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What causes stress?

There are as many different answers to the question of "what is stress?" as there are people in the world. What is stressful for one person is not for another. For instance many people find it hard to stand up in front of a group and speak yet others find this kind of thing very easy to do.

Psychologists talk about the ABC of stress.

A is an Activating event e.g. something is happening that might be a problem e.g. getting married might well be an activating event.

B is the beliefs about an event.

C is the consequences of the event; in essence how does it make you feel?

Now C is entirely dependant on B. For instance some people see getting married as an exciting event others as a a source of stress and nervousness.

The consequences to us of an event are determined by our beliefs (at least in the sense of stress). The consequences of sitting out in the sun too long (sunburn) is not dependant on your beliefs but on simple physics. However the consequences of say having to deal with a difficult boss are dependant on what you believe about that boss.

I understand that Winston Churchill (famous UK Prime Minister during WW2) was a very difficult man to work for and yet everyone who worked for him loved him dearly. Their beliefs about him meant that his abrasive nature was not a real source of lasting stress for those he worked with (not most of the time anyway).

The exciting thing to know is that we have control over what we believe. One of the major treatments for stress is to change the way you think about a situation. This isn't some strange alternative positive thinking weird kind of stuff but genuine proven techniques to help reduce stress.

Most people who have investigated stress will have come across the Fight or Flight Syndrome. It is not a cause of stress but it is an important part of understanding what is going on.

The body has a wonderful defence system built in. When danger is around it heightens the senses, prepares the muscles for action, makes the heart beat faster and harder, and sends sugar through the body for energy. It's wonderful if you are faced with a lion or a truck headed your way as you cross the road. The only problem is that your body doesn't understand that not everything your brain says is danger really is.

This is where the importance of thinking in the right ways comes in. If our brain thinks there is danger our body goes into fight or flight mode and if we don't need this reaction we feel the effects as stress.

The less you think everything is a danger the less stress you feel.

So in answer to the question "what causes stress?" we have to conclude you do!

Copyright Christopher P. Brown 2005 - All rights reserved

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