All Stress Begins with our Thoughts

I’m Dr. Michael Olpin. Let me help you get rid of your stress … for good.

Article Highlights

  • All Stress Begins with a Single Thought
  • Evaluate your thinking to change feeling
  • RELEASE – Our comprehensive training course that helps reduce stress in less than 10 minutes a day

All stress begins with a thought. It isn’t what’s happening “out there” that initiates the stress response.

It’s how we interpret what’s happening “out there” that causes us to become stressed or not.


We call this a perception of a threat. If we think this situation will lead to some kind of pain (emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical), we turn on the stress response automatically to prepare for the potential pain. The potential pain is what we call a “threat.” Prevention of stress, then, is best done by focusing on our thoughts, by changing how we think about those things we think are threatening.

We first need to focus our attention to our thoughts and start asking ourselves a few simple questions:

  1. Is the threat real? What is the perceived threat? What is the likelihood of this perceived threat actually happening? What is the chance of its occurrence? (Almost always the answer to this is that the threat is rarely going to hurt us.)
  2. Can I handle this? (Our past experience tells us that we can always handle things)
  3. Is the perceived threat one which I can do something about? Is it in my circle of concern or my circle of influence? (As one of my wise students once told me, “If you have control over it, there’s no need to worry about it. If you don’t have any control over it, you also don’t need to worry about it. There is nothing else. So why worry?)
  4.  Can I think about this differently? There are hundreds of ways to interpret the situation differently. That is the wonderful thing about free will or our innate freedom to choose.

Sometimes we forget these things and the stress response turns on. When that does, we need specific ways of turning it off. This involves relaxation exercises and coping skills.

The best coping skills I have ever come across to help immediately reduce the stress response are found in our RELEASE – Our Coaching Course 

We have combined these tools and other critical stress reducing techniques into one course that you can complete in less than 10 minutes per day. We are so excited about this course and want the world to know about it so everyone can overcome their stress/anxiety/headaches/depression/weight gain/or any other stress related symptoms they may be experiencing.

All of these things will be treated as we explore this exciting field of study that relates directly to you and me.

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  1. lmumford81

    I especially like the part of this article that talks about not worrying about things we have absolutely no control over. That is difficult for me to do. It is our choice to decide how we are going to respond to a situation. I am in therapy for my anxiety/depression and the most important thing I have learned is to control our thoughts because thoughts become what we are.

  2. shanna w

    Our minds are very powerful. Our thoughts and the way that we perceive a situation can make a huge difference in the way that we react, cope and deal with life. We sometime stress about things that will probably never happen, like being struck by lightning. I loved this article .

  3. Tiffany S

    I find that if I am starting to stress, realize that I am stressing, then find a different way to view my stressor, it seems to help me. If I have only a small window of time to study and something comes up that I can’t control, first off I’m probably going to stress, but then I am going to rearrange my schedule so I have time for what I need to do, and I try to look at my stressor with a positive spin on it. If i get a flat tire and have to change it, then its a good time to test out my pit crew abilites and try to set a new personal best time! 😉

  4. Bret A.

    I enjoyed the article very much the parts that stood out to me were the type of treat as a form of pain. I have never thought of it that way. The other part that stood out was that taking thoughts in and processing those thoughts differently. I found it a good way to put into words to things I did not realized I was already doing.

  5. Casey Bennett

    Our thoughts are really powerful. I really liked what one of your students said. If we have control over the situation there really is no need to worry. Worrying over situations we do not have control over will only stress us out more. Our thoughts are what stress us out, but also what pulls us out of stressful situations.

  6. Taely S

    I liked this article because it reminds me that I should focus on changing what I can control and to not worry about the stuff I can’t control. This has been helpful to me the last 5 years as I have been dealing with life’s adventures and stressful times. I have learned to think differently about my stressors and it helps me find peace.

  7. kenzlie rasmussen

    I really liked this article. Alot of the times, I find myself stressing out about something that i have absolutely no control over. I like that it mentioned how we can turn off our stress through relaxation excercises and coping skills.

