NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Focusing on Your Personal Strengths to Cope With Stressful Times

Most people tend to focus on what they consider their weaknesses and forget to consider their personal strengths.  When they go through stressful times, focusing on where they feel deficient makes it much more stressful for them.  

In this article, I'm proposing that focusing on your personal strengths will help you more during difficult times.  For this article, I'm using the terms "personal strengths" and "internal resources" interchangeably (seems article: Discovering Your Personal Strengths and Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills).

Focusing on Your Personal Strength to Cope With Stress

Identifying Your Personal Strengths
Everyone has personal strengths--whether they focus on them or not.

Your personal strengths are what's going to help you to cope with stress--not the areas where you feel deficient.  So, it's important to harness those inner resources to reduce your stress and resolve your problems.

Unfortunately, so many people are unable to identify their personal strengths.  They're so focused on being critical of themselves that they forget all the wonderful qualities that they possess that have gotten them through rough times in the past.

Rather than focusing on their internal resources, they worry and project their fears into the future.  So, not only are they worried about what's happening in the current situation, but they're also projecting and predicting problems in the future--problems that might never come.

If you tend to project negative outcomes, think about all the times when you did this in the past and how often your projections came true.  If you're like most people, your negative projections occurred only a fraction of the time.  That means that you spent a lot of time and effort worrying for no reason.

Should You Completely Ignore Your Weaknesses?
Does this mean that you should completely ignore about your weaknesses?  The short answer is:  No, especially if they're having an adverse effect on your life.

For instance, if your manager tells you that you're doing a great job with most of your responsibilities, but you really need to improve your presentation skills, you're not going to ignore this because it would be detrimental to your job.  You're going to find out what you can do to improve your presentation skills and then do it.

Or, if your spouse tells you that you tend to zone out with your phone when she talks and she would appreciate your being more present, are you going to ignore your wife's request?  No, you're going to make an effort to put down your phone more often so you can be fully present when you talk to each other.

So, I'm not proposing that you only focus exclusively on your strengths all the time without trying to make improvements in the areas where you could stand to improve.  What I'm saying is that many people only focus on their weaknesses, and they could use some balance in their approach.

How to Focus on Your Strengths to Cope With Stressful Times

Think About How You Got Through Difficult Times in the Past
The easiest way to focus on your strengths when you're under stress is to think about past memories  when you succeeded in getting through hard times.

Which inner resources allowed you to get through a challenging time?

Write About the Personal Strengths That Helped You in the Past
If you're struggling to identify the personal strengths that got you through, take a few minutes to write about it.  Writing helps to clarify your thoughts and concretize your ideas.  Don't spend time being critical of your writing.  This exercise is only for you--no one else needs to see it.

Write About How These Same Inner Resources Can Help You Now
Very often, the personal strengths that got you through in the past are the same strengths that can help you now.  It's a matter of remembering and using them again.

Speak to Your Loved Ones
It's often the case that loved ones can see and remember the personal strengths that helped you in the past long after you've forgotten about them.  So, if you have trusted family and friends who saw you through difficult times in the past, ask them what they observed about you.  You might be surprised to hear what they have to say.  Write it down before you forget.

What If You're Too Stressed Out to Focus on Your Personal Strengths?
There are times when people are under so much stress that their feelings and thinking are clouded by the stress, and it's difficult to get beyond worrying and expecting the worst.

When you're that worried, you need to consider how the stress will affect your health. Up to a certain point, stress can motivate you and give you the extra edge you need to get going.  But when you're flooded with stress, it can damage your health with no beneficial effects (see my article: Tips on How to Stop Worrying).

At that point, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional, who can   help you to remember your personal strengths and help you to develop new internal resources.

Getting Help in Therapy
Everyone needs help at some point.

A skilled psychotherapist knows how to help clients to access the best part of themselves to get through tough times and also help them to cultivate new internal resources (see my article: A Strengths-Based Perspective in Psychotherapy).

If you're overwhelmed by stress, rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist, who has helped clients to call on their personal strengths and get through stressful times.

By working with an experienced psychotherapist, you can get through a tough time and come out on the other end feeling confident in yourself and free from the worries that were so debilitating.  You'll can also feel more confident about handling new challenges.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I have helped many clients to focus on their personal strengths as well as develop new internal resources to cope with difficult times or unresolved trauma.

When I begin working with a new client in my psychotherapy practice in New York City, I begin by focusing on their personal strengths or internal resources, especially if the client has come in to deal with a major stressor or unresolved trauma.  I also help clients to develop new internal resources in addition to the ones they already possess.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.