It’s not for anyone (including me) to say that you are suffering from thinking errors. And these variations of thinking processes are causing you the stress you are experiencing.
But what research and studies have found is that stress is very often self-induced.
And this is a direct result caused by the following common thinking errors.
1) Disaster escalation
Feel like a little drama can make you day a little more interesting? What better than to brew a storm in a teacup?
I’m sure you can identify with some of your friends, colleagues or family member who like to exaggerate bad situations way out of proportions. And you find them ridiculous!
But the interesting part is that we are sometimes guilty of it too. And we find that our anger or whatever we are feeling as justified.
For example, do you remember the time when the credit card issuer placed an annual fee charge to your card and you couldn’t get it waived when calling in to the customer service center? A lot of people can go berserk from this because they take the rejection personally.
Yet if you step back for a moment, breathe and ponder over it, there’s no need to exasperate over this. Just pay off and balance up the amount due and call in again to get the fee waived. The people on the other end will usually oblige when you don’t have a negative balance.
I’ve tried this and is living evidence that it can be done.
Or what about the time when you were put on hold for 15 minutes when calling into the mobile network provider? Did you get really angry and frustrated over this?
The truth is that if you are not in a life and death situation or not in an Olympic sprint race, these few minutes are not going to make a big difference to your quality of life.
By being aware of your tendency to escalate a minor shortcoming to disaster level, you can better manage the way you objectify these situations and put a handle on your stress levels.
2) Irrational annoyance
I actually know a couple of people who have a low tolerance for things that annoy them. And they proudly claim obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as the cause as if justifying to themselves that their behaviors are warranted.
It’s perfectly fine when being annoyed affects you and only you. But if it affects other people, you should try and keep this is check. And no. It’s not cute to tell people you have OCD.
For example, I was with one of them at a restaurant recently. And the waiter came back to clarify our orders. This simple act by the poor waiter cause my friend to make a scene out of “poor service”.
Truth be told. I was a little embarrassed at the scene my annoyed friend created.
Everyday, everyone are faced with situations that don’t go totally their way. And a majority just accept it as part and parcel of life.
So I urge everyone who has a low tolerance for irritation to practice self-control.
If you think about it, can you really not stand having to wait in line for lunch? Or having to jostle for elbow room in the subway? Is your proneness to annoyance causing you to over-react?
There’s no need to feel upset or distraught over little inconveniences in life. Just go with it. They sometimes make life a little more interesting too.
3) What if…
I’m sure a lot of people will be able to relate to this. After all, when we have too much free time to think, we tend to screw ourselves by thinking what bad things and problems might or might not happen.
- What if the plane crashes?
- What if the public speaker calls me out from the crowd?
- What if the officers think my travel souvenirs are contraband?
- What if I get sick on the day of the million-dollar presentation?
- What if my investment turns out to be a pyramid ponzi scheme?
That’s a lot of what-ifs to deliberate over. And it’s all due to an outrageous fear of the unknown.
Let’s not beat about the bush. Shit happens.
But we need to ask ourselves what are the chances for these things to realistically occur?
Put it this way. There is no way for us to know what can happen in the near or far future. And everything we think might happen has no happened. In effect, these are lies that we are telling ourselves just to feed the brain with a little extra stress.
It would be easier to just stop worrying about events that cannot be predicted.
We are often aware when we overgeneralize things. Yet just making generalization statements can have a negative impact on our sub-conscious.
- All men are cheaters
- No one in the office is smart enough
- Everyone is always taking advantage of me
- My mother clearly loves my sister more
While there might be some events that happened for these unhealthy thought to creep into your mind, surely you cannot take that little voice in your head seriously!
When a distorted perception of facts is imprinted in your mind, it is just an invitation for resentment and displeasure to walk in.
Start looking at circumstances from a different angle and a different point of view. Or if someone is the source of this generalization, Empathize and try to see it from that person’s perspective.
This could possibly be the more enlightening exercise your can practice.
5) Always assuming
I ran into an old friend at the gym the week before and noticed how skinny he had become. It was only about 18 months since I last saw him. But when he took off his T-shirt in front of the wall mirror for some flexing, my jaw dropped. He was ripped and shredded with carved-out muscles all over. Oh my… those bulging 6 pack abs…
This is a simple example of how we have incorporated a bad habit of assuming and judging people from just a single factor.
- Just because a friend hasn’t paid you for the lunch yesterday does not mean that she is taking advantage of you. Maybe she forgot.
- Just because your brother gets more regular praise from your Dad does not mean that he is practicing favoritism. Maybe Daddy has reservations about showing his more tender side.