  8. Keri C

    I liked this article because it helps me to know that I don’t need to worry about a situation, whether I’m in control of it or not, and if we feel stressed out about a situation, there is always ways to deal with it by just changing the way we think or perceive it. I get stressed out pretty easy, and it’s comforting to know that I can handle anything and move forward.

  9. Summer W

    I liked reading this article, because it reminded me how you should look at stress. It is not about the stress we face, it is how we handle it.

  10. Elijah Fordham

    My mother once told me, “If you’re not happy it’s your own fault.” I think that goes right along with worrying or not worrying about the things you can and can’t control. I understand that there are other things that lead to unhappiness, such as depression or losing a loved one, but I think this all stems from the same thing- our response to things happening in our lives.

  11. Karen Cottle

    I recently have come noticed that it helps a lot to look at my stressors from a different view. They often loose their influence over me. If I am careful and analyze what I am stressed about I can usually reason myself right out of stress by thinking about the subject in a different way. Great article!

  12. Elleny S.

    I often find myself stressing over things that have yet to occur. I will stress about one specific event and then think of the domino effect of what COULD happen if things don’t go according to plan. I completely agree with this article and how stress begins with your thoughts. It really put things in perspective for me as far I am in control of my stress. This has changed my complete outlook and I am thrilled to find a solution to my stressful life!

  13. Matt W

    Our mind is a very powerful thing, a lot of times I feel my thoughts control how I live my day. Having control of my thoughts and making it less stressful will help

  14. Mia Barber

    As topic of the article, “All Stress Begins with Our Thoughts”j. I think, If you can think positive all the time, it will help you prevent unnecessary stress.

  15. McKenna Gardiner

    I personally loved this article and it inspires me so much. Often I tend to make situations a lot worse in my head then it really is. This article has given me the surety that I am not alone in this practice. This article has also given me questions that I can ask myself when I get stuck in these thought processes. Great article!

  16. Shannon Drysdale

    I really enjoyed this article. It made me think of this quote I heard once, “Life is 10% of what happens, and 90% of how we react. Life doesn’t cause stress, we do. We can choose how we react to different situations.

  17. Jacob Jamsa

    The fourth point in this article hit me the hardest. I believe that we are the deciders of our fate, though sometimes we don’t choose the things that happen to us. Although we don’t choose some of these things, we can choose how we decide to respond to them. I believe this, but sometimes it’s easy for me and everyone else to forget (there are 100s of ways to respond to situations).

  18. Sean Bishop

    I tell my friends, siblings, etc. about this concept all the time—but I often forget to implement it myself. I constantly worry about what’s to come, and don’t do anything to solve the perceived or actual problems. Reading this helps me remember that I have a lot of control over my day-to-day, and my entire life, just through thinking about my challenges and successes in a more positive and proactive way.

  19. Mekenzie

    I like how this article talks about our circle of influence. I used to worry and get really stressed mainly over things I could not control. I realize now that I can’t worry about the things I cannot control. And that’s okay. Its also comforting to know that I only need to focus on the things I can control. I can determine the out come- it is in my power. Once I realized that, I became less stressed out and have a better perspective on life and the challenges it brings.

  20. Kenzie

    I really liked this article, definitely my favorite. It helped me realize that we can control our stress by the way we look at certain situations.

  21. Sarah F

    I’ve never taken the time to stop and think about what “threats” I’m wearing myself down with one headache after the other. It took me long enough to realize that my perception of my current situations was causing me more stress. It amazed me when I first tried changing my thoughts, and it’s helped me out since then. Not the easiest thing to do, but definitely worth the outcome.

  22. Carson Young

    My favorite bit was at the beginning “It isn’t what’s happening “out there” that initiates the stress response. It’s how we interpret what’s happening “out there” that causes us to become stressed or not.” This resonates with me totally. If we would stop and experience what the situation is allowing us to experience and stop trying to control everything, we would be so much more open to the countless learning opportunities that are out there for us to take advantage of. I believe that coming to the realization that not every happening every day fits neatly into our daily plan, and being able to stop, smile, shake your head and embrace the curve ball that was thrown to you rather than curse it, in my mind, is a most healthy lifestyle changer. Great article!

