One of the most significant ways to reduce stress in people’s lives is to reduce worry – that tendency to wonder and think about some undesired outcome that might (or might not) possibly happen in the future.
In reality, anything can happen in life—good or bad. But when we don’t know for certain what is going to happen, sometimes we start to feel out of control. Our brains don’t like not knowing.
So when we don’t know what is going to happen, we tend to “fill in the blanks” with something we make up. Strangely, it can be more comforting than living with not knowing.
We create stories.
The problem is that the stories we create aren’t always helpful ones. Our tendency is to lean toward less favorable (and potentially less likely) scenarios. Maybe we are lowering expectations so we won’t be disappointed, or maybe we’re just plain worried.
Whatever the reason for making up stories, the reality is this: you never know what’s going to happen -- until it actually happens.
So why not make up a story that works for you?!
Here’s an example. A few years back, I got one of “those” emails from my son’s teacher. She didn’t say why, but she needed to meet with me after school. You can imagine what my imagination started to create.
After a few minutes, I noticed that I was focused on the future conversation with her, and I wasn’t getting my work done. So I decided to make up a story that made me feel good. For the next few hours I chose to believe that the reason she wanted to talk with me was because my son had won a “most-improved award.” That shift in mindset gave me two extra productive hours of work, instead of 120 minutes of worrying. I can’t remember, anymore, what the actual issue was -- but I can remember having a much more peaceful afternoon than I might have had otherwise.
So if you are making it all up anyway – my challenge to you is to create scenarios that make you feel better than not knowing.
If you want to reduce stress, then take control -- create a stories that make you feel good.