Mental Health Matters: 10 Questions to Ask When Feeling Stressed
1. Why am I feeling anxious?
Sometimes we can have an underlying sense of anxiety, stress or worry but not necessarily be aware of why it’s happening. Make time to assess your feelings a couple of times a day to try and pinpoint exactly what person, situation or thought is causing negative feelings, so you’ll be more equipped to deal with it.
2. Are my fears based in reality?
Our brains are our worst enemies and, sometimes, like to make us think the worst will happen. If you know what is causing your anxiety, think about why. Is the potential scenario that worries you realistic, or has your brain blown it out of proportion?
3. What is the best, worst, and 'most realistic' scenario that is likely to play out?
To try and reduce your fear of the worst happening, think through the best, worst, and most in-between end result. Realistically, the most in-between result is the most realistic, and the absolute best and absolute worst scenarios are the least realistic.
4. What is the evidence for this thought or belief?
Have you been in this situation before, and did the worst happen? Have you heard about your feared scenario happening to someone else? It’s more than likely that your brain has no evidence to support these feelings of anxiety and stress. Using this perspective can help reduce the negative effect.
5. Is there any evidence against it?
You may even have been in this situation before and it went well. If so, use this to convince yourself you can handle whatever is happening. If you, or others have dealt with the issue successfully in the past, this is clear evidence it is do-able.
6. Am I getting things out of proportion?
Again, this is about fighting the lies our brains tell us in times of stress. Are you fearing a likely reaction from someone else, or an extremely overblown reaction, that probably won’t happen?
7. What would I advise my best friend if they were thinking this way?
This is a great way to frame your thoughts more rationally. Very often we give our friends much more sage advice than we give ourselves. Try to look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective and advise yourself as you would a friend.
8. What is the rational, calm alternative view of this situation?
In the same way as imagining advising a friend, imagine being someone completely unruffled by a crisis. It may even help to think of someone talking in a calm, monotonous way, listing the facts. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of anxiety, it’s hard to tell if you’re being totally rational, so trying to remove yourself from that headspace and trying to look at it through calmer eyes can help.
9. Based on the past, how will I end up coping with this?
Even if you have considered all the possible outcomes and things are still looking bad, think back to times in the past when you’ve faced difficulty and come out the other side. Sometimes we have to just grit our teeth and endure. While this is definitely not ideal, it is possible, and there will be an end to whatever’s causing your stress.
10. Is my health actually in danger?
Sometimes we just worry. There may be no reason that we can find for it; you could be sat at home watching telly but feeling high levels of anxiety all the same. At times like this, focus on the fundamentals: you’re safe, you’re warm and you have a roof over your head. If nothing else, use the basic facts to try and soothe your anxious mind.
These questions are a simple approach to reducing anxiety and stress levels. If things are getting too much, however, please consult the NHS website for mental health services in your local area, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.