Emotional Wellbeing


Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

Self Induced Stress – How to Stop It



Worried! (Photo credit: photoloni)

“Self-Induced Stress,” is a result of our own uncontrolled thinking, or of mishandling issues that are in our control. In-action and not knowing what to do is what causes stress. So do something about the cause if possible.

If you can do something about self induced stress, get off your laurels, stop making excuses and confront the issue. Becoming pro-active allows the brain to see that we are working on a solution to the problem and it (the brain) will begin to slow down, thus alleviating the stress to a more bearable level.The psychological boost will start to “snowball” and make subsequent anti stress actions easier. Getting the ball rolling is the hard bit.

Examples of unnecessary self induced stress:

1) Most ‘phobias’ for example are the result of an uncontrolled or irrational thought process that can cause us great stress and emotional discomfort, without ANY REAL OR IMMEDIATE THREAT TO OUR WELL BEING.

Example: If I am worried about being bitten by a dog and spend ages thinking about the dog at the neighbour’s house three blocks down attacking me, I am causing unnecessary self induced stress for myself. The likelihood is slim that I will be attacked and I am reducing any chance of a happy mood whilst buying into this kind of thinking.

2) “What ifs” - Although the mind’s desire to engage in ‘what-ifs’ is a way of preparing for possible danger, it can become a nasty habit that serves no real purpose and only adds stress to our lives.

3) Another example of self induced stress is a result of our own inaction in certain areas. Burying our heads in the sand and not facing issues that need our attention can pile on the pressure. If I have debts and ignore them without devising a plan to at least start reducing them, I am creating a rod for my own back. As mentioned before – action can make all the difference, even if only small steps are taken. It’s taking that first step which is the hardest- in order to break the pattern.

How to Decrease Self Induced Stress:

1) Stop the “what ifs” and focus on reality. “What ifs” are just thoughts they are not facts.

2) Be mindful. Focus on NOW instead of allowing your mind to wander. We can be our own worst enemies when we entertain negative thinking.

3) Take action – develop a solid plan to deal with the issues that stress. Be aware of what you can and what you can’t control. Focus on what you can do something about and learn to let go of things you have no power over.

  • Is the problem something you’re currently facing ( a real problem), rather than an imaginary what-if?
  • If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is your concern realistic?
  • Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?

Productive, solvable worries are those you can take action on right away. For example, if you’re worried about your bills, you could call your creditors to see about flexible payment options. Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. “What if I get cancer someday?” or “What if my kid gets into an accident?”

If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you’ve evaluated your options, make a plan of action. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you’ll feel much less worried.

For unsolvable worries – learn to accept that life is messy and stressful at times and that we cannot always fix things. Embrace what you are going through and see it as a character building project. Distress tolerance contributes to being mentally strong and more resilient.

4) Limit your time around anxious, stressed out and negative people – their thinking can be contagious.

5) Don’t allow yourself to catastrophise and imagine the worst case scenario. Our thinking about an event is often much worse than the event itself (if it even comes to pass at all).

6) MOST IMPORTANT – you control your thinking, not the other way around. You can choose your thoughts, you can challenge your thoughts. You DO NOT have to accept your thinking as true. Be critical about your own thinking and take the emotion out of it – ask yourself where the evidence is for/against your thinking.

  • What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen?
  • If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  • Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

For obsessive worriers, it is useful to create a “worry time” during the day. Allow yourself half and hour to focus on worries and get this part out of the day. Be as resolution focused and pro active as possible and when the time is up, “shelve” the worries and get on with the day. Keep busy and Do, Do Do…

We often assume that the more we worry the more likely we will be to keep ourselves safe. This is true to a point but more often than not, worrying will not alter life hugely. Resolution focused worrying accompanied by action are more likely to keep you safe, up to a point. Worrying for the sake of worrying, where you just go around in circles and feel worse is a waste on energy. Make a concerted effort to stop this type of inane thinking.

Distract yourself, be mindful, listen to music. The more you engage your senses (sight, sound, taste,smell and hearing) the less space your brain has for senseless worrying.

Challenging intolerance of uncertainty: The key to anxiety relief

Ask yourself the following questions and write down your responses. See if you can come to an understanding of the disadvantages and problems of being intolerant of uncertainty.

  • Is it possible to be certain about everything in life?
  • What are the advantages of requiring certainty, versus the disadvantages? How is needing certainty in life helpful and unhelpful?
  • Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain? Is this a reasonable thing to do? What is the likelihood of positive or neutral outcomes?
  • Is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen, given its likelihood is very low?

(Adapted from: Accepting Uncertainty, Centre for Clinical Interventions)

Ask yourself how thinking negatively and engaging in anxiety provoking thinking actually helps you. More often than not, it creates misery and does not solve the problem. Most worrying is wasted energy.

The problem with allowing self induced stress to continue in our lives is that it can ultimately be deadly. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and a host of other serious issues have all been directly linked to stress in numerous people.

Make a choice to stop listening and “buying into” the negative thoughts that destroy happiness and peace of mind in the moment.

Mandy X




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