Understanding the Causes of Negative Thinking and How to Manage Your Stressors Better

Understanding the Causes of Negative Thinking and How to Manage Your Stressors Better
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 27 March, 2023

Behind every success is, well, a lot of stress. The road to success is a demanding one. There are always deadlines and KPIs to meet and performance reviews to ace. And, if you have a go-getting mindset, you'll always push yourself to exceed your limit in your attempts to deliver, impress, and do better.

A little pressure can go a long way in motivating you, but a lot can be confusing. It could spiral into negative thinking. You must stop yourself from worrying you’re not good enough or that you’re going to fail. You can do it!

Reversing this perspective may take some time, but the good news is you can manage your stressors and use them to inspire you instead.

What Constitutes Negative Thinking?

Negative thinking means dwelling on toxic thoughts. It is a pattern of thinking that can harm your mental health and may lead to social anxiety, depression, and stress. All of these consequences could stop you from feeling confident with your decisions and accepting any career-related challenges – thus, affecting your prospects. Your motivation might plummet, too.

These are the factors that constitute negative thinking, according to the Mayo Clinic :

  • Filtering. Only looking at the negative aspects of a situation.
  • Personalising. Blaming yourself when something unfortunate happens.
  • Catastrophising. Anticipating the worst without the basis of facts.
  • Blaming. Avoiding responsibility by blaming others.
  • Saying “should.” Nagging yourself about what you should do however unrealistic this is.
  • Magnifying. Making every mistake a big deal.
  • Perfectionism. Keeping yourself to impossible standards.
  • Polarising. Classifying things into good or bad with no middle ground.

Frequently thinking negatively about yourself and your situation can be destructive. “Thoughts impact how we feel and act,” according to Rachel Goldman, PhD, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine.They might fester into a gloomy attitude, spilling over to your performance and relationships with your colleagues. You wouldn’t want to start a chain reaction of bleakness in the workplace.

Your physical, psychological, and social state make up your overall wellbeing. So you have to make sure that all these aspects of your life are in a good place.

Why Do You Fall Into the Trap of Negative Thinking?

Several things lead to negative thinking. However, here are the most common ones that you may have already experienced:

  • Overthinking
  • Repeating past events
  • Worries about the future
  • Lack of self-confidence


It means dwelling on thoughts to the point that you become unproductive. It’s about interpreting and reinterpreting events in several versions or predicting the many instances one action can go wrong. People tend to overthink when they are under a lot of stress or experiencing frequent difficulties.

Overthinking can lead to inaction in two ways. First, the fear of making a mistake paralyses you; second, you're worried about the consequences of that potential mistake.

Revisiting past events

Remembering the past is a favourite hobby of our brain. The problem is that it is usually not a productive exercise. It’s okay to recall positive events and wins. But often we focus on what ifs and should haves, daydreaming of alternative outcomes and the difference they would have made in our present lives. It takes you away from the present and can lead to even more negative thoughts when you recall what you have lost.

Dwelling on regrets can make you unsatisfied and resentful of what you have at present.

Worrying about the future

Here's the opposite end of the spectrum. While anticipating and making plans are healthy, your thoughts can sometimes lead to worry and anxiety. The fear of the unknown can cause unnecessary stress and make the future look bleak.

For example, from a career perspective, many people believe that the lack of options is a cause for worry. However, having too many choices can spur anxiety, too. You might wonder what this path might lead to or this or that or this. More than that, once you do eventually choose, you might find yourself regretting as you overthink and replay the past in your mind. It can be an exhausting and nerve-wracking cycle.

A lack of self-confidence

Poor self-esteem easily lends itself to negative thinking. Feeling you are not good enough or that other people are better, stronger, more competent, and more attractive can distort how you perceive your world and your role in it. Negative thinking can make you believe that you do not deserve success.

The way we think can cause stress but so can external factors, such as the work environment.

The Pressure to Perform

Singaporeans are under constant pressure to perform. The Instant Group classified Singapore as the most overworked country in APAC last year – with residents working an average of 45 hours weekly.

In the 2022 OSIM Wellness Survey, working professionals in Singapore confessed that stress levels were moderate to high, citing work as the primary culprit. The Asia Care Group also found that more than 160,000 Singaporeans are admitted to hospital yearly for stress-related illnesses. That's two per cent of the population getting sick because of stress.

High competition and an innate always-on mindset can cause stress levels to soar. The way people feel the need to engage in work-related activities during and outside work hours  makes for a life without clear rest periods and boundaries. It's not surprising that a 2022 survey by Slack reveals one out of two Singaporean workers feel burnout. A constant pressure to perform and the stress that comes with it, can leave you with little motivation and joy to work.

Change How You Deal With Stress

Stress is unavoidable. The earlier you accept this, the better you can begin managing the stress in your life.

According to Clifton Parker in the Stanford News, youcanfeel less overwhelmed and hopeless about the stress in your life. The trick is to view it as something that can make you stronger and better.

Bethany Klynn, PhD, in an article published by the Ohio State University, said that it may be beneficial to look at stress not as threatening, but as challenging. It immediately tells you you have what it takes to overcome this anxiety.

And much like how astronauts, soldiers, and elite athletes go through stress training to improve their skills and performance, your body learns to cope and gets better at handling the stress with every stressful situation you go through.

However, this is only true if you receive adequate rest in between stressful periods, just like athletes.

How to Manage Your Stressors

First, identify your stressor.

Stress affects your body, your mood, and your behaviour. Are you experiencing headaches, lack of motivation or focus, overeating, undereating, or angry outbursts? It might be the strain you're experiencing manifesting in your body.

Notice when these changes occur. Record the instances when you had a negative physical, emotional, or behavioural response. Understanding the triggers allows you to deal with them in a more constructive rather than destructive way.

Deal with the stressor.

Can you change something to improve the situation? For example, if you are stressing about a project outcome, schedule a meeting with the team to go over all the plans again to catch any holes in the project. If you are behind work because of family duties, start work earlier or shorten your lunch break to catch up.

Think about how this can help you grow.

Taking action against the stressor, such as holding a meeting or adjusting your schedule, are solutions that make you more efficient and effective. Recognise the improvement you have achieved stemming from your stress.

In short, adopt a growth mindset. Stressful periods can be opportunities to improve your skills. Instead of erasing the issue and pretending you're not stressed, recognise these difficulties can bring certain benefits. With a growth mindset, stress is a challenge and the beginning of growth. And a challenge can help you develop your faculties, acquire new abilities, and strengthen your existing capacities.

Reducing stress and negative thinking allows you to work better and have better relationships with colleagues and partners. Taking care of the emotional and social aspects of your life will lead to better health overall. If work is causing you trouble, calm yourself with your valuable career advice.

Sometimes, a change can do you more good.#SEEKBetterwith JobStreet by using our Explore Careers feature to find the job best suited for you. If you haven't signed up yet, download the JobStreet app on Google Play or App Store.

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