Using “Cognitive Reframing” to Better Manage Stress

By Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D. 

Earlier this week, Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D., vice president of quality and performance improvement at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, provided his stress expertise to the Huffington Post, as part of stress awareness month this April.  Here, he explains how to use “cognitive reframing” to reduce our stress levels.

Tom Waits, a masterful and wry song writer and musician - and closet academic researcher on the human condition - once wrote, “I’m disheveled, I’m disdainful, I’m distracted and it’s painful."  It is my unconfirmed belief that Mr. Waits was fully aware that stress, in all its forms, is as much a part of human existence as breathing, and every bit as essential.  

Whether it’s the shoelace that breaks as we race to leave the hotel room for a job interview, the perpetual balancing act of work deadlines and children’s soccer, or the futile racing to catch the morning train, stress is a reminder that we are alive, engaged and activated.

So why do so many of us approach stress with all of the enthusiasm of a trip to a long delayed double root canal procedure?  I’ll contend it’s all in our head, literally, traced to the expectations, interpretations, and conclusions we continuously create in the microseconds of our daily activities, choices and encounters. 

Stress is a propellant for engagement in the stuff of life, it moves us off the dime and offers us the need to change, adapt and respond. But how we experience it, now that is a different story all together.

Another wry and masterful writer, and closet academic researcher on the human condition, once  penned “Why then tis true to me that there is nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so”….a gem of an idea really, and for that matter, the play in which the line was contained, Hamlet, wasn’t half bad either.