I recently wrote an article for CollegeVine’s Zen Blog called “Seven Signs You’re Way Too Stressed Out Right Now.” Though it’s aimed at helping high school and college students to learn effective ways to lower their stress levels and improve productivity, the bulk of the article is applicable to people of any age. The article’s insights and advice are based on the work of psychiatrist and cognitive therapist David D. Burns, MD. His techniques involve recognizing and altering negative and self-defeating behavioral patterns, and his behavioral modification methods have been at the heart of many cognitive behavior programs for over 30 years.
Burns, who has taught at Stanford’s School of Medicine, has written several excellent best-selling books on fighting negative self-talk with realistic, fact-based positive alternatives. Years ago, my own therapist recommended his book Feeling Good to me, and I have found his techniques hugely helpful in my own life.
Burns’s work is not about spewing mindless platitudes and bland I-can-do-it positivism. It requires looking directly at the negative things we say to ourselves (and others), then peeking underneath to see what fears and distorted thinking cause such situations. Burns shows us how to counter automatic negative thoughts with relevant, accurate, truthful alternatives; he teaches that we can train ourselves to limit our unconscious and automatic negative self-talk. He shows that there are nearly always alternative ways to see situations that can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.