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We all want to know where stress comes from, and how to avoid it.

We search for answers from everywhere: family, friends, online resources, books, speaker series, faith/religion, social media, and of course self-medicating tactics too.

But we often come up empty-handed…even more stressed because we cannot pinpoint where our stress is coming from.

Stress remains to be this elusive part if living, one that seems to always exist, but also unreachable and difficult to grasp.

But, what if….just what if…WE are the source of the majority of the stress we experience? What if we could reduce our own stress levels by becoming more aware of our thoughts and behaviors? 

I know, there are circumstances in life that are unfair: tragedies, the unforeseen, and of course things completely outside of our control. I get it, I really do. This article is not about these uncontrollable aspects of life, the things that can produce stress no matter how hard we try to think and behave positively.

Instead, this article is about taking personal responsibility for the daily stress we experience, the stress that we often cause for ourselves by thinking in negative ways and then acting on those thoughts.

  • How many times do we take an issue in our life and ruminate on it, picking it apart in our minds and thinking about it for the entire day, all while feeling miserable and defeated? 
  • When something happens that we do not desire, we tend to think the worst-case-scenarios, believing that we are not worthy of the good things in life or that we will never reach our goals and dreams.
  • How many times do we tell ourselves something and firmly believe it to be true, even if its negative? 
  • When we engage with negative environments, negative people, and negative behavior, we often wonder why we feel so stressed. 
  • How many times do we justify feeling stressed, instead of refusing to accept our poor thinking and dispositions? 

There is nobody immune from the power of our thoughts. Joyce Meyer said something years ago that has some serious truth: “No matter where you go, there you are!” We cannot get away from ourselves, no matter what we do. The exact same logic applies to our thoughts.

If you begin to realize the true power that your thoughts have, this logic becomes easier to believe. Many times, we want to find an outside source to take the blame for our stress. We want to explain our stress away instead of looking at the ways we may be contributing to either the creation of or the duration of stress.

  • When we lock in on an issue and pick it apart in our minds, we also connect this thought to our emotions. Often when we do this, it negatively affects our attitudes, which then leads to poor choices.
  • When we ruminate on things outside of our control, we prolong stress, resulting in the worry-factor. We mistakenly believe that we have power to control everything in our lives, when in essence, we do not. So, stress that could have been managed and released is now our focus for days on end.

So, if we are causing stress for ourselves, how do we stop it? 

The answer is summarized in one sentence: In order to avoid unnecessary stress, we have to identify negative thinking patterns and stop placing so much focus on things outside of our control.

Of course, this is always easier said then done, right? Well, let’s remove some of the obstacles to achieving the positive result we desire:

  1. It’s time to take a critical look at our environment. This includes the people we surround ourselves with, the images/sounds we pay attention to, and the things that we have in our lives. Simple example: if you hang out with gossip-driven-negative people, stop doing it. If you spend hours on social media comparing yourself and your life to everyone else, stop doing it. If you have drugs and alcohol in your home as your primary source of stress relief, stop (or get help to stop) depending on these substances. It is time to get a grasp on how your own life choices are impacting your stress levels.
  2. Get rid of the worry-factor. Worry is essentially telling ourselves that we will focus on something until we have a solution. When we ruminate (worry), we give our negative thoughts unwarranted power. So, while you may be concerned about money, a job, family challenges, or whatever the stressors are, simply do what you can about the concern and let it go. I know that may sound harsh, but seriously, what else can you do? You do not have a magic wand that waves away life’s issues, so stop acting like you do. We will never have complete control over everything in our lives, so when we worry, we promote ourselves with an imaginary title and believe that we have control over things. This, will lead to a stressful life, guaranteed.
  3. Stop approving your daily stress. When we wake up in the morning, we have to think and speak positively. If you wake up in the morning telling yourself it’s going to be a horrible day, and that you have so many problems, you will certainly feel this level of stress all day. This is essentially giving ourselves permission to feel and behave in stressful ways. Instead, try waking up with a grateful mind, thinking of all the blessings in your life, and the things that are going well. Refuse to entertain negative thinking, blaming yourself for things that happened in your past, and worrying about things in the future that you cannot control. You see, when we think in negative patterns like this, we are providing ourselves with approval to experience unnecessary stress.

It can be difficult to believe that we are often the cause of our own stress, but it is true.

Besides the things in life that are outside of our control, our thoughts get us in more trouble than we realize.

Just think for a second…what did you think about today, and how did it make you feel? Did you get stuck thinking negatively and then felt stressed out for the whole day about something you cannot control anyway?

Imagine silencing those pesky negative thoughts, and just enjoying life for what it is today. After all, today is all we really have anyway. We trick ourselves into believing that we are guaranteed more time than the present.

If you do not believe that you are the source of much of your stress, I challenge you to try the following for 30 days:

  • Identify how you feel when you think positively.
  • Identify how you feel when you think negatively.
  • Make changes that correspond to more positive thoughts, positive people, and positive environments.
  • Stop believing and thinking that stress and life itself is unmanageable, because if you confess this, this will be your reality.

Small steps can have a major impact on your life and stress levels.