Mind over Matter Regulating Stress through Mind Management

Mind management techniques consist of three coping mechanisms when handling stress: repressive coping, rational coping, and reframing. Repressive coping occurs when a person dismisses situations, feelings, or thoughts that remind the individual of their stressor; this inevitably leads to a false positive outlook (Schacter, Daniel, Gilbert, Nock, & Wegner, 2017). For example, students often use repressive coping when dealing with trauma caused by bullying. Instead of confronting the bully, the victim avoids the places where the bullying occurred. If the bullying worsens, the victims might fear for their lives to the point where they move away from the school or even out of state. Later, when questioned about their bullying experiences, victims tend to focus on their present life rather than the emotions they felt during the bullying. The bully is the cause of their stress; so, they avoid the person as much as possible to get rid of the stress.

Another coping mechanism is rational coping, which includes three steps that conquer the stressor head on. The first step of rational coping is acceptance: coming to the realization that the stressor exists. Exposure is the second step: engaging with the stressor by thinking about and pursuing it. The third step is understanding: working to find the meaning of the stressor in the individual’s life (Schacter et al., 2017). Rational coping is difficult in extremely stressful situations. For example, a person who survives a mass school shooting may have difficulty applying rational coping. The first response to a school shooting is to deny the event and live life avoiding anything that triggers that moment. However, receiving professional help from a psychologist enables victims to ponder and confront the situation. Included in this process is a technique called prolonged exposure, where school shooting survivors verbally record the event and listen to the recording daily to relive the traumatic event. As stated in the textbook, prolonged exposure reduces symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety, such as social isolation or heart palpitations. Exposing the event to the survivor at once results in significant improvements, compared to gradually exposing the event (Schacter et al., 2017). During the third step, many victims question why this event happened to them. Recognizing why this traumatic event continuously stresses them out, allows them to understand their stressor. Undergoing these three steps helps survivors successfully heal from the school shooting.

The third and final technique of mind management is reframing, which is the strategy of creating a new way to view or reduce the stressor (Schacter et al., 2017). One form of this technique is stress-inoculation training (SIT), which helps people cope with stressful situations by creating optimistic thoughts (Schacter et al., 2017). For instance, one may use SIT when dealing with social anxiety. The person with social anxiety reframes their thoughts by telling themselves phrases such as, I’m not going to let this situation get to me, Attack the panic. Get out the sword and charge at it, or Do not worry, they are thinking about themselves, not you. Practicing these exercises may calm a person down while speaking publicly or attending a party. Another method of reframing is writing out one’s deepest feelings and thoughts. For instance, in 1989, Jamie Pennebaker discovered that those who wrote about their emotions greatly improved their physical health compared to those who did not. The students who self-disclosed these emotions also used less aspirin, scored better grades, and visited the student health center less frequently (Schacter et al., 2017). Based on these results, a positive internal dialogue or writing one’s emotions on paper reduces stress.

Ever since I began the first grade, I have experienced both minor and major influxes of stress. I connect to mind managing stress since I use all three methods described above, depending on the stressful situation. I tend to use both reframing and rational coping while studying for an exam or writing an essay. For instance, if I know that an essay is due the next day and I left it to the last minute, I try to reframe my stressful thoughts using phrases such as: Don’t panic. Everything is going to be okay, If I discipline myself, I will be able to get it done in time, or The grade that I receive for this assignment does not define my worth. In another scenario, if I stress about studying for an exam, I reframe my mindset by telling myself that if I finish studying two pages, I can reward myself by watching ten minutes of my favorite movie.

In addition to the reframing technique, I use rational coping when encountering social anxiety. For example, if I cannot bring myself to initiate small talk with an acquaintance at school or raise my hand in class, I reflect on this mishap after the event passes. More specifically, I start by realizing that social events and participating in a class discussion are components of life that will always exist. After realizing these social instances, I recall the social event or instance where I could not convince myself to speak publicly in class. I then talk to my parents or a counselor to confront the situation and think about what happened. Additionally, I try to understand why public speaking or making small talk with acquaintances stresses me out. Thus, both reframing and rational coping enable me to be productive and accomplish tasks without wasting time wallowing in self-pity.

I tend to use repressive coping when facing friendship problems or rude people. For example, if I attempt to begin a conversation with someone and they do not reciprocate, or if a passerby shows disinterest when I greet them with a smile, I tend to either move on or try to never engage with another stranger again. If I encounter someone who is constantly rude towards me, I try not to let that person stress me out. Instead, I try to avoid that person. If that is not an option, I try to repress these stressors by telling myself to move on from the situation instead of fixing the problem. Overall, I try to avoid people that make me uncomfortable or events that make me feel unwanted.

Addressing each of these areas requires me to reflect on how I view stress and how I combat my stressor in both healthy and unhealthy ways. One method of reframing that I still need to apply, however, is expressive writing. If I turned to expressive writing whenever I felt anxious or stressed in an academic or social situation, I think my stress would decline significantly. Furthermore, if I continue to practice repressive coping by isolating myself from any social situation, I may need to think of healthier ways to confront my stress. Therefore, managing my stress by reframing, repressing, and rationalizing effectively reduces the stress that accompanies being a college student.

References

  1. Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D.T., Nock, M. K., & Wegner, D. M. (2017). Psychology (4th ed.). New
  2. York, NY: Worth Publishers, Macmillan Learning.
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