By David Joel Miller.
Why are you stressed out if things are going so well?
Stress is epidemic in our modern world. Everyone has heard about stress management classes and tools. Everywhere you go these days people are talking about their stress levels and how hard their life is. We live in a world with more material comforts and technology than ever before. Why is everyone so stressed?
What comes as a surprise many times is that the people who are reporting the most stress are not the people who are going through the roughest times. Now we know that hard times are not always apparent. Some people have really difficult things going on in their lives and they never mention it. But what is so amazing is how people who for all apparent evidence are doing well, have so much stress.
Being unemployed is stressful but working can be even more stressful. Someone has a good job, one that pays well, and they work every day but the work is stressing them out. They have a relatively new car and the payments on that car are stressful. Frankly, the biggest stressors in life are often not the things that are the most harmful or the most painful. Why when so many people in the western industrial world have so very many things that look like advantages do we also have the corner on the world’s inventory of stress?
You can end up stressed out even if nothing bad ever happens.
What has largely gone unnoticed is that you can be so stressed out even when nothing bad ever happens. See it is not the actual event that is stressful. The fear you will lose your job can be more stressful than the actual loss. People live for years worrying that the place they work at will close or downsize and they will lose their job. That is stressful. Then the closure happens and life changes.
People can go through life always on edge, always stressed even when none of the bad things that should be the cause of their stress ever happen. Sometimes when it happens it is even a relief. At least once the shoe drops you can start making plans for the rest of your life.
The threat is more stressful than the event.
Stress is not about the actual event, at least most of the time it isn’t. Once the bad event happens people go through the grieving and adjusting process and then they get to work fixing things and rebuilding things. People who are out of work and unemployed may even go about the process of reinventing themselves.
Worry about the end of a relationship can be stressful, the thoughts about why and how comes and what will you do next. But once you are convinced the relationship is in fact over and gone you can let go of the stress and start moving forward finding out who you are outside of that relationship.
Even good things can be very stressful.
The first week at a new job many people get sick. Trying to learn that new role can be stressful. You want to do well. Weddings and the birth of a child can all be extremely stressful. So can falling in love. Happy things can cause lots of stress.
What causes the stress is not the reality. What is stressful are the expectations about what will or might happen. Uncertainty is stressful. Not knowing and worry wear you out.
Stress is about anticipation.
Turns out in the end that the major factor that decides if something will cause you stress is what you anticipate happening. Worry works the stress hormones over time. Fear and anticipation take their toll. Holding on to expectations, especially negative, fearful, possible results of things makes even the best of situations stressful.
It is the things we worry about, the things outside our control that are the most stressful. We can’t control the future. The most we may be able to do is to be prepared and work to influence the outcomes.
Are you ready to give up your expectations and let life be what it is? When will you be ready to release the stress?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books