  23. Jessica

    This is a great article. If I could get in the habit of thinking “what is the chance of it actually occuring”, I would save myself a lot of unnecessary stress.

  24. Melyssa L

    This article is one that means more to me than many others that I have read. Most of my stress does in fact come from my thoughts.

  25. Maren Carlile

    This new thought process is so empowering, thank you for sharing. This information alone can deplete so much unnecessary stress!

  26. Cindy Sundberg

    After thinking long and hard on the article and concept, I’ve been able to see where my perceptions are very much what causes my own stress. Changing my attitude and how i see the world has already helped me handle my stress from day to day. Thank you Dr Olpin for helping me be happier and more satisfied in my life.

  27. Erica

    I find this article very helpful for me personally because it helped me realize that stress happens because of me. I’m the one who decides if I get stressed over something.

  28. Jen

    This is so true! Our thoughts contribute tremendously to our stress levels. By just changing our perception we can change the amount of stress we feel about things in our lives.

  29. Erika

    I think we learned about this topic at the beginning of the stress management class. It definitely gave me a new perspective on stress, it helped me realize that the way I’m thinking causes stress, not the people around me.

  30. Hayden

    If you allow yourself to be upset by things then they will upset you. Simply stop yourself from having such negative thoughts and you will be able to move forward.

  31. Cherie

    I really enjoyed this information on perceptions and thoughts. It helped me realize that a lot of my stress is caused by how I perceive that things around me and my thoughts about my life.

  32. Dahlen Langston

    This article focuses on one of my favorite topics in stress management, perception. A lot of what we stress about and react negatively about can be avoided if we changed how we look at it. Believe in the power of your mind.

  33. Charlee Mikkelsen

    It’s amazing to me how powerful and overpowering my thoughts really are. The fact that I can tell myself that i’m not stressed, and feel better is just kind of crazy to me but it’s so true. Instead of thinking about everything that is going to happen in the future we just need to think about “now.” Be in the moment and let our thoughts be in the moment. Life would be a lot less stressful if we can just do this, but it does take a lot of practice.

  34. Shanna

    Understanding that how I react to something determines the stress level I feel has enabled me to more appropriately handle the stresses of life.

  35. Chelsea J.

    I love the points it makes on how you should assess the things in your life that you are worrying about. I do this all the time and almost always it’s the little things that I worry about and it makes no sense. I can just take a deep breathe and find a solution and it is no longer a problem I worry about.

  36. Jordan Chandler

    I like this article because I have a big problem with stressing about things that I have no control over. I have struggled often with trying to get my stress under control. but its true that it all starts with me thinking about things and then the stressing kicks in.

  37. Amber

    The last couple semesters I have started to see myself stressing more and more. My classes are getting harder, and I seem to be getting even busier with everything else in my life. This article gave me a lot of good advice that I plan on using when I get stressed, and I really do think that I will see huge improvements. It isn’t what’s happening that makes us stressed, it’s how we handle what’s happening. If we change our way of thinking against the threats of stress, we can probably avoid all of the stress we are experiencing. I liked the part that said “Our past experience tells us that we can always handle things.” This is very true, and is applicable when it comes to stress over school for example. We’ve been in school for many years, we have learned a lot and done things we may have never thought possible. With this in mind, I know I can continue on with my degree and get it completed and reach my goals. Wether we do or do not have control over it, there’s no need worrying about it. This article had a lot of good advice for managing and avoiding stress. Many of the changes are small things that we can do in our lives that will make a significant difference! I’m looking forward to putting these actions into play.

  38. Andrea

    I like this article because it defines why we get stress. It all starts with our own thinking and we can change our way of thinking to not stress ourselves out. I like the first point of deciding if the threat is real or not and if it can hurt us. I have a hard time with this. I often think that something is a threat when really there is no way it is. This article teaches me that I need to change how I think to relieve stress.

  39. Nicole Whisker

    I love this article because it is so true. All we do is think that we are in trouble because of a test (perceived threat) and then bam. Our body goes into fight/flight response thinking we are trying to escape physical danger. If we just take that perceived threat away our stress will go away.

