The True Cause of Stress

Stress isn’t caused by events or other people.

It’s caused by a conversation you have with yourself.

Specifically, “Stress is the physiological and/or psychological consequence of ‘me having a conversation with myself’ around an issue or event that the conversation cannot impact.”

Here’s the most important part of the definition…

The conversation you are having with yourself cannot impact the issue or event.

Here’s an example of how this plays out…

Let’s say you’re driving home in heavy rush hour traffic on a Friday evening. You’re fuming mad because the team of 20 people who report to you had individually and collectively promised you that the project that was delegated to your department three months ago would be completed on time and on budget by the end of business today.

But it wasn’t completed on time.

So, you’re feeling mad and blaming everyone in your head saying things like this to yourself, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this”, “They should have told me”, “This is going to affect my bonus”, or “They’ve let me down after all the support I give them.”

As a consequence of this conversation with yourself, it’s likely that your blood pressure is up, your heart rate is up, and your immune system is weakened.

You are now under stress.

At this point, you might want to ask yourself this question

“Can this conversation ‘I’m having with myself’ actually impact the issue or event?

And, are these punishing physiological and psychological consequences going to magically get the project finished?”

Actually, the answer is “no” because clearly the conversation with yourself cannot influence the fact that the project isn’t done yet.

Here’s the insight

It’s the conversation you are having with yourself that’s causing the stress. It’s not the fact that the project isn’t finished.

And, here’s what to do about it, if you want to…

If you feel that being under stress is helping, keep getting upset.

But, understand that you are doing it to yourself.

If that doesn’t work for you and you’re not willing to drive back to work and spend all weekend getting it done, then forget about the project for now, give yourself the weekend off, and refocus your energies on Monday morning when you get back into work.