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(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Colville McFee)

Airmen, it’s time to relearn your ABC’s. According to the U.S. Air Force,  these three letters are the key to managing stress through healthy thinking.

Maj. Joel Foster, chief, Air Force Deployment Mental Health, writes that coping with stress is like exercising a muscle. Individuals must actively work to manage their stress in order to build up their strength and resistance. People who cope well learn to roll with the punches. People who don’t get left in the dust.

A signifcant part of coping with stress is realizing that how you perceive your problems doesn’t always align with reality. This is where the ABC’s come in.

The ABC’s of Human Emotion

A – Activating event. This is the event that creates your problem.

B – Belief system. This refers your attitude towards the problem.

C – Consequence. This letter is how you imagine the end result of your problem.

For example, let’s say you are late to a morning meeting with your commanding officers. Your tardiness is the activating event (A). Your drive to be a good employee and service member is your belief system (B). The consequence (C) is getting a harsh earful from your superiors and losing their approval.

Foster writes that changing the B can help you put your problems in better perspective. Depressed or anxious people can take a normal impulse like wanting to impress their bosses and take it to irrational extremes. “I want to be a good employee” becomes “I must be a perfect employee.” That individual then becomes unduly stressed over a minor infraction.

“[The ABC’s are] about making subtle changes in irrational distorted thoughts. It is important to bring thoughts more in line with reality,” Foster said. “Making small changes can have a huge impact on quality of life.”

So the next time you feel stressed, examine what belief system is making you feel that way. You might be in far less trouble than you think.