  40. Adam V

    First you think about it, then you talk about it, then you do it. If you can stop the stress at the though stage, you can avoid talking about how stressful it is, and more importantly, not do stressful stuff.

  41. Myken

    I really liked this article because it was very “to the point”. I especially liked the part where it said that we shouldn’t worry about what we have control over, and we can’t worry about the things that we don’t have control over, so what is there to worry about? Great point!

  42. Darin Toone

    I find it so easy to agree with this article. So many times i find myself stressing over an upcoming event, or a situation i have no control over. I will stress and stress only to have that event come and go and then i find i was right; i had no control over it. We cause a lot of unnecessary stress in our lives by our nature. Our perceptions are truly powerful and i agree that when we can learn to control and direct our minds we will see things in a much more positive light. The world will look much brighter if we choose to see it that way.

  43. Tony B

    Great information, I agree 100%

  44. Vanna

    This article is very true. If we can learn to think differently and not perceive things as threatening, then a lot of people would be less stressed. I also liked the part about not worrying about the things we have control over and not worrying about the things that we don’t have control over.

  45. Adam P.

    I have heard this before that stress is caused by what we think and how we react to the happenings of our lives. I also believe that some people are stressed because they bring it upon themselves.

  46. Samantha E.

    I agree that stress can be dramatically reduced or increased by what we tell ourselves. Someones attitude can completely make or break their day. Learning a different way to respond to stressors would benefit us all.

  47. Melinda Fults

    This was a very interesting article. I believe that stress can impact us so much in our everyday life and any help we can get to help relieve this stress is greatly appreciated. This article teaches us that we can change our stress through our thoughts and I believe this is a real statement. We need to learn how to deal with our stress and this is a great article to help us start learning.

  48. Terry Allen

    I know that our thoughts lead to the stress response. Changing our thoughts can change our lives.

  49. Tracey T

    This is the first and I feel the most important concept to understand. That we are totally in-control of our emotions and whether we will be stressed. If we understand that point we can grow so much. We will also be less angry hurt and stressed. great thoughts.

  50. Kevin Hansen

    I thought that this article was interesting to read and I found a lot of good information in it. I like the thought that stress is not about what is happening but how we react to what is happening.

  51. Carolyn Ashby

    I feel it is imperative to understand that we are the captains of our own ships so to speak. When you realize and put into action the idea that the world is not a stressful place it is your own thoughts creating that perceived stress. You can think of a hundred things that most likely won’t happen. I feel it essential to start with learning about how we control our thoughts and feelings. It helps you to put into perspective what is real and when you are just being drama. This alone will reduce your stress.

  52. Jason Marden

    It is amazing how much our mind impacts our body. Over the semester I have tried to control my thoughts so my stress response doesn’t get activated unless it needs to. It is amazing how much better I feel every single day. I have more control, concentration, and am much happier.

  53. Meg Miles

    I really like this idea. We tend to forget exactly how powerful our minds our and the effects it has on us emotionally and even physically. If we could always just approach situations with the thought that we can handle it and that we want to handle it in the healthiest way possible, that could make all the difference.

  54. Jase Christiansen

    I really like when this article talks about not worrying or dwelling on things that are out of our control. I always tell my wife that there is no sense crying over spilled milk. I think that most people have a difficult time with this. When we are “in the moment”, it is hard for us to think outside of our current position. Things happen to us everyday and it is up to us to decide how we will act.

  55. Melissa Weston

    I really like this article. I like how it says prevention of stress is done by focusing on our thoughts. I completely agree with this. All of my stress comes from my thoughts and not because the stress is actually there. I find that by just asking myself if I can handle it almost always helps minimize my stress because it makes me realize I can handle it.

  56. Alexandria Green

    I really liked this artice. It really put it into prespective how much our thoughts really do effect our level of stress. If we think happy thoughts and have faith that we can get through anything, it will help with whatever we are going through at the time.

  57. Brooke Deitsch

    I really enjoyed the information the article had to offer. I found the statement about not stressing over things we cannot control to be the most valuable piece of information. This article brought personal awareness to stress that I can eliminate based on the fact that it’s uncontrollