Leading causes of stress -- this is at the top of the list!

What is at the top of the list of the leading causes of stress?

There are a number of common causes of stress. But this one is right at the top of the list of the leading causes of stress -- an out of balance life.

Why is an out of balance life at the top of the list of leading causes of stress?

When your life is out of balance, you have needs that are not being met. The unmet needs cause stress.

Here is my definition of stress - your body's response to an unmet real or imagined need.

When you have an unmet need, it is important for your body to generate the energy necessary to meet the need. All of the processes going on inside your body that generate energy are collectively what we call stress.

Thus, in my opinion, living an out of balanced life, in which your needs are not being met becomes the most important of the leading causes of stress.

Stress is not just your body's response to a real need; it is also your response to an imagined need, that is, believing you need something. The belief activates the stress response.

If you believe you need something that you don't need, you increase stress unnecessarily. As you can see, it is important to know what your real needs are.

There are numerous ways of thinking about and determining needs. One that is well known is Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Maslow believed your needs can be categorized in five groups...

  • physiological
  • safety
  • love and belonging
  • esteem
  • and self-actualization.

He thought that your more basic needs must be met before you will be motivated to meet higher level needs.

Once physiological needs are met, you become motivated to meet safety needs. You are only motivated to meet the need for love after safety needs are met. And so on.

More recently Tony Robbins and Cloé Madanes have popularized a system for understanding your needs and how they motivate your behavior.

They teach that you have six needs...

  • certainty/comfort
  • uncertainty/variety
  • significance
  • love/connection
  • growth
  • and contribution.

Here is a short video explaining these six needs and how they impact your behaviors.

These ways of thinking about needs are helpful when it comes to identifying which of your needs are not being met. Nevertheless, I think they fall short.

I think these systems are too simplistic. They don't consider different categories  of needs. Thus, they leave you with an incomplete understanding of what your needs are and confusion concerning what you must do to meet your needs.

This confusion also makes you think you have needs that are not really needs. Your stress goes up to the point that you are totally stressed out.

Remember, stress is your body's response to an unmet need - real or imagined. To live a less stressful and more balanced life you have to know what your real needs are.

There is a better way of thinking about needs that can help you eliminate this most important of the leading causes of stress!

Here is my view. You have three categories of needs...

  • outcome needs
  • essential needs
  • and process needs.

Essential needs come from an outside source. They include things like food, water, information, love and so on.

If your essential needs are fully met, you will experience outcomes. So, you have outcome needs. Health is an example of an outcome need.

To have access to and be able to use your essential needs to achieve the outcome needs, you must do something; that is, you must engage in processes. Therefore, you have process needs.

Food is an essential need. Working so as to earn income to purchase food is a process need. Health resulting from eating well is an outcome need.

All process needs and essential needs point toward an outcome. You engage in the processes to acquire the essentials so as to achieve the outcomes.

This is important because it helps you decide what you really need and what you may want but don't need. Stated differently, it helps you separate the real needs from the imagined needs.

If you find yourself stressing out because you need to do something (a process need), ask yourself, what will be the outcome of having that need met? Then ask yourself, do I really need that outcome or do I just want it?

If you find yourself stressing out because you need to get something (an essential need), ask yourself, what will be the outcome of getting that need met? Again, ask yourself, do I really need that outcome or do I just want it?

By doing this you will likely find that you don't really need a lot that you are telling yourself you need.

When you realize you don't really need all that activity and stuff, you experience stress relief. Your body no longer has to generate so much energy.

Would you like to better understand your needs and how you can design a lifestyle to meet those needs without stressing over what you don't really need?

I have an online course that can help you do just that. Check it out here.


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