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How To Deal With Stressful Thoughts

Stressful thoughts pop into our awareness every day. For many of us, they tend to be persistent and cause uncomfortable emotions and bodily sensations. We try many methods to deal with these thoughts – we try to suppress them, express them, change them into positive thoughts, deny them, and distract ourselves. We even try to meditate or medicate them away. All of these strategies work, providing some relief for some period of time. Then the thoughts return.

I have tried to deal with this problem for many years and would like to share what has and still does work for me.

Here is what I have found useful:

  1. Become aware of stressful thoughts.
  2. Ask yourself if the thought is really true or not.
  3. Notice how entertaining the thought(s) impact your emotions and bodily sensations. Watch carefully the mental images that come up as a result of your thought(s).
  4. How does the thought impact your behavior towards others?
  5. Become aware of how your mind takes you away from this moment (into the past and/or future) as you get more involved with the stressful thoughts.
  6. Having observed how getting involved in stressful thoughts deeply affects you, consider what it would be like if you never had that stressful thought. Notice where you are in time (past/present/future) when you don’t engage the stressful thoughts.
  7. True meditation is when attention rests in what IS and not in what is NOT.