Cognitive Reframing for Stress
By: Tayler Terrell, Masters Level Intern
Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself saying… “I’m stressed”. Don’t worry, my hand went up too. Let’s take a moment to ask how often we find ourselves saying that very same phrase whether out loud or to ourselves. Is it more than you’d like to admit? If we took some time to think about the thoughts or feelings that often consume us, these thoughts might involve some type of stress. What is stress per se? Cleveland Clinic first defines stress as a normal human reaction that happens to everyone (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Stress can be our natural response when we’re presented with something that feels challenging or makes us uneasy. Stress doesn’t always have to be negative as there are positive responses to stress when managed appropriately. However, when we find it difficult to manage or reduce stress this can lead to negative consequences that impact our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
When we experience stress, our body is responding whether we like it or not. In most cases, this can be out of our control as mentioned that stress is a normal response. Cognitive reframing is a technique that emphasizes challenging ourselves to adjust or change our mindset. In practicing cognitive reframing, we are shifting our thoughts to include an optimistic thought process. Cognitive reframing is noted to reduce anxiety and depression in addition to improving our quality of life (Scott, 2020). While challenging ourselves and shifting our thoughts may sound simple, this can take consistent practice to implement. So, how do we implement cognitive reframing?
Start by being more alert. Notice what your thoughts are and how they are present. Do you have a good idea about what thoughts or ideas initiate stress for you? If not, take some time to figure this out and determine how stress shows up for you. Track recurring thoughts that stimulate negative thought patterns and most importantly, notice how they make you feel.
Acknowledge what you are feeling to gain additional insight into the true reality of your thoughts about stressors. It’s important to recognize our emotions that can be contributed to our thoughts and what we are feeling. There are major benefits of showing compassion and validating our emotions when understanding our stress-induced thoughts and responses. This type of confrontation challenges us to determine if there is any underlying basis for our stress or if are we reacting to occurrences that are outside of our control. It can be difficult to challenge ourselves but if it could reduce our stress, it might be worth the check-in.
Practice positive self-talk by focusing on reality and shifting your mindset towards positive thoughts. It’s easy to be consumed with the negative thoughts that trigger stress responses. When a negative thought occurs, challenge your thought, and try to reframe your thoughts to consider a different perspective. Practice incorporating healthy self-talk that includes compassion and validation of your emotions (Morin, 2022). Lastly, be patient with yourself in the process of trying to reframe negative thoughts when it relates to stress. If it’s difficult to implement reframing, include some mindfulness activities like guided imagery or breathing exercises to reduce stress in the moment.
Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress
Morin, A. (2022, May 4). What Is Cognitive Reframing? Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/reframing-defined-2610419 .
Scott, E. (2020, October 21). How to Use Positive Reframe Strategies for Stress Relief. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-use-a-positive-reframe-for-stress-management-3144885.