Are you making a “mountain out of a molehill” with the stress in your life? This metaphor is commonly used when we disproportionately respond to something and greatly exaggerate the severity of the problem or situation. Cognitive psychologists call this type of distortion magnification, further asserting that the subjective ways in which we view things as worse than they really are can actually result in greater stress and bigger problems than what are currently being experienced.
Logic & emotions
Often when I discuss with clients ideas relating to how they might better manage their personal stress, we begin by examining the impact logic and emotions have on problem-solving strategies. When we use a logical approach, we employ patience, critical thinking, and objective measurement. Conversely, when we are emotional and try to deal with problems, we are spontaneous, overly-excited, and generally use subjective, distorted measurement. As you can see there are stark differences between logical and emotional problem-solving, and as you might imagine, there are very different outcomes we experience depending on what approach we employ.
It’s impossible to be both logical and emotional at the very same time, meaning that one approach will win over the other. A few additional tips are provided below to help you not only recognize the differences between logical and emotional responses, but also how to improve in the ways in which you use a successful strategy to reducing your personal stress.
- Emotions usually appear first. For most people, emotions are the first to the scene when faced with stress. You might think of how people generally respond when they come into an unforeseen health concern, financial burden, or challenging relationship issue. The emotions we experience distort our thinking, often leading to irrational thinking and behaviors.
- Logic provides us the most accurate framing of the problem, as well as the most useful solutions. Fortunately, even though emotions generally show up first, we can work through emotions and get to a more calm and logical mental state. This can be done by using deep breathing, writing down the problem and potential solutions, and even taking time to solicit help from a friend or mental health professional. Why is this important? Because well-thought out decisions are almost always better than “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” decisions based exclusively on emotions.
- It is not always easy to think logically, but it is possible. Is it easy to use logical thinking in the throes of a stressful situation? Frankly speaking, no, it isn’t — but it is possible, and it is very important to do so. Try not to think in terms of simplicity when it comes to dealing with life stress, but instead realize that sometimes problems in life are complex and warrant a deeper level of thinking in order to experience favorable life results. Do you want an easy approach (emotional) with a low success rate, or a more potentially successful approach (logical) that may require a little patience and discipline?
Knock “mountains down to molehills” with logical approaches to problems
Remember, you don’t have to experience life stress with a fire alarm, especially when it comes to life’s daily annoyances (i.e. being a few minutes late to work, rebounding from a poor test at school, or finding an umbrella for a rainy day). You might begin to shift emotions to logic by simply asking yourself is this really as bad as I am reacting right now? Am I making this much bigger than it really is? Would I experience a much better result if I simply took a few minutes to gather myself and come up with thoughtful potential solutions? When we employ these kinds of questions, we often begin to feel our emotions subside, allowing us to knock what would have been a “mountain” into a very manageable, winnable “molehill.”
Successfully dealing with life stress might be the single, most influential variable when it comes to happiness, health, and productivity. Simply put, people who stay on top of things and control their stress generally live better overall lives than those who respond to stress by just becoming emotional over the situation. The best news is that we don’t have to respond to stress solely with emotional responses, as we all have the capability to use more thoughtful, logical approaches to solve problems.