Restructuring negative thoughts can be a great way to cope with stress. College students are consistently battling with the stress of obtaining their education. Just getting through the day (yet alone a week) can seem like an overwhelming task. However, there are some methods to which students can utilize to help keep themselves sane. The book “Integrative health: a holistic approach for health professionals” by Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young site cognitive restructuring as a way of battling stress. Mindset can play a big role in how someone responds and is impacted by a stressful situation.
Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young describe cognitive restructuring as “a coping technique that substitutes negative, self-defeating thoughts with positive, affirming thoughts to change the perception of a stressor from threatening to non-threatening” (12). This process involves self-awareness. Understanding your thought process before attempting to gear it towards more positive thinking is vital to limiting stress levels.
To actively work on restructuring a situation into a more positive light:
- acknowledge the stressor
- re-evaluate the situation (is it in your control?)
- substitute a more positive interpretation of the situation
- evaluate if the restructure was beneficial
Let’s say someone has a professor who seems to make it impossible to receive a good grade on an assignment and this brings them great distress as they really want to do well in the class. They might restructure this belief by acknowledging that this professor’s grading style is tough and then they might think critically about if they can do anything to improve their work. After acknowledging and re-evaluating the stressor, they might substitute their thoughts of the professor having an impossible grading system for thoughts suggesting that the professor is just trying to ensure their students are well-prepared. After substituting, this person will re-assess their belief and see if they feel better about the situation.
It is the goal of this method to empower the individual to solve problems instead of suffering through them. By engaging in this practice of restructuring your viewpoint on a situation into one that offers an opportunity and solution, individuals can make gradual but impactful improvements that influence their mindset to be more positive and thus reduce the level of stress they are enduring.
Koopsen C, Young C. Integrative health: a holistic approach for health professionals. Sudbury Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009.