Our ability to be motivated and purposeful often depends on how we choose to interpret a stressful event. We all know that person in the office (and that person may be you) who always looks on the negative side: Why does that always happen to me? Just my luck! Why do I never get a promotion? It’s always me that’s being overlooked. The problem with this kind of victim mentality is that it tends to be self-fulfilling. By constantly thinking in this way we’re training ourselves to become that negative person. We all have bad things happen to us. But how we frame our particular situation is a choice. This framing is something we all do, all the time, whether we realise it or not. And you’ll do yourself an enormous favour if you take control of how you’re framing your life and make it work for you rather than against you.
There’s plenty of fantastic evidence that shows we can gain huge benefits from altering the way we view our daily stresses. One 2012 study found that if we change the way we think about a stressful event we can improve our physical health and also the way our brain reacts to Micro Stress Doses (MSDS).
Compared to the group who didn’t, the participants in this study who reframed their MSDS had lower blood pressure, higher attention levels and even improved efficiency of their heart muscle. When we reframe a stressful experience, not only does it feel good but we benefit from powerful physiological changes in our body. We’ve helped mitigate the damage that MSDS can do simply by looking at the problem in a different way.
When you’re in the middle of an MSD swarm, your emotional brain becomes dominant and your rational brain is sidelined so you’re unable to look at things logically.
You often tend to dwell on situations that you find distressing or upsetting, or when you replay a problem over and over again in your mind. In the short term, it may feel as though this is helping; in the long term, it will be damaging. You will be training your emotional brain to become more powerful, which in turn makes it more likely that you will spend time ruminating in the future, and so it’s more likely that you will become anxious.