Understanding Unhelpful Stressful Thoughts

Dr Rich Blonna - Your Guide To Less Stress and Better Sex

Written By Dr. Rich

For more than 30 years, I have devoted myself, both professionally and personally, to helping people just like you stress less, have better sex, and enjoy life more.

Learn more about Dr. Rich

I am a university professor, author, and a world-renowned expert in how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. I’m proud to be one of the creators of Acceptance and Commitment (AC) Coaching, an exciting form of cognitive psychology that combines mindfulness, acceptance, and commitment to help people stress less and enjoy better sex and a more fulfilling life. I’m certified in Naikan and Morita, two forms of Japanese psychology that emphasize mindfulness and acceptance training respectively. I’m also a Board Certified Coach (BCC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). My eclectic approach combines the best practices from all of these disciplines. I’ve helped thousands of people from the United States, Europe, South Africa, and Asia through my books, audios, and adult training courses. My home is in Marco Island, Florida where I live with Heidi, my wife of 48 years. I love writing, tennis, running, kayaking, swimming, biking, weight training, meditation on the beach, and anything that gets me outdoors in the sun.

July 7, 2022

The stress response is really a response to threat triggered by your mind. It has been with us since the dawn of creation and has helped us deal with primitive threats such as being attacked by saber-tooth tigers to modern ones like being stuck in rush-hour traffic.

Your mind reacts to all threats the same way; it mobilizes energy to fight or flee. In the case of the saber-tooth tiger your primitive ancestors could do either (fight or flee). Once the threat was removed (they killed the tiger or escaped from it) the stress response shut down and after a short rest their bodies returned to normal. In the case of being stuck in rush-hour traffic you can do neither. Trapped in your car you can neither fight nor flee and the energy that your body mobilizes just simmers (or boils over if you let it) until the traffic dissipates or you cope with it somehow .





Becoming more aware of what your mind tells you about threat, and your ability to cope with it, is a key factor in learning how to RETHINK your stress. There is a subtle but very powerful difference between saying ,     “threat, and your ability to cope with it” andwhat your mind tells you about threat and your ability to cope with it.” The first statement refers to your actual ability to assess threat accurately and cope with it based on your knowledge, coping skill level, life experience, etc. The second statement refers to with what your mind tells you about the threat and your ability to cope with it. Often, these are not the same.

This is important to mention because what your mind tells you about threat, and your ability to cope with it, isn’t always helpful. What your mind thinks about a potential stressor and your ability to cope with it can be broken down into two categories:

1. Helpful thoughts – objective, rational thoughts about the actual threat posed by the potential stressor and your ability to cope with it.

2. Unhelpful thoughts – irrational, unrealistic thoughts about the degree of threat and your inability to cope with it.

Your mind has the tendency to overestimate the threat associated with a potential stressor and underestimate your ability to cope with it. This results in feeling threatened and unable to cope, a combination that triggers a stress response.




Your runaway mind overestimates threat because it works non-stop churning through every conceivable outcome associated with the potentially threat. It also tries to protect you by being conservative and underestimating your ability to cope. Sometimes what your mind tells you about a potential stressor and your ability to cope with it is helpful, logical, and rational. More often than not however, it isn’t.

Being aware of the way your mind works when thinking about a potential stressor changes your perspective.

By saying to yourself, “what my mind is telling me about …” you can start to distance yourself from what your mind is telling you if that information is inaccurate and unhelpful. It allows you to “step back and observe” what your mind is telling you about the threat and your ability to cope with it . You become an impartial observer of your mind’s activity. This “observer-self perspective” is crucial in allowing you to assess whether or not your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful in terms of dealing with a potential stressor.


If you loved this post, learn more by ……

Reading the Rethink Book

Listen to the Relaxation Audio Collection 

Taking the Rethink Course

Signing Up for Executive Coaching


You May Also Like…

What Does Relaxation Look/Feel Like?

What Does Relaxation Look/Feel Like?

To get a sense of what it looks/feels like to be truly relaxed, watch your dog seek out a warm spot in the sun. She finds a quiet spot away from the main traffic of the house, circles it a few times, stretches her legs, rolls her head and neck, lies down and fully arches her back, takes a deep breath and exhales deeply, and then curls up or sprawls in the warm rays.

How do You Reduce Stress?

How do You Reduce Stress?

In my Five R’s of Coping Model I identify five different levels of defense against stress; Rethink, Relax, Release, Reduce, and Reorganize. Reduce works as a level of defense against stress by learning how to find your optimal level of stimulating activities and demands (what some people incorrectly call stress).

Change Your View of Stress and Coping

Change Your View of Stress and Coping

In a previous blog (What is Stress?) I described the three components of stress: (1) a potential stressor, (2) what your mind tells you (your self-talk) about it and your ability to cope with it and (3) a stress response that kicks in if you feel unable to cope with it.

When you start to view stress this way you begin to change. You no longer see stress as something that just happens to you, and is beyond your control. Stress becomes more than just “bills, traffic, the government,” or other things that exist independently of you.




My free report will show you how to relax your muscles, calm your runaway mind, and get more energy and time to live a life filled with passion and purpose.

Thank you! We've added you to the mailing lists you selected.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This