What Causes Stress

By November 20, 2013Anxiety

In order to alleviate stress, you have to understand what causes stress

Hello, my name is Noah Elkrief, and in this video I’m going to talk about what causes stress. The reason I want to talk about what causes stress is because many people that come to me for help with their stress seem to have a lot of misinformation about what causes stress. When we don’t truly understand what’s causing our stress, it becomes very difficult to address the stress. We end up spending a lot of time and energy trying to change things that aren’t really causing our stress.

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What people think causes stress

The two things that people most often tell me are causing their stress are specific circumstances/situations and uncertainty. In other words, most people think that uncertainty and stressful situations cause stress. So, in this blog post, I’m going to help you discover for yourself that thoughts create stress and nothing else. That neither uncertainty nor “stressful situations” cause stress, as if there was such a thing. On top of, that I’m going to show you the exact thoughts that create this stress. But, nothing you read here is meant to be believed or trusted, because that won’t provide much value for you. Rather, everything is meant to be directly discovered for yourself.

Why situations don’t cause stress

First, let’s look at a so called stressful situation, and examine whether it is actually the situation that causes stress. If you go to work at your job, and while you are there, you feel stressed, it seems almost obvious that the situation at your job is causing your stress. When you’re at work you feel stressed, and when you’re not you don’t. It seems so obvious. But, let’s look at the situation a bit more closely.

If some people can experience no stress in the same situation, the situation can’t cause stress

Certain situations seem to create stress. However, in order to claim that a specific circumstance creates a specific experience, it must always create that same experience, for every person, every time. For example, a flame creates heat. When anyone comes into contact with a flame, they will experience heat every time, for as long as they are near the flame.

The first question to ask yourself in order to discover that a situation itself doesn’t cause your stress is, “Could somebody else be happy in this situation? Is somebody else that I know happy in this situation?” It’s almost always easy to see that “yes, there are some people who are happy in this situation.” Or “Yes, it is possible for people to be happy in this situation.”

If other people are happy in this situation, if other people are not stressed in this situation, then the situation itself can’t be creating the stress. If the situation itself created the stress then everybody in this situation would have to experience stress. But if that’s not the case, then the situation can’t be creating the stress.

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If you have moments in the situation with no stress, the situation can’t cause stress

Another way to see that the situation doesn’t create your stress is to just ask, “Am I stressed in every moment that I’m in this situation?” If we think that our work situation is creating the stress, we would ask “Am I stressed in every moment at work?” No, probably not. In some moments you enjoy it. In some moments you are stressed.

For example, you might not be stressed at work when you’re just talking with co-workers you enjoy, if you’re talking to a client that is enjoying what you’re saying, or you are just care-free in a given moment. If you can recognize that in some moments while you are at work, you don’t experience stress, then you can recognize that the situation itself can’t be what’s creating your stress. If the situation was causing your stress, then you would be stressed in every moment that you were in that situation.

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If you can lose your stress by distracting yourself from thoughts, the situation can’t cause stress

If having a specific job was the cause of your stress, then as long as you had that job, you would be stressed. But, if you are stressed in a given moment, then someone sends you a link to funny youtube video, what happens to your stress? It completely vanishes for the moments that you are watching the funny video. Why does your stress disappear when you watch the funny video? Simply because the video is distracting you from the thoughts that were creating your stress.

If all it takes to stop feeling stress is to simply distract yourself from thoughts, then it’s clear that the thoughts must be creating your stress and not a particular situation. Can you see that? If all it takes to lose your stress is to think about something else, to put your attention on something you enjoy then clearly it has to be your thoughts that’s creating your stress.

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Why uncertainty doesn’t cause stress

We tend to think that uncertainty creates stress. In other words, most people believe that when you are in a situation where you don’t what the outcome/future will be, that creates stress. But let’s dispel that myth for a second here. If somebody said to you, “I’ll either give you a thousand dollars tomorrow or nothing”, how would you feel? You might be stressed about whether you get the thousand dollars or not, right? And it seems as though the uncertainty creates the stress.

But now imagine someone said to you, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars tomorrow, but it might be all twenties, might be all singles, might be all fives.” Are you going to feel stressed about it? No. There’s uncertainty in the situation once again, but you wouldn’t feel stressed. So why not? The reason why you wouldn’t have stress is because there’s no outcome we think would be bad. There’s many different possible outcomes. But since all of them are judged to be equal by our minds, there’s nothing to be stressed about.

What causes stress is believing that one outcome would be worse than another outcome

Imagine that you’re going into a job interview where there are two possible jobs you can get. They already said to you, “You’ve already got the job. We just don’t know if you’re going to go into this division or that division. This is the interview to help us pick.” If you really like one division and you really don’t like the other division, are you going to be stressed about the job interview? Of course. Because one outcome is labeled “better” and other outcome is labeled “worse”.

But, what about if you liked both divisions equally, and you don’t know which one would be better for you. Are you going to feel stressed about the job interview? No. Why not? Because both options are seen to be equal. There’s uncertainty there, but since both options are viewed to be equal, and neither is viewed to be worse, there’s no stress.

Uncertainty itself does not create stress. The only thing that creates stress is believing a thought that says “a bad outcome is possible”. Broadly speaking, there are two ways that this shows up. The first way is deciding what outcome “would be best”, and then inherently considering every other outcome to be “worse”. For example, in a job interview example, we would think “it would be best for me to get the job”, and every other outcome is bad.

The other time when we experience stress is when we decide that a specific outcome would be bad. For example: “It would be bad if I don’t get the job offer”. “It would be bad if I don’t get this done in time”. “It would be bad if they break up with me”. “It would be bad if I get hurt”. When we think about an outcome that we think would be bad, we are creating stress. Any time we think a bad outcome is possible, that’s what causes stress, nothing else.

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An easy way to see what causes stress right now

Please take a moment to think about the “bad” situation that’s creating your stress, or the possible “bad” outcome that could happen. Tell yourself the story in detail and give it your complete attention. Picture the situation in your mind. Envision the scenario with all the relevant details. Think about how “bad” it would be if this “bad” thing happened. Look at every-one’s facial expression, look at the background details, and give it all your attention. Take a few seconds to stop reading and imagine this now.

Now, how does it feel when you tell yourself this story? How does it feel when you think about it? What happens when you think about the stressful situation? Take a moment to look at how you feel? You feel tense, right?

A moment ago you likely weren’t feeling any emotion. Then, just by thinking, you began to experience an emotional reaction. There’s no situation here to create your stress. You’re just reading a blog post. If you experience an emotional reaction right now, it must have been created by something that’s going on right now. As soon as you began to give attention to the thoughts/stories about the future, tension or stress was created. The feeling of stress in your body is a direct reaction to the thoughts you just had, not any circumstance or event.

The only thing happening right now is your thinking. If as soon as you think about something “bad”, you feel the stress, then clearly it’s the thinking that’s creating the stress and not the situation itself.

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Do you now understand what causes stress?

Once we see it’s thoughts creating our stress and not a situation, then the opportunity is there to see what specific thoughts are creating the stress. So if you want to figure out how to stop having those thoughts you can watch my other videos. Thank you for watching and I hope that helps you to understand what causes stress.

If you have some questions about what causes stress, or you’d like some help with this, please feel free to contact me. I’ll see you around. Bye.

Noah Elkrief

646-403-4633

Noah@liveinthemoment.org