11/07/2012 11:45 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

What Causes Stress?


Deadlines at work can make us feel the pressure, screaming kids are never any fun, and money troubles can certainly make us feel like we have fallen into a black hole, but what actually causes stress? Is it work? Misbehaving children? Maybe it's money? To any given person, I'm sure there are a variety of things that would be considered "unwanted" or stress provoking situations. What if I told you that, no matter what the situation is, these situations are not the cause of your stress? The true culprit causing the stress is actually YOU!

Stress is not something that happens to us as a result of outside influences. We can choose how we react to outside stimuli when they occur. We can either find a way to change a situation, or we can accept it, but that's it; those are the only two choices. Anything else that we do, other than making one of these two choices, is madness. If there is something that can be done to correct a situation or solve a problem, then we need to allow our thoughts to work on our behalf find a calm rational solution and change the course of events. If there is nothing we can do, then we need to be accepting of what is and allow our thoughts to stop running in circles around the matter. We can go over and over a choice we made in the past, or agonize over what will happen in the future, but to what end? Why spend time in our minds on something we have no control over, something we can't change, or something that hasn't even happened? The only moment that we have any power in is the present moment, so there is no reason to allow our thoughts to be anywhere but in the here and now. We can choose to follow our chain of thoughts down the dark alley, or we can decide to turn the other way and cross the street to the other side.

There is not a "stress button" inside us that can be activated. No one can trigger our stress unless we allow them to. This doesn't mean that we do not like some things when they happen, and we are not in denial about things going on around us. But if there is nothing that we can do to change the situation, then staying focused on the fact that we do not like something is like continuing to rub salt into a wound. The outer world is always a reflection of our inner world. Our thoughts direct our actions, and our actions dictate our results. That is why it is so important to take the time to step back and take notice of where your mind is: Are you trying to change something that can't be changed; are you fretting over something that has already happened? Become aware of where your thoughts are taking you, and consciously redirect your thoughts into the present moment whenever you are feeling stressed.

Sometimes, when we are in the middle of negativity, it can be hard to bring ourselves back around to a place of control. This is because when negativity strikes, we are in a feeling place, and we tend to be reactionary. Feelings are wonderful, but we need to condition ourselves to be able to recognize the thoughts that feed our stressful feelings, and then temper our reactions.

We are in control of our thoughts; therefore, we are in control of our stress. In reality, there is no such thing as stress, except for the stress we create for ourselves!