely contingencies. Everyone is ready to help where necessary. We are very well placed to react flexibly and effectively to unusual events.”
- Worry about other people’s reaction: “I am well-prepared and am doing the best I can. Fair people will respect this. I will rise above any unfair criticism in a mature and professional way.”
Positive thinking is then used to create positive affirmations that you can use to counter negative thoughts. These affirmations neutralize negative thoughts and build your self-confidence.
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