Positive Thinkers Cope Better With Stress When I was younger whenever I would get a message that I needed to meet with a teacher or boss, I would spend the rest of the day engulfed in worry. Bullets of sweat would run from my forehead. My palms would get sweaty. I was certain I had done something wrong. How could I do anything right? I worry that entire day about what that ominous meeting could be about. Maybe I failed. Maybe they were mad. Maybe somebody has said something terrible about me and I was going to have defend myself. I would spend every hour until the meeting running over every potential negative reason and every catastrophic potential outcome. By the time the sit down was scheduled, I would have to drag my anxiety ridden, stress ball self into the room only to find out I just forgot to submit some paperwork or some other mundane thing. All my fears. All my anxiety. They were pointless. The stress I carried with me through everything I did that day was unnecessary. A huge amount of my precious emotional energy was like a kid on the night of their twenty-first first birthday—wasted. Most of our day to day stress—just like mine in this example—is self-created. When research stress I was surprised to find that stress itself doesn’t exist in an event, but rather in our perception of an event. In simple terms it means no matter what happens in life, you have the ability to be in the emotional driver’s seat. Pessimists (aka my previous self) approach common-place life situations with the expectation they’ve done something wrong. In the previous example, I used to assume that the only reason a boss or teacher might ever speak to me is because I had done something wrong. This type of thinking created additional heartache for me. It also closed me off from opportunities, friendships because I assumed that people were entering interactions with me only for negative reasons. This also affected my ability to manage my stress in the long term. Optimists on the other hand (aka present day moi) don’t apply a sentiment to a situation until all the facts needed to fairly assess it are available. It’s not that I’m assuming in the same situation that something amazing is going to happen. I’m not sitting anxiously, counting down the hours until my next office pow-wow so I can get some super fun prize. I’ve simply stopped assuming anything at all. If the event is negative, I benefit from the fact I haven’t been mulling over it, dissecting the situation and creating a million and one negative outcomes in my head. As a result, I am more prepared to manage the real results of the situation. I’m also less likely to overreact as result of all my extra ( and unnecessary) pent up emotion. I am more able to resolve whatever issues, if any, that result. I should share that this has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn. In the early stages of my career when a problem would arise, I would have to tell no less than every single person in my office, the door man, and several strangers I wrassled into conversation on the street before I could put the issue to rest. Sometimes even that wasn’t enough. I’d find myself like a car caught in quicksand—spinning my wheels with all this excess emotion and getting nowhere. Venting our issues, while seemingly harmless and perhaps even possibly therapeutic, can cause us to fixate on a negative incident rather than invest our energy in resolution. This story always serves to remind me that I have a choice in where I invest my energy. Most of the stress in my day to day life can be avoided or even reduced by keeping an upbeat attitude. Research has found that optimists not only create less stressful situations, but also experience stress less overall than others. As a new found optimist I find I tend to let go of negative events more quickly. This keeps stressful situations from piling up and becoming overwhelming. I’ve also been able to build better support systems, because I’ve stopped assuming the worst of every situation I enter. When stressful situations arise, Im able to reach out to my friends and rely on them to help me through. In short choosing to see the good in things the has resulted me having better relationships, less stress, and helped me let go of some of my baggage. I think we can all agree that the world could use a few more people that leave the baggage at home.