What causes stress? Most people searching for stress relief don't know what is causing their stress. Whenever I ask people what causes stress in their life, they will usually say "this person" or "that experience". Both answers are wrong.

Those things are just external events. It is how the person interprets or perceives the event that determines whether or not it is a stressor for them.
So how do we interpret events? We interpret events based on our values, beliefs and early childhood conditioning. Everything we are exposed to has to go through this perception filter.

Picture yourself standing inside an invisible box that is made up of everything you believe to be true - based on your past conditioning. Every single thing that has ever happened to you; every sight, sound, taste, smell or touch; every thought or experience has gone into creating this perception or interpretation filter.

In the same way, everything that happens to you now is given a meaning, based on all of the past experiences that make up your perception filter.
For example, let's say that you see something. The instant that you see it, your brain is comparing it to everything that you have ever experienced, that could be anything like what you are looking at right now. Then it will assign a meaning to what you are seeing. If it fits your belief system, whether positive or negative, it is accepted as true. If it doesn't, it is rejected.

In reality, what we believe to be true may be absolutely false, but for us, it is true, because we have been trained or conditioned to believe that it is true. Paraphrasing Shirley MacLaine, the actress and author: "We do not see the world as it is; we see it as we are."

In the above example, if what you are looking at now, even vaguely resembles something from your past that caused you stress then, you will react negatively toward it now, just as if now was then. If you are looking for stress relief today, your belief system is what is causing you the stress. Unfortunately, most people have no idea how much stress they are actually experiencing - until they start to have problems. Until they start to experience what I call the Five U's. They are unhappy, unhealthy, unproductive, unprofitable or unfit to live with.

Have you ever heard the statement: "This is the last straw?" or "The straw that broke the camel's back"? Imagine holding a piece of straw. It weighs almost nothing. How can something so light possibly break a camel's back? It could - if the camel was already so loaded down, so heavily burdened, that one more piece of straw could potentially break the camel's back.
So the question then becomes: "Is it the one additional straw that broke the camel's back or the accumulation of the terrible burden the camel was already carrying? What do you think?

The same question can be asked of us, in regards to the heavy burden of stress that we may be carrying. Most of us are not aware of the amount of stress we actually have. Although it is important to know what causes stress, it is more important to know what our stress level is - before we start to experience problems. If high enough, that knowledge should certainly stimulate us to look for tools that will give us the stress relief we need if we want to live healthy, happy, productive lives.

Author's Bio: 

Sheryl Stanton is a registered nurse, stress relief specialist, speaker and trainer, as well as the author of three stress-relief books and DVD sets. She was chosen to receive the “Woman of Worth” Health and Wellness Award for 2010. She is available for interviews and can be reached by email: stressrelief@shaw.ca, by phone (604) 820 8439 or through her website: http://www.SherylStanton.com.