The Underlying Cause of All Your Stress …and how to prevent it

In this article we take a closer look at the real cause of all your stress and what you can do to prevent it to be more effective at work – and in life.

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” – Epictetus


‘Stress’ is the word used to describe the state of being you experience when you anticipate something bad coming your way.

‘Stress’ is your body’s sustained fight/flight response – continuously preparing for survival.

Survival? …Seriously?

And there’s the catch – the first one, anyway.

Your body is designed by Nature to live in an environment designed by Nature.

In this natural environment, you would experience moments of clear and present danger – actual present threats to your life and well-being. These are moments that require a short-term boost of extra energy to survive the situation. This boost of energy is the fight/flight response – extra ‘emergency-response’ energy meant to be used immediately.

But you don’t live there.

You live in an artificial man-made environment where “clear and present danger” has been significantly reduced.

In fact, it’s very rare that you would encounter a predator or even a large herbivore that might feel threatened by your presence and want to kill you.

This man-made artificial environment has eliminated the NEED for you to be consistently mindful of your present surroundings – the very same mindfulness that allows you to discern real danger from imaginary danger.

And there’s the second catch.

Your stress is not a response to actual clear and present danger but to a possible future danger that you IMAGINE is waiting for you. Your body is prepared to fight an enemy that isn’t even there!

In other words, the stress you experience is in response to your imagination – not reality. In a real dangerous situation, you would use that extra ‘emergency’ energy right away.

Stress is what you experience when you don’t use that energy.

One foot on the gas + One foot on the brake = Stress on the car.


Here’s a summary of your stress process:

1) Something happens.

2) You think it’s going to lead to a particular result that will somehow make your life worse.

3) Your brain cannot tell the difference between a real event or a vividly imagined one so it accepts this prediction as real.

4) In response to this “real” threat, your brain initiates the fight/flight response so you can take immediate action.

5) Because there’s nothing to act upon, you experience “stress”.

The engine is revving and there’s nowhere to go.

6) Your body incurs damage from your high revving engine + inaction, you lose 10-15 IQ points, and your ability to make good decisions is significantly reduced.


You see, ‘stress’ means there is no clear danger present. If there was, you wouldn’t be stressed, you’d be running or fighting. Stress is the effect of having extra ‘emergency’ energy and nowhere to vent it.


The culprit behind your stress is your (negatively oriented) IMAGINATION.

Control your imagination and your control your stress.


1) Allow your stress to be an alarm clock that wakes you up to become mindful of the present moment. This brings blood flow back to your prefrontal cortex and begins to restore a better sense of reason and raises your IQ back up a couple points.

2) Take 3 slow deep relaxing breaths. Yes you have time for this! You have to breathe anyway – just do it consciously, and slowly. Focus your attention on your breath and how good it feels to breathe. Any excuse your brain comes up with not to relax and breathe, is your stress talking. Don’t listen to it. Just breathe. By breathing deeply and slowly, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) and deactivating the sympathetic nervous system (stress response).

3) Ask yourself, “Is there any clear and present danger right now in this moment?” Do you have a dangerous wild animal or hockey-masked axe-wielding crazy person in your office looking to kill you? No? Good. Keep breathing slow and regular breaths and remind yourself that your stress is in response to your IMAGINATION.

4) IMAGINE possible POSITIVE outcomes. While you may be convinced that nothing positive could come of this, more often than not it’s just your stress talking again. What a blabbermouth! Tell it to shut up. Quantum scientists have done the math and proven that all possibilities already exist. Just because you can’t see how to get to a positive outcome, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There is always a way. You do not need to see the top of the staircase to take the next step.

5a) Focus on the outcome you desire, believe that there is a way, and ask yourself what one thing you can do to take you in the general direction of this goal and take ACTION right away.

5b) If you are completely convinced that the worst is coming and there is nothing you can do, then all that is left to do is ACCEPT it. Have you ever been so afraid and stressed-out about the possibility of losing your job and then, when you did get let go from the company, you somehow felt relaxed? Relaxation is the result of accepting the situation for what it is.

6) Get some exercise! You need to vent that energy. Move your body in a way that makes you feel good. Laugh. Laugh some more – it’s good exercise.


The real key to remaining relaxed and preventing stress is being mindful of and accepting the present moment for what it actually IS while staying out of the negative future scenarios.


Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched”? Well, that goes for evil chickens too.




Everything in this moment is okay.

What do I want next?

What do I DO next?


Practice the art of being mindfully present, focusing upon what you want, and taking ACTION upon it – this develops the mindset that prevents stress.


Now get back to work!


If you found value in this article, please ‘like’ it and ‘share’ it with others.


Thank you for reading this far. 🙂 The end.


© 2014 Trent Janisch –



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