What is Stress?

The Causes of Stress

Most people believe stress comes from external factors such as a job, relationship, health issues, change, lack of time or money. But actually only one thing can cause stress—You! You are the only factor that can determine if stress exists. Other people, confronted with the same circumstances do not necessarily become stressed. Stress can only occur if you have a perception that the external factors are threatening or that you don’t have the resources to deal with them.

This is encapsulated in the following definition:

‟Stress is the physiological response to external factors perceived as threatening loss, harm or misfortune or as creating demands that exceed resources and capabilities”

The key word here is ‟perceived”. Stress is entirely dependent on a person’s perception. It is not a universal response to the same conditions. Stress occurs only if there is a perception of threat (real, fantasized, or overblown) or demands so it is very dependent on beliefs about resources available or readiness for change. Stress can also only occur if the person has the ability to remember past events or anticipate the future. It is determined by the body exhibiting the fight or flight response.

The Fight or Flight Response

The fight or flight response is characterized by the following symptoms:

These changes enable you to run fast and punch hard if you are being attacked. They are not particularly useful when you are simply stressed because you are late for work. Unfortunately, the body does not distinguish between the reasons for the stress response and reacts in ways that are too extreme for the conditions. The response is not harmful when it occurs infrequently and passes quickly. However, many people stay in a state of chronic stress response.

The amount of damage is dependent on how long you stay in your story. Having a quick trigger or feeling with intensity does not predict the severity of the stress response. Recovery time, however, has been shown to affect mental health. According to study at The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, initial reactivity in the amygdala does not predict mental health outcomes but response-recovery time does.

Over the long term, effects include:

Limiting Core Beliefs

Stress is often covering over a raw core emotion. Generally that emotion is a fear, such as fear of inadequacy, lack of control, or of being hurt by others. Resentment, bitterness, guilt or shame from the past can lead to distortions in truly seeing the situation clearly. Often the perception that a situation is threatening is influenced by interpreting the situation based on limiting negative core beliefs. Three of the most common beliefs are that I am a victim, that others will always let me down and that I am not good enough.

In the case where I believe I am a victim, I may think:

If I believe that others will always let me down, I may think:

If I believe that I am not good enough, I may think:

When operating from a place of holding these beliefs, people tend to create a story around situations that replays obsessively in their thoughts. As the thoughts cycle, the anxiety or stress around the situation grows.

Decades of reinforcing these beliefs can literally wear a track in the brain. Luckily the brain has neuroplasticity. It can regrow neuro pathways at any time by simply changing the patterns and providing repetition of the new more positive linkages between thoughts and emotions. Reframing the circumstance to what is really true and reinforcing the positive opposite belief can be a powerful tool in reducing the stress or anxiety.

Beliefs and emotions are not only stored in the brain, they are also stored in cellular memory. There are just as many neurotransmitters in heart and gut as there are in the brain. Therefore, it is important to release stuck thoughts, emotions and beliefs from the entire body and not just deal with them mentally.

The key is to stop replaying the victim story, deal with the hidden emotions, release them and move on. This program will teach you empowerment, resilience, self-acceptance, self-compassion, forgiveness and non-judgment to combat these common negative core beliefs. Rather than just calming down once you get stressed, these techniques can help you head off the causes of stress by changing perception so the situation can be seen with more clarity.