The Root of Stress

Stress is the way your body responds to situations you experience.

It’s part of the fight or flight response.

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Your body goes into alert mode releasing stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.

As you know, these make your heart beat faster, your blood pressure go up, muscles tighten and your breaths are shortened. These are all good if you need to sprint away from a tiger or bear.

But as stress wears on, the adrenalin and cortisol build up and you start to have headaches, anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, …. We see the long-term effects in the patients we care for, in heart and vascular disease, cancer and other disorders.

It’s inescapable.

The Mind Body Connection is deep within us.

Our mind is in every cell of our body.

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Where our thoughts go, so goes our mind, emotions and body.

The body responds both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly in our actions; usually positive.   And inwardly, we either have a rush of good sensations run through our body, or we have a not so good feeling physically.

This is how it works based on the ladder of inference theory.

Our subconscious is like a ladder that developed when we were young.

Now as an adult, data comes into our brain from an event or conversation and we process that data up the ladder. We filter the data through our preferences and attitudes, then we interpret the data and assign our own personal meaning to it. We load assumptions into the data, which starts to blur the facts and story. Our conclusions form and emotions start to activate. The interpretation and conclusions that form may cause us to adjust our beliefs, or not. Either way, reactions, emotions and actions follow accordingly (Maber).

Thousands of these interactions are going up and down our internal mental ladder each day.

And when we’re busy, we react and act a bit like a puppet on a string.

As the ladder of inference theory goes, we have a choice before we react to rethink the way we are thinking.

images-4 copy 6Let’s start with beliefs. Beliefs drive behavior and are often emotionally charged. They are from the past and are judgment based.

Values represent what is important to us – our aims and goals.

Beliefs and values change as we go through life. Although beliefs and values are closely related and interdependent, at times they are not in sync, especially when we are busy and distracted.

The point here is that when our work or life is out of sync with what we deeply value and believe, that creates stress. We may not know the root of the stress, but we feel it.

Taking the opportunity to reevaluate

your values and beliefs periodically is grounding.

It’s a simple way to touch base with yourself and reset.

The steps that follow are to step back and compare how your values match with where you are working, and with the people you are working. This determines “Fit”.  It provides a guide that can help you make decisions now or in the future.

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When we’re clear about our values

we can apply that knowledge in where and how we work and live

…with less stress.


Maber T. Rethinking Thinking TEDx talk. (Based on ladder of inference work by C Argyris). Accessed July 2016.


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