Most people will always find something to stress them out – their job, their boss, their financial situation, their husband, their wife, their boyfriend or girlfriend, their teenage children, their health, their golf, their holidays! I have one client who telephoned my one day a few years back to tell me that he was stressed out. When I enquired what the perceived problem might be, he told me “I’m stressed out because I’ve nothing to be stressed out about!” Seriously! We never have to look far for something to whip up our adrenalin – and, if we can find nothing, we’ll make it up.

In fact, if you are suffering or have suffered from stress, that’s exactly what you’re doing – making it up. Because the one thing that you can be absolutely sure of is that your stress has got absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on or who’s doing what to you. Your stress is caused by how you react to what you think is going on or what you think someone is doing to you. If you’re confused, read the last sentence again – because there are two steps involved in the creation of your stress – your perception of what’s happening and your automatic reaction – these two steps are two steps in the wrong direction – away from reality.

You perceive what you think is happening based on what psychologists call “top down information” – let’s see how it works. Someone at work asks you to do a simple task that’ll take perhaps fifteen minutes. When they ask, their voice is raw data to your ears – or “bottom up information”. You make sense of that raw data by using your top down information – which is “stored knowledge” the main framework for which was established during your childhood formative years. The key point to realize at this stage is that this “knowledge” is of little or no relevance to the situation in which you are currently involved. Be that as it may, you will automatically use your stored knowledge to make sense of your ears’ raw data – and, in the process, make nonsense of it. As a result, you might think that Joe (the guy who has asked you to do the task!) has it in for you and is deliberately trying to ruin your day – this may be the farthest thing from the truth but this doesn’t matter to what your subconscious mind does next.

You feel that you’re being got at and your subconscious mind knows exactly how to react – because it’s been reacting to such “threats” since some bully upset you in the schoolyard when you were six years old. In generating your automatic reaction, your subconscious mind doesn’t see Joe – it sees that bully and, as a result you react – you may not say anything, but your mind will start working overtime concocting ideas and responses that will stress you out – “I’ve too many other things to do”, “I’d no idea that I was going to have to do this today – it’s going to mess me up”, “I don’t like Joe” , “I hate this job”, etc., etc. So, instead of taking fifteen minutes to do what you were asked to do – and then getting on with the rest of your day – you disable your ability to just do the task in hand, which means you waste more time, more energy and prove yourself right – that your day is being messed up. But Joe hasn’t messed it up – you have.

OK, I know it’s a simple example, but it explains the chain reaction that takes place every single time we encounter anything and anybody in our daily lives. Some encounters might just turn us on (I sincerely hope that some do!) – but, for the moment, we’re focussing on the seeds that create stress. You, yourself sow those seeds, the more you get annoyed or upset, the more you water those seeds, so that they grow into big bushes that choke the enjoyment out of life. If you let them. Because you can choose to focus on what’s really happening rather than let your default reactive state of mind run (or ruin) your life for you. You’re big enough, grown up enough, you’re up to the task. But, like all skills that you want to develop, you’re going to have to train yourself – and the last place that you train is in the middle of the game – you can’t start training when someone’s on your case, you’ve got to get fit before you go into battle.

Focusing on what is actually going on couldn’t be simpler – you’ve five senses (we’ve already talked about hearing) pay attention to them and try to avoid jumping to the normal reactive conclusions that your subconscious mind has been jumping to all of your adult life. In other words, sit with your eyes closed and you’ll notice that someone’s turned up the volume on your hearing! They haven’t, of course, it’s just that, with your eyes closed, your more tuned in. You might hear a bid singing – your automatic reaction will be “That’s a bird, I know birds, that bores me, I’ll let my mind wander to something else” – this is the mental recklessness that leads to stress and all manner of hassle in your life. Don’t jump to the pre-learned conclusion – just sit and listen – and you’ll begin to hear a whole heap more. By breaking the link between what you’re sensing and what you think is happening, you’ve become aware so that, the next time that you think that someone is on your case you can see it for what it is – perhaps just a minor irritation that, like everything else in life, will pass.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton, an Irish ex-accountant and ex-banker who has been working as a success coach to business leaders and sports people since 1996, has been living his dream in the French Alps since 2002. Each week his weekly Free Self-Help Video Seminar is received by thousands of people around the world. His acclaimed Self Help Online Workshop is being followed by people on four continents - they say that it's life-changing. More info: