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Black Friday stress can teach us how to improve our well-being

Black Friday has come to be known as not only a day for getting great holiday season bargains, but as a stressful day of shopping because of the many traffic accidents and incidents of violence caused by so many shoppers.

High on carbohydrates after a fat-laden turkey day, people grab their charge cards and race to the mall to work off some of that pent-up energy.

And why not? After all, who doesn’t want a bargain? Seems to be in our very nature to want to get more for less. But is this true when it comes to our mental health?

Some people find emotional solace and tranquility at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, while for others it’s a chocolate rampage. Maybe it’s binge-watching an entire TV series on Netflix. Or eight hours of black-belt bargain hunting on Black Friday.

If you’re tired of emotional struggle, try retraining your brain

Some people simply try to sidestep life’s frictions by burying their heads in the sands of denial, refusing to face the demands of change. But denial changes nothing. On Black Friday this year, let’s keep in mind that when it comes to living life more effectively, there are no shortcuts, no bargains.

A pessimistic, unhappy, conflicted life isn’t something to run away from or ignore. It needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, most people simply don’t know how to begin to approach their emotional struggles head-on. From a Self-Coaching perspective, what do you think would happen if, instead of viewing emotional conflict (anxiety, depression, panic, moodiness, resentment, etc.) as something ominous or incomprehensible, you saw your problems as habits — habits instigated by insecurity?

For starters, we all know about habits. We try a new approach to something uncomfortable and it seems to work, so we try it again. And again, until it becomes a natural reaction to that uncomfortable something, even after it stops working.

Habits are learned, and habits can be broken. If you’re willing to approach your struggles as habits generated by your insecurity, then the equation becomes simple. You ask yourself, “What am I doing that feeds my habit? And what can I do to starve it?”

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How do you feed emotional struggle? You feed it by indulging in doubts, fears, and negative thinking. These thoughts are what feed and fuel your emotional struggle. Granted, you may not be able to stop a destructive thought from percolating up into your head, but you sure as hell don’t have to allow a second thought, a third, a fourth, and so on, to take you for a ride.

As it is with all habits, you become part of the problem when you ignore your behavior and reflexively go on doing the same old, same old.

Starting today, when it comes to your well-being, stop looking for bargains or shortcuts. Begin to notice how you allow negative thoughts to swirl around your brain without any challenge from you. Once you notice your negative thoughts, begin to take responsibility for them — one thought at a time.

Thoughts create stress, and stress changes us emotionally as well as physically. Sure, it takes effort to catch yourself dancing with doubts, fears, and negatives. And it takes even more effort to tell yourself to “Cut it out!” Habits can take a long time to break. They’re entrenched — that’s why they’re called habits.

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But if you’re ready to change your thinking, if you’re willing to take more responsibility for the destructive thinking that has become second nature, then you will find peace and serenity are truly possible. You’ll find that the only real bargain is learning to live without emotional friction.

Dr. Joe Luciani has been a practicing clinical psychologist for more than 40 years. He’s the internationally bestselling author of the Self-Coaching series of books, now published in ten languages, which deal with anxiety, depression, and relationships. He appears frequently on national TV, radio, and the Internet, and has also been featured in numerous national magazines and newspapers. Visit selfcoaching.net for more information.

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