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Believe It or Not, Most of Your Stress Is Self-Created

Feeling stressed is, and always has been, a two-part process. First you need something “out there” to trigger your stress, and then you need to perceive that trigger as stressful. Then you feel stressed. You empower these external events and situations by viewing them in certain ways.

Look at something one way and you feel major stress; look at it another way and you feel less stress, maybe even no stress at all.

Your attitudes and beliefs about any potentially stressful situation or event determine how much stress you experience. By changing the way you look at a potentially stressful situation, you can change the way you emotionally react to that situation.

This concept underlies a number of important approaches to psychotherapy and emotional change. A major tool in your stress-management toolbox is understanding how your thinking helps create your stress and knowing how to change that thinking.

Take a look at an ABC model of stress that can help you understand the role your thinking plays in creating your stress. It’s a simple yet highly useful way of analyzing your stress. It looks like this:

A → B → C

where

A is the Activating event or triggering situation. It’s the stressor or stress trigger.

B are your Beliefs, thoughts, or perceptions about A.

C are the Consequences, or “stress,” that result from holding these thoughts and beliefs.

In other words:

A potentially stressful situation → your thinking → your stress (or lack of stress!)

The table gives you some further examples of the relationship between your A’s, B’s, and C’s.

The ABCs of How Your Thinking Affects Your Stress
A (The Situation or Event) B (Your Thinking) C (Your Stress)
You’re trapped in a slow-moving supermarket checkout line. “I hate this! Why does this always happen to me?” Angry, upset, and frustrated
You’re facing an upcoming test at school. “I’m stupid! I’ll fail! I’ll never get anywhere in life!” Worried and nervous; tense
Someone’s poking you from behind in the elevator. “That’s rude! He should know better! I’ll tell him off!” Upset and annoyed
Your picky Aunt Agnes is coming to visit for a week. “This is the worst! My week is a total waste!” Upset and feeling blue
Your neighbor is playing his music too loudly. “Why can’t people be more considerate? I’ll fix him!” Angry and upset; homicidal?
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