Understanding why it is a meaningless word will help you get clarity on what ‘stress’ really means – and how to eliminate it from your life.
- A nonsensical word
It was used by Hans Selye back in the 1930s to mean any kind of unwelcome event that caused mental or physical harm. Here lies an obvious mistake: events don’t cause people harm. This is shown by the fact that the same outcome (for example: divorce) can be a relief for one person and upsetting for another.
Another reason why ‘stress’ is a nonsense is that it is taken to mean both the cause and effect for a problem. So we say ‘her job is making her stressed’ and ‘her stress is making her ill’. But these statements can’t both be true.
- Life problems don’t create stress, they create something else
Let’s assume for a moment that your life has turned bad. You lose your job, then you get into debt, and then you lose your home. Does that mean you will then get ‘stressed’? If you think carefully about this you will see that the answer must be ‘No’. You might get scared. You might get anxious. You might even get depressed. But those things don’t mean the same as ‘stress’ And while there are solutions for fear, anxiety and depression there are none for stress.
- The real cause of the problem – and the solution
Given that the real problems are fear, anxiety and depression then the actual cause is a loss of resilience. Which means that people either don’t know how to overcome their problems (a practical matter for therapy); or they don’t know what to do about their fears (which is a matter for emotional intelligence), or they don’t know what to do about anxiety, or they don’t know how to stay out of depression. Or else it means that you don’t know how to be ok even when your life is shit.
Resilience is not just a matter of knowing how to solve problems and get rid of unwanted mental states. It’s also about developing an attitude to life and it’s problems so that you develop an inner strength in adversity. I will be writing more about this in my next article.