The Top Seven Sources of Stress and Their Remedies

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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

Hans Selye coined the term “stressor” to indicate any event, condition or state of affairs that demands a change, whether desired or not. Both hypoactivity or doing too little (i.e., couch potato syndrome) and hyperactivity or doing too much, too quickly with little or no limits or boundaries Selye considered sources or “distress,” or what most people shorten to simply call “stress.” Stress is only another term for resistance. Release all resistance and relieve yourself of just about all unhealthy stress. Some stress is helpful and highly functional, like holding yourself upright, exercise, stretching out of your comfort zone and creating new challenges to keep developing as a being. If anyone asks you to go to the stress free, pain free seminar, simply DON’T GO! That’s called dead! Here are the top seven sources of stress and their remedies as you boldly launch into 21st century living:

LYING: The single biggest source of stress is undoubtedly all the blatant and subtle forms of dishonesty, half-truths, sins of omission, fabrications, rationalizations, distorting defenses, manipulations and passive-aggressive behaviors we are continually subjected to and subject others to.


REMEDY: What else but tell and live the truth, be straightforward and quickly clean up all violations and transgressions, past or present that linger on today, directly with that person. What a wonderful gift this is, particularly for getting back on good terms with not only others, but especially with you!

UNPREDICTABILITY: To not be able to count on some sense of what can be normally and typically expected in the behavior of living things, your physical body and environment in addition to the people you interact with frequently, is a set-up for upset, fear and even panic.

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REMEDY: Create and maintain a level of healthy predictability, structure and workable comfort, in your immediate environment even if this regularly innovative, creative and spontaneous, that you can live with and thrive on. Some measure of predictability lowers levels of stress and allows you greater freedom throughout your life to use your apparent choice.

UNCERTAINTY/INDETERMINACY: Having your life or any major element of your life “up in mid-air,” uncertain and not determined will be a continual “thorn in your side” producing unnecessarily high stress. You and I can ill afford not knowing where we stand nearly all the time as we can clearly determine this.

REMEDY: Press, not push, for solid sureness, knowing with certainty and clear determinacy everywhere, with everyone, in all encounters. When such certainty and determinacy simply is not findable in this moment, then consider wisely leaving it alone until it can be so created and found.

INCOMPLETION: Having anything undone, unfinished, without closure and not complete will tend to cognitively nag at you and drain your energy. The psychological phenomenon called the “Zeigarnik Effect” states that we tend to remember what we don’t complete.

REMEDY: Complete, create closure and make whole and finished everything you do with no loose ends or anything hanging, including all interactions, meetings, assignments, tasks, classes, agendas, goals and sub-goals (e.g., periodic cleaning and reordering of garages, desks, files, closets, workspaces, backyards, relationships and so on).

ASSUMING/SIGNING OTHERS UP ON YOUR AGENDAS: As popular culture would have it, to “assume” is to “an ass of u and me.” To assume is certainly to presume knowledge you simply do not have. Similarly, to sign another person up to follow through with some agenda of your own, when the person essentially knows nothing about it, is intrusive and disrespectful, if quite common in our modern world. All assumptions that either go unmet or are met with resistance and sometimes a poor attitude to boot, act as “set-up’s” for abused reactions, disappointment, non-constructive arguments, power struggles and damaged relationships.

REMEDY: It is available to become remarkably aware of all assuming or signing up others to fulfill our own agendas. You can also begin to make it a practice and new habit (after about three weeks of consistent new behaviors) to check-in with first yourself and then with the other person to be sure that he or she has in fact “signed up” to do this or that. Ask yourself and possibly the other person, “Gee, have you signed up to do. . . ?” You might be blown away to discover the answer you probably already knew. Alternatively, you might find out that another has agreed and signed up to do or not do X. How relieving it is to discover that another human being actually shares your perception, understanding, plan, agreement and commitment. If another does not say, “Yes,” then there is always accepting their saying, “No,” making a counter-offer or choosing later.

DOUBT: Other than (1) preserving our apparent choice by allowing another alternative, and (2) aptly calling some lie, trick, ruse, con, scam, fraud, delusion, fantasy, mirage and hoax for just what it is, doubt is undoubtedly one of the most malicious cognitive-emotional states to exist within. Using “qualifiers,” such as maybe, perhaps, possibly, potentially, kind of, a little bit, I guess, I don’t know and so on, are doubt driven and only communicate that you either don’t know your own mind, are indecisive or tend to procrastinate. None of these impressions have any association with productivity, success or showing confidence in who you are, what you are doing or where you are going. A great deal of skepticism and all cynicism also qualify as having doubt at their core.

REMEDY: With the above exception, consider having as little to do with doubt of anything as you can. Rather, give your attention and energy to questioning everything, especially assumptions, other people’s advice and the status quo.

WAITING: While occasional, brief waiting is almost unavoidable in modern life, whether waiting in a line for tickets, waiting in heavy traffic or waiting for the mail to arrive, most waiting for events, activities and goals to magically materialize is actually quite stress-provoking and utterly unworkable. Ask yourself, “What in the blazes am I putting my life on hold and waiting for?!”

REMEDY: Consider periodically pausing when you are bored, irritated or urgent when waiting, and ask the last question. Then, look and see for yourself. How are you stopping yourself from moving forward with life, with a few exceptions? Consider no longer waiting in the “no waiting zone” called life, since life and the world waits for no one, ever. Instead, be aware and accept where your perception of life in this moment seems blocked or obstructed. Then you are free to move forward with the flow of your life, consciously and wisely picking your timing in partnering with the reality you obviously have in this moment. You could even want and abide in equanimity in wanting what you indeed have moment-by-moment, and not wanting and being fine in not wanting what you do not have. This can be seen and experienced as happiness, serenity and inner peace. What is the cost? Essentially nothing, other than seeing through and surrendering one imaginary ego-mind—Yours! Time to celebrate!”

Keep Reading By Author Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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