Stress is a combination of the three things; (1) a potential stressor, (2) what your mind tells youabout your ability to cope with the threat, harm, or loss associated with it and (3) a stress response that kicks in if you feel unable to cope.

In this post I’d like to focus on the second component of the definition, what your mind tells you about your ability to cope with the threat, harm, or loss associated with potential stressors. Becoming more mindful of your use oflanguage, in particular your self-talk about stress is a key factor in learning how to conquer your stress.

There is a subtle but very powerful difference between saying , “your ability to cope with the threat, harm, or loss associated with potential stressors” and saying,what your mind tells you about your ability to cope with the threat, harm, or loss associated with potential stressors.” The first statement refers to you the person, and includes your body, mind, and spirit. The second statement separates out your mental activity and focuses on what is going on in your mind as you encounter potential stressors.

This subtle shift is a form of cognitive defusion, a cornerstone of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). By saying to yourself, “what my mind is telling me about …” you start to distance you from your mind’s activity. Remember, it is your runaway mind that sometimes gets you stuck because it is working non-stop churning through every conceivable outcome associated with potentially stressful situations and decisions. Some of what your mind tells you about potential stressors and your ability to cope with them is helpful, logical, and rational. However, a lot of what your mind tells you about this is also unhelpful, illogical, and irrational.

By becoming more mindful of your self-talk you can change your perspective on what your mind is telling you about the threat, harm, or loss associated with potential stressors and your ability to cope with it. You become an “observer” of your mind’s activity. This “observer-self” perspective is very helpful in changing the way you think about stress. Rethinking stress is a key component in learning how to conquer it.