This article discusses how our inner questioning plays a significant role in stress management. Throughout the day we have an internal conversation which often takes the form of asking questions about the events we experience. Itâs these questions that we need to become aware of as they impact directly on the way we perceive a situation.
When experiencing a stressful event we often start to ask silent questions in our minds, without even being aware of it. For example, when thinking about a stressful situation you may ask yourself:
Why is life always so difficult?
What have I done to deserve this?
What was I thinking?
Why is this happening to me?
These types of questions are what I call poor quality questioning because they affirm you as a victim of your circumstances and produce feelings of stress. They also donât make you feel any better about your situation. They sabotage our stress management capability.
When you ask yourself the question: Why is life always so difficult? youâre setting yourself up for a pessimistic outlook by reaffirming that life is difficult and that you are powerless against its hardships. Is life really difficult all the time or would it be more accurate to say that sometimes we face challenges that need to be overcome and they are part of the journey of our lives?
A valuable stress management technique is to be constantly aware of the questions you are asking yourself because poor quality questions often create feelings of stress and prevent you from being optimistic by focusing your thoughts on all the negative aspects of your situation. These thoughts often snowball and, before you know it, you become stressed and anxious. By checking your inner questioning and ensuring that youâre asking good quality questions your feelings of stress will be kept at bay and your stress management improves.
So how do you turn poor quality questions into constructive ones? The first step is to become aware of your poor quality questions and to make a conscious effort to be mindful of your inner chatter. Observe self-talk closely and keep continual watch over it.
The next step in this stress management tool is to become aware of the harmful nature of poor quality questions and the stress it can create. When you are mindful of the questions you are asking yourself, youâll be able to identify if they are of poor quality and how to replace these with constructive questions.
Here are a few questions to consider:
What can I learn from this experience?
How can I use this situation to learn more about myself?
Where is the opportunity in this problem?
How can I ensure that I donât repeat the situation?
How can I use this experience to learn patience and tolerance?
How could I have prevented this problem?
What can I do differently next time?
By consciously asking yourself questions like these you reframe a potentially stressful situation into one that can be a valuable experience for you and begin to take more control of your stress management ability.
Putting it into practise
To apply this in practise start by becoming aware of your inner questioning throughout the day. Focus your awareness on what questions youâre asking yourself silently in your mind; itâs this inner chatter that you need to become more familiar with. Once you are aware of your inner questioning it will be easier to recognise poor quality questions when they arise.
Letâs use a practical stress management example to see how we can change poor quality questioning in a stressful situation.
Youâve been asked to report on an important project that youâve been responsible for in a weekly work meeting. Unfortunately, things have not gone according to plan and you need to tell everyone why the project is no longer on track.
Response 1: Poor quality questioning (usual default thinking)
While youâre waiting to deliver your report your mind starts to stream poor quality questions. You start asking yourself: What are they going to think of me? What if they take me off this project? How will I ever get that bonus I want?
You start feeling stressed and anxious.
Response 2: Using constructive questioning (a great stress management tip)
While youâre waiting your mind starts asking quality questions. You ask yourself: How can I use this situation to my advantage? What lessons have I learned from this experience? What if I focus on showing them my problem solving abilities and the benefits that this challenging situation has brought about?
You start to see a solution to your stressful situation and begin to relax.
Asking constructive questions helps your stress management in challenging circumstances and maintains a positive state of mind.
Get to know the content of your inner chatter and be mindful of any negative questioning that may sabotage your feelings of optimism and stress management capability.
If you find that your questioning is creating a pessimistic view of a situation, change your focus by asking yourself positive questions. Youâll become open to a way of thinking that supports you in lifeâs challenges.