Listen to this Reading:
As I mentioned in my Let’s Talk Workshops post, I have been doing two workshops related to stress management. I am interested in these sessions, because the information will be good to have as I prepare and make the large transition from undergrad life here in Columbus, Ohio to a full-time position at a large aeronautics company in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
This week has again proved to be a struggle to do the Mindfulness homework, but I did attend the first session of Mental Skills. I enjoyed the Mental Skills session a lot. I will admit that when I met the guys who were leading the workshops, they struck me as a bit odd. After sitting with them for a while, I realized that they just have a different way of dealing with things than most people. The Mental Skills started off with us going around the circle introducing ourselves and saying a bit about why we were there. (NOTE: Graduating PhD students were all over the place! I can only guess how stressful that is.)
First thing we talked about was a helpful picture to have. Where we are right now is the Present State (PS) and where we would like to be is the Desired State (DS). We get from PS to DS by using Resources, which look like arrows pointing from PS to DS. In actuality, we may try some resources that don’t get us to the DS. Instead of viewing that as failure, we can use it as feedback and try another resource to get where we want to be. Resources are the things we’ll be talking about more in the second and third sessions.
Next, we talked about how it’s easier to be nicer to others than it is to yourself. When something goes wrong, we usually think we’re stupid for doing something wrong, but we can tell others that it’s not that they’re stupid, but a mess-up that can be learned from. Or if a friend is stressing out, we can help them see a different, calmer side of things. There’s nothing that really keeps us from doing that for ourselves though. This is the concept of a mental coach. A part of your brain that sits a little away from the situation and can give you another perspective on things. If things get stressful, you can talk with your mental coach and see what’s going on, why you feel the way you do, what you can do to get from the PS to the DS. I think it’s a really interesting idea!
You can actually pick a location where your mental coach “sits”. Mine is just off to my left side, right up by my head. I’ve not had any lengthy dealings with this mental coach yet, but I am trying to take a step back and analyze my feelings more. Is the way I am feeling appropriate? Is it what I want to/should be feeling? Can I manage this stress better?
We then talked about mental frames. These are perspectives we can use to look at a situation. Instead of getting weighed down by despair or some similar feeling, we can try these frames of thought and help ourselves out. They do not minimize the situation or the stress, they simply help one look at the situation a little differently.
These are the frames we covered:
- Learning – “I’m allowed to discover and figure it out because I don’t know it now.” “I am where I am, but I can develop myself and my skills.” “Do the best I can with how I am now.”
- Opportunity – We all have disappointing and discouraging things, but there is an opportunity in every situation. See how things can be positive.
- Challenge vs Threat – Instead of seeing things as threats which activate stress, see them as challenges to work on. They’re easier to handle then.
- Healthy – What is the healthy way to respond here? Is the way I am currently responding the healthiest way?
- Curiosity – Look at feelings or situations with curiosity. Stepping back a bit and analyzing the feelings you have now. Seeing how to better cope/handle them. Why do I feel the way I do?
- Process vs Outcome – Be present for the moment, but do the best you can in the moment. Don’t worry so much about the outcomes, since all we have control over is the present.
We also talked about writing as a frame. Writing can be used to later look back at a situation, which gives a different perspective. I think this is one way of implementing the Curiosity frame.
The second session of Mental Skills will be this week, and I am looking forward to it. This feels more concrete, practical and “now” than the Mindfulness class. We’ll see how they both develop though.
Have you heard these ideas before? If so, where have you heard them? Do you use any of these frames? Maybe you don’t think of them as such, but maybe you try to look for the opportunity in a situation, try to focus more on the now than the later? For the most part, this is just a formalization of things I have heard before. The power is having them all together and making the conscious effort to be aware of them at all times.