Are Your Beliefs Causing You Unnecessary Stress?

BeliefsThis past month, I taught several stress management workshops. I thought I would share one of the concepts that people find most helpful: the ABC model from “Stress Management for Dummies.”

ABC Model:

A = Activating event (stressful situation)

B = Beliefs about stressful situation

C = Consequence (stress resulting from beliefs about stressful situation)

Notice in this model, it’s not the situation itself that causes stress, it’s the BELIEFS about the situation that cause us to experience stress. The same situation can cause two different people to have very different experiences. To many people, the thought of giving an impromptu speech to a large audience is terrifying. They think, “What will I say? I am going to look like a fool. What if I pass out on stage, etc.?”  Their stress level skyrockets, and they experience the typical fight or flight response with cortisol coursing through their bodies. To experienced speakers, however, this would be a breeze. They think, “What a great opportunity to get in front of a large group. I have several canned speeches that I can use. This will be fun.” They experience very low stress, or a positive rush of adrenaline.

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, check your beliefs and what you are saying to yourself. Ask yourself, “Is that really true? What proof do I have that it’s really true? What is another possibility here? What’s the worst thing that could happen?” For example, the busy working mom that tells herself, “I have a million things to get done today. I’m never going to be able to get it all done. If I’m late to Katie’s practice, I’m going to let her down and look like a careless parent,” just adds even more stress to her already busy day. Instead she can use the questions above to lower her stress level by realizing that the world won’t end if everything doesn’t get done today. It will still be there tomorrow. In many cases, we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves and cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress that only exists in our minds.

“The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”  – Victor Frankl

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”  – Serenity Prayer

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