What Really Causes Us Stress?

Stress – “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” source Google.

Every one of us at some point has felt ‘stressed’. Even physics tells us that stress (or pressure) is equal to the amount of force applied, divided by the area that it is applied to.

But in terms of how we feel, what exactly is stress? It is not a tangible commodity that can be given, taken or traded. Think about it, nobody has ever given you stress… ‘Here, have a serve of stress, would you like fries with that?’. But you may say ‘My boss stresses me out every day… they give me stress!’. Well to some extent they may, but only to the point that they are the stimuli for your stress.

Just like light-waves entering the eye and converted into electrical signals, it is only once our brains process and interprets those signals, that we can give meaning to those light-waves, and we ‘see’ something.

Similarly, with stress, there are only events or stimuli that happen to us or around us, which our brain interprets and processes. It is only then that we can ‘feel’ stress. We create the stress within our own mind. Our brains take that stimulus and put it through a series of filters, our beliefs, and gives them meaning.

Putting this into a computer science analogy – Your brain is a biological supercomputer, it is the hardware. Your beliefs are the software, programmed from lifelong learning via external inputs and experiences. Your thoughts, decisions and actions are all outputs from those programmed beliefs.

Two people can experience exactly the same event and both feel completely differently about it. For example, what do you think a toddler might do if it saw a  lion in the wild? It would probably want to go and pet the big kitty. What about an adult in the same situation? Run or hide. Who feels stress at seeing the lion, the toddler or the adult? The only difference here is the beliefs about what lions can do to us, a belief which is formed through learning and experience.

So how do we change our ‘stress’ about an event? Well, the simple answer is to address or change our beliefs, but first, we need to identify those beliefs that cause us stress. When an event happens, and you feel your stress levels rising, ask yourself the golden question “What must I be thinking to feel this way?” If you can identify the thought that is causing you stress, then you can start to analyse the underlying belief that is powering your stressful emotions.

In a future post, I will go further into the ‘Four shitty beliefs that cause stress’, but for now, they are:

  1. ‘Shit is not going to plan’
  2. ‘I am missing out on shit.’
  3. ‘Should have or could have done shit differently’
  4. ‘I am a piece of shit’

The common theme between these four beliefs is the ‘WISH’ that something was different from what it really is.

What is it that you ‘WISH’ was different? Chances are that thought is causing you stress…

In future posts, we will get stuck into the nuts and bolts of how to reduce our ‘stress’ around events, but for now just be aware of your thoughts, and beliefs and how they might be causing you stress. The first step is to identify where the stress is coming from within your own mind, and the beliefs driving it.

And a departing thought… We can CHOOSE to feel differently about anything – if you want to…

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

I hope you have a great day!

About The Author

Ian Schell

Ian is a machine designer who has fought a long-standing battle with depression and won. Ian's vision is simple: 'Create a better world through growth, progress and innovation'.