Is Stress a Choice?

Posted on 8th January 2017.

The New Year has arrived and we do what we usually do – throw ourselves back into work at one hundred miles an hour – may be even wishing we hadn’t had so much time off as the work load is bigger than normal!

So during your ‘rest’ did you take time to review your work, your business, and create new visions, dreams and hopes for 2017? I found the time to read a book about dreaming big – dreams so big that they scare us! And so I have, but that’s for another blog.


One thing that has changed for me is that I have made the conscious choice not to be stressed or to worry about the problems I face. You may be thinking this is ridiculous, but take a moment to think about it. I am not a psychologist or medical professional – so this isn’t a clinical claim, just a personal one.

Wikipedia describes stress as (paraphrased):

“… feeling of strain and pressure. … Positive stress plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to physical and mental illnesses, such as depression. Stress can be external and related to the environment,but may also be created by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc. We experience stress when we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress.”[1]

When I am faced with a challenge that can potentially cause stress, I would usually think of all the potential outcomes and other issues/problems that could result from this core situation. The result of several challenges, of excessive amounts of stress at the same time, would often result in the need for me to pop the Ibuprofen tablets or fill up the whisky glass to ‘ease’ the stress.

The reality of these situations is that I would make matters worse for myself; that I would be the one responsible for increasing the ‘normal/healthy’ stress to ‘excessive’, purely by thinking about the possible or potential outcomes. In trying to resolve the problems without having the facts, I would perceive further problems and thus increase my stress levels.

Not so anymore!! When I deal with the facts that are presented to me, and only deal with these, then I make a conscious choice to keep control of my stress. There are some things that need dealing with that I don’t want to do, or need help with – and I therefore get that help straightaway, rather than waiting to see what happens – why? Because choosing to manage my stress levels are my priority! Difficulties and challenges happen every day – especially when working with people, because we are complicated beings. Sometimes we can deal with it ourselves, sometimes we need external support. Surely we have enough to deal with without perceived problems that might or might not come our way?

I now make the conscious decision that I will not get ‘stressed’ or ‘worry’ about things that might happen, that could happen or even that should happen, until the point when the facts are presented to me. When I am presented with the problem I will quickly assess whether I can, and indeed want to deal with it or get help from others. It’s amazing how life has changed, how my approach has altered and how much money I’ve saved from the pills and alcohol! Why don’t you give it a go?


For further research

If you like psychological theories then this relates nicely to something called the “Locus of Control”, which is all about how much control you perceive to have over your life and its occurrences. Having a strong internal LOC helps to think positively about stress as a choice.