Cut Your Stress Level By Reframing Your Thoughts

Life Balance

Diane Dillon 200x250
Diane Dillon, Ph.D., Life Management Practitioner, Canyon Ranch

By Diane Dillon, PhD.




It is not the stress itself that creates immune system problems.  It is, rather, the perception that the stress is inescapable…Perception can always be changed.  And that is the key to getting and staying well!

-- Christiane Northrup, MD, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

Here’s what I know about myself.  When I am very stressed, my first reaction to a difficulty is likely to be negative and unhelpful.  In a split second, the conversation in my head might go like this:

  • “I’ll do it even though I don’t have the time or energy -- I don’t want to disappoint them.”
  • Or - “You want me to do what?! I can’t handle it -- I quit!”
  • Or - “I should be more competent, more efficient -- just plain better than I am.”

Since experiencing some stress in life is unavoidable, it’s essential that we monitor our internal dialogue.  We need to pay attention to our thoughts and learn to speak to ourselves in helpful, affirming ways.

Here are some helpful steps to practice to reframe stressful thoughts:
First ground yourself:

  1. Take a few deep breaths.
  2. Become aware of your feelings and thoughts.
  3. Recognize that all feelings are acceptable, although certain behaviors must be limited. Negative emotions don’t make you a bad person—just a normal human being.  (It’s your ego at work – not your soul or core self.)
  4. Acknowledge that all feelings are temporary. 

Then, choose new thoughts:

Change your thoughts to modify your emotions with a reframe that will bring you greater comfort, hope and balance. 

Stress-Reducing Thoughts

  • ”I cannot please everyone. I need to listen to my heart and do what’s right for me.”
  • Or - ”Is this request reasonable?  If so, I can handle it, even though it is not what I’d prefer.”
  • Or - “I’m grateful about many things AND there are aspects of myself and my life I wish were different. I’m going to try to keep this all in perspective and change what I can.”  

Changing our thoughts is a process that can be difficult.  We may benefit from getting a better understanding of where some of our self-destructive thoughts and beliefs come from.  We can also benefit from the support of others—a therapist, a friend, a support group.  It can be comforting just knowing that we are not alone. 

Finally, BE GENTLE with yourself.  A favorite quote of mine is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” (Philo 30 BCE – 40 CE).  Remembering that we are all fallible, worthwhile human beings and each fighting our own “battles” can go a long way in relieving our stress.  If you do nothing else, start by being kind to yourself!

Diane Dillon, Ph.D. is the Life Management Practitioner at Canyon Ranch in Lenox.

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  • An article in Psychology Today about stress management and positive thinking had the same advice for action: write down 3 positive things that happened throughout your day and why they happened. (

    I think acknowledging positive aspects of your life and being grateful for the source of them (usually, your action) is an indispensable aid to living a positive lifestyle.

    I also love the quote at the end of this article by Philo because it will help me to remember that we are not expected to conquer everything in one day--we have great battles that need long term energy.

    Posted by mbeardsl, 24 June 2010.

  • Words to live a happy life by.

    Posted by Bonnie Gudis, 27 May 2010.