- Just because you have been overlooked for a promotion doesn’t necessarily mean that your contributions to the company is not being appreciated. Maybe the people up there are preparing a better position and title for you.
Very often, we just don’t have enough information to make a conclusion. And during these times, we just love to assume with certainty what a simple innocent piece of data translate to in the big picture.
The next time you catch yourself doing this, ask yourself are you really making a fair assumption?
Why not just wait till you get enough information before making a conclusion.
6) Compulsive comparison
A huge part of our motivation to do well in life is driven by how we compare ourselves to others.
And while comparing can be a great source of motivation towards achieving success. It can cause a great deal of stress in how contented you are with life.
Unhealthy compulsive comparison can occur in 2 ways:
- You feel more worthy and deserve more
- You feel that someone else is undeserving
There is an infinite amount of stuff that you are unhappy with due to comparisons. Meditation can only help so much.
Money, looks, sugar-daddy, popularity, salary, size of house, etc. You name it.
Start realizing that this is a never ending cycle. And that you will NEVER ever be contented with what you have if you continue to practice this in life. You are just feeding your own stress levels with more gas.
7) You are the center of the world
Not everything is about you. You are not gravity and people don’t orbit their lives around you. So stop taking everything personally.
A lot of times, friends and acquaintances make frank comments without putting too much thought into it. Often even as a joke.
Then you either take it personally or too seriously. Giving you a bout of anxiety at home.
- You look like you’ve gained weight
- You have no sense of humor
- I heard you were suffering from depression last year
- You don’t dress well
- I can’t trust you with secrets
Taking comments like these personally during interactions can cause thinking errors that cause you to feel embarrassed, undignified, or even ashamed.
Remember that what people think about you is their own perception. Only you can determine whether they are true or not. If you know for a fact that they are nowhere close to the truth, just let these mindless comment bounce off your back.
Not everything is a personal attack on you. Usually just an opinion… which you don’t have to agree with and accept at face value.
8) Emotional reasoning
Emotional reasoning is a thinking error that occurs when you make a decision or a judgment on something based on the feelings you are feeling at the moment.
For example, you feel a little nervous about driving a bigger car than you are used to and conclude that bigger cars are more dangerous. Or you felt sleepy when watching a drama series on TV and later claim that the show was boring.
We can all be directed by our emotions from time to time. Yet at the same time, we implicitly understand that to achieve outstanding success in life, we need to keep our emotions in check and be more emotionally stable.
Sometimes a hunch, a gut feeling, or a sixth sense can help you avoid pitfalls.
But do acknowledge that feelings are far from facts. And you usually need facts in order to make a conclusion about a person, a thing or situation.
9) Information sieving
The mind plays dangerous tricks on us all the time. And one of those is to only pay attention to the things we want to see and hear. Blurring out everything else.
A prime example of this is the mortgage crisis of 2008. Regular real estate investors and commentators had so much skin in the game that they choose to only acknowledge market data that supported their investments… while failing to appreciate data that told them otherwise.
Information sieving is also dominant in personal grooming and dating. For example, if a woman makes a small comment about how old-fashioned a man’s shirt looks, he might allow these few words to load himself with negativity. He has forgotten that he has so many positive features that wasn’t brought up.
The fear of failure is a more powerful motivator than the pleasure of success. This means that pain can affect us more than pleasure.
This is why we tend to let negativity affects us much more than positivity.
The best way to get around this thinking error is to build a powerful self-esteem and craft a respectable self-image of yourself.
This way, you can naturally determine that people who don’t see your real value are totally clueless.
Every individual has his or her own core values and way of viewing life. Even if 2 people have a similar value, the degree in which they value it varies.
People often make the mistake of expecting others to share the same personal value as themselves. They then get upset or even depressed when they find that this is no so. This creates unwarranted stress and anxiety.
You are totally within your right to impose a certain set of standards and expectations on yourself. But to force you will on others is a little radical.
Strangers and peers have the right to their own individuality too. And it would be foolish to assume otherwise.
Ever found yourself saying any of the following to yourself?
- He shouldn’t be behaving that way towards the unfortunate
- How can anyone be so mindless
- That’s not how anyone should be treating dogs
- How could he panic in that situation
Your rules of life might be legitimate. But whether or not others should follow it is really not up to you.
Maybe if you are the president of a local club… you would be right to call the shots around. But other than that… no.
In closing, remember… how you see the world determines your quality of life. This means that if you can tweak your mental thinking process, you will have a full handle on stress management.