• Mental Gear Closet

* Thought-based vs. Mood-based Stress

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Yesterday I woke up in a funk, feeling sad and generally unmotivated to start the day. Frustrated at myself for being in a bad mood, and increasingly stressed out about how hard it was to get going I quickly realized it was time to dive into my own mental gear toolbox.


This experience, while not something I want to repeat, created an important “a-ha” moment.


Sometimes stress + anxiety show up as loud thoughts and negative beliefs in our heads like an angry verbal tyrant, while at other times they manifest as a generally negative, depressed or upset mood. We may not notice any particular thoughts but rather just feel “off”.



Thought-based vs. Mood-based stress states


In mental training and therapy, you can think of your thoughts and feelings like two brothers. Sometimes they play and run happily around your mind while at other times they are loud, devious and harmful, even turning against you.


However while always working together in our minds, one “brother” can show up more than the other. In other words, while our thoughts and feelings are always impacting each other, sometimes what’s bringing us down are loud, critical thoughts while at other times, a more general negative, flat or upset mood.


For example:


“I can’t do it! This is scary! I don’t want to go. Maybe I’m feeling sick and shouldn’t. What if I fail? What if I AM a failure?!”


- versus -


I'm feeling generally down, flat, unmotivated or in a funk.



In the former, specific negative thoughts and beliefs are prominently showing up, reeking havoc. In real life these thoughts can be loud, intrusive and feel out of our control!


However at other times you’ll notice your mood just feels “off” such as in the second example. You may feel overwhelmed with anger, depression or sadness, etc. without any particular thoughts associated with it. You just bad and stuck in it, not sure how to escape.



Why is this important?


Recognizing the difference does two things.


One, better identification equals a better solution. Take for example a headache. What’s the one thing that causes all headaches? There IS NO one thing. Therefore teasing apart whether you’re dehydrated versus stressed versus concussed versus having an aneurism will be critical in taking the right course of action to heal.


Two, there is a phenomenon in which by simply noticing and describing what we’re thinking or feeling, the pent up pressure in the body quickly drops. Are you 100% cured? Probably not, however it’s common to feel a significant positive shift in stress level. (I’ve personally experienced this many times myself.)



So what is it first step? It is to cultivate the discipline of pausing to notice, and the bravery to own what we see, taking the right steps to positively shift. It is then that we make the greatest change and healing.



Good luck, be well and take care.


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Mental Gear Closet, LLC © 2018 by Alexandra "Sunleaf" Hinton, LPC