Reframing Your Worries

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

My friend Lynn had an unexpected family emergency and given some difficulties with airline connections, she decided to drive the 9 hours to her destination. When I saw her the day before she left, she was not particularly excited about the drive but the next afternoon, I received the following text from her.

“Hey Rich, how is this for resilience; I decided that I often work a 9-hour day with only short breaks and so my job today was just to drive 500 miles. Once my brain approached it like a work day, it became very doable. Gratitude for good weather, podcasts, music and cruise control. Here safe and sound.”

Lynn’s used the resilience technique of “reframing,” which entails changing the way you look at a situation and mentally making a statement to yourself about how you will view the event. Reframing works as a resilience strategy because, as you remember, stress is not caused by outside events but how we react to them.

Our reptilian brain usually creates the first message we have about an impending challenge but our executive brain has the capacity to override the emotions and create a new perspective. Lynn changed her thinking and it made her journey fun and not dreary.

Here are a couple of tips to help you become a reframing expert:

  • Pay attention to the messages you are giving yourself, particularly if they are overly negative. Write them down and then write down the opposite. So instead of “I’m dreading this presentation,” you can write “I’m excited about speaking to my colleagues.”
  • Think about best case outcomes. Our negativity bias is constantly pushing us towards why things won’t work out. Begin logging best case endings and play those out in your mind. Share them with others, which helps make them real.
  • Sleep on it. No need to make a decision without some additional thought. Let your sleeping brain consider the options. Just make sure you go to bed considering all the choices, which will help you wake up with the right one.
  • Acknowledge what went well. Lynn shared her gratitude about what helped her reach her destination with energy. Recognizing what works creates a new habit.

Your challenge this week: Reframe a negative into a positive by changing what you tell yourself in the spoken word. Let me know how that little action saved you some angst got work done better and maybe even created some joy.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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