Is stress and anxiety caused by external circumstances, or is it coming from within?

Feeling stressed and anxious is an emotional response. So the question to ask is, WHAT ARE WE RESPONDING TO with stress and anxiety?

We would all love to eliminate these emotional states because they don’t feel good, and they remove us from the present moment and from the ability to experience contentment, ease, and joy.

Stress and anxiety are like “umbrella symptoms,” what is really brewing underneath?

Any exploratory and discovery process will start with asking ourselves questions: What is causing my anxiety?  What is making me feel stressed all the time?

Let’s take a look at what is happening at deeper layers in our lives. Only by detecting how this stress and anxiety is generated will we be able to regulate these kinds of emotional responses we experience in our day-to-day lives. 

  1. Overwhelm:  This is a first layer that can be found underlying stress and anxiety.  This is not the cause though.  There is usually a “too much” of something here. Is there any other way than responding with overwhelm?  Can you think of ways to handle things that won’t create overwhelm? Is there something you can do about that “too much”?
  2. Inability to control:  Control provides us with a sense of safety.  Needless to say, it is just an apparent sense of safety since the fact is that we cannot control things.  What is it that you are not able to control? Are you unable to control what is happening or what may happen? How do you rely on others for support?  How good are you about requesting help from others?
  3. Unexpressed emotions:  every emotion we don’t express stays in the body, and it will manifest as chronic stress and anxiety.  What do you need to express and let go?  What is stopping you from expressing your emotions?  What beliefs do you hold in regard to expressing emotions?
  4. Unresolved emotions:  the same is true for unresolved emotions. What are you waiting for to leave the past in the past?  What do you need to do to close those chapters that continue to affect your life? What do you need to change the narrative that will, in turn, change your old unresolved emotions?
  5. Mental constipation:  Overactive minds produce anxiety and stress.  What are the conversations you are holding in your mind?  Who are you having those conversations with? Are you asking yourself questions that you also get to answer over and over?  Does anybody else need to be part of those conversations?  Are those obsessive thoughts based on facts and reality?
  6. Resistance and fear: resisting what is takes a lot of energy, and the bottom line is that it doesn’t work.  We end up being stressed and anxious about what is not happening.  Fear creates the illusion of bad consequences and outcomes. What would happen if you decided to allow what is?  What is the worst-case scenario you could face if what is happening continues to happen?  What are the resources you can count on (whether yours or other’s) to face unwanted outcomes?  
  7. Too much unknown: too much future causes anxiety.  The fact is we don’t know what the future can bring.  All we can do is plan, work with others to make agreements and obtain commitment as we also commit to tackle the near future. Why not to choose to live and focus on the present moment that we know instead of worrying so much about what we don’t know that will happen?
  8. Unprocessed stress:  stress is part of life.  There is also “good” stress out there.  But when we don’t go back to homeostasis after stressful situations, stress accumulates and becomes anxiety.  What do you need after a stressful day to go back to your inner peace?  How do you best allow your body to unload on a regular basis?
  9. Lack of trust:  Ultimately, there is a big lack of trust underlying anxiety.  We cannot relax in life, our bodies become tense, our muscles tight, mind and emotions on edge.  We fight life rather than accepting, embracing, and experiencing.  How would it be like to live more lightly, knowing that we will be able to manage what life brings?  What if we could rely on others and the relationships we have foster to be there for us in times of need?  What if we allowed the future to happen, one day at a time, as we also let the past go, one day at a time?

Stress and anxiety are symptoms.  They reveal how we are dealing with our lives -past, present, and future.  What changes are you willing to make in order to respond in ways that will grant you a lighter and more joyful experience of life?

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Maria Wilson
Bio: ICF (International Coach Federation) Certified Coach Associate Certified Pranic Healer. Passionate about human relationships- starting with oneself – as a key element in our quest for a meaningful and happy life.
1 Comment
  • Jeanette
    Posted at 16:43h, 19 December Reply

    My Mom recently passed away, for the past 9 years she suffered from fibromyalgia, nothing we could do would take away her pain. I just came to the realization that I may have been suffering from underlying stress. Since my Mom’s death, I notice a change in my body as well as my mind, I feel like something left my body and in its place, is who I use to be, I am losing weight off my stomach, I am sleeping better, less hungry, sad at times but my knowledge of her being in a better place quickly makes it all right. So I thought, I would google underlying stress to see if these are in-fact symptoms, I can now make the connection after reading through the questions, I also see the connection of a loved one, who is in pain, being contagious, Mom’s pain caused my pain, the stress of not being able to help, the stress of watching her body become so debilitating, she could no longer get out of bed. What is the answer to stopping this from invading our well being? I would think alcohol and drugs are the common cure except we all know where that leads…I turn to nature, getting out in the forest is truly the best way of soul searching and releasing tension but still with all the other stuff we have to deal with, I think without realizing, we can be harboring underlying stress, how do we know? after reading about all the layers that are brewing underneath our emotions and seeing how external circumstances caused and created our stress levels to exist in such a manner that, it literally takes over our mind, body and soul, it is frightening, I don’t want to end up like my Mother! I from now on, will be seeking answers, reading more about anxiety/stress and taking it serious, I know now, after reading this column, I will be making life changing decisions. I thank-you! sincerely; Jeanette Grais.

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