By Reydon Stanford
For the sake of this article, I'd like to break down typical stress
into two categories: First is "Life-Induced Stress," which is stress that arises from real-life events that we have
to face and that initially are out of our control...such as a car breaking down, plumbing issues, an unhappy partner, etc.
Secondly, there is "Self-Induced Stress," which is a result of our own uncontrolled thinking, or of mishandling
issues that are in our control.
In regards to "Life-Induced Stress," the best answer is to become pro-active
against whatever is causing the stress. For example: If your car is broken down, make a plan to have it fixed as soon as possible.
Remember it is "in-action" or "not knowing what to do," that causes the brain to start working faster
and faster trying to solve a problem, which causes us to feel greater and greater amounts of stress. Becoming pro-active allows
the brain to see that we are working on a solution to the problem and it (the brain) will begin to slow down, thus alleviating
the stress to a more bearable level. Just the simple act of ‘having a plan' or ‘developing a plan,' can help the
brain slow down, even if we are not able to act upon our plan right away, due to finances or other issues.
to "Self-Induced Stress," there are several dynamics that we need to examine and understand in order to even ‘realize'
when we are subjecting ourselves to this uncomfortable...and unnecessary stress.
Most ‘phobias' for example are
the result of an uncontrolled or irrational thought process that can cause us great stress and emotional discomfort, without
ANY REAL OR IMMEDIATE THREAT TO OUR WELL BEING. For example: I live in West Texas where the nearest beach is some ten hour
drive away, which is the Gulf of Mexico. If I have a terror of sharks and allow myself to sit around thinking of being eaten
by a shark, it is the result of an uncontrolled mind. It is extremely doubtful that a shark will walk, drive or fly into West
Texas with the goal of eating me. My fear therefore, is unfounded and the stress that results is self-induced. In other words...I'm
doing it to myself.
Another example of "Self-Induced Stress," comes from the ‘what-ifs' that our mind
wants to continually engage in. Although the mind's desire to engage in ‘what-ifs' is a mechanism for preparing for
possible danger, it can become a nasty habit that serves no real purpose and only adds stress to our lives. Let me explain.
One time I was driving on the Interstate highway and had several people in the car. I moved out to pass a large truck and
as we were passing it, one of the passengers said, "Man, that truck is really close! If one of those tires blew out it
would kill us all." Although this supposed event ‘could' happen, the likelihood was very low...let's say 1%. That
means this person was focused upon the 1% rather than the 99% chance that it wouldn't happen. This kind of thinking causes
this person great self-induced stress. This is not a character flaw in this person...but a bad habit of allowing their mind
to go uncontrolled. This is a person who has travelled thousands upon thousands of miles down Interstate highway, over many
parts of the Country, without a single accident, yet continues to fear too much. To alleviate this type of stress, or at the
very least reduce it...this person should focus more upon the reality than the ‘what-ifs.'
Another example of "Self-Induced
Stress," is a result of our own inaction in certain areas. Let's say that ‘being late,' causes your stress level
to rise dramatically. This is self-induced stress because it is a result of our own actions, (at least in most cases). The
obvious answer to alleviating this type of stress is to become proactive. Allowing plenty of time to get to where we're going
will alleviate the stress of being late. If we are late, it is usually nobody's fault but our own...therefore the stress is
One area where I find myself becoming stressed-out is in the area of ‘leaving something unfinished.'
Much of this is due to my Melancholy personality, which is steeped in perfectionism. (Our personality is inherited and not
a character flaw, thank goodness). Whenever I'm trying to accomplish a certain task and am being hindered through interruptions
or other issues out of my control, I find myself beginning to feel stressed. "We need to finish this!" my mind shouts
while I'm rushing to deal with whatever is hindering me. This is self-induced stress, because life does not stop just because
I'm trying to finish a project. This is caused by becoming "too focused" upon a task, bordering on mild obsession.
Allowing for these interruptions would help me greatly. If I'll take a few deep breaths and relax, I can assure my mind that
I will get back on task when it's appropriate. Usually, my mind will respond by relaxing, because I have taken control of
the situation and assured my mind it will get finished in reasonable time. One thing I have learned: If we don't control our
mind...it will control us.
The problem with allowing "Self-Induced Stress" to continue in our lives is that
it can ultimately be deadly. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and a host of other serious issues have all been
directly linked to stress in numerous people.
RESOLVING SELF-INDUCED STRESS
1. Try to catch yourself when you
are feeling stressful and decide whether or not the stress is self-induced or life-induced.
2. Take control of your thinking
by focusing upon reality versus the "what-ifs." Do not even allow yourself to get into ‘what-if' thinking.
3. Learn to focus on the now...rather than the future. If you're having a nice dinner with friends, focus on that, rather
than ruining the moment by stressing about the future that does not even exist yet.
4. Develop a plan for being proactive
against events that are causing you stress. This will cause the mind to slow down.
5. When under heavy stress, take plenty
of time to rest and allow your mind and body to recover before re-engaging in the task. We handle all issues better when we're
6. Limit the time you spend around people or events that add stress. Stress is contagious.
remind yourself that YOU control your thinking, and not the other way around.
Copyright by Reydon Stanford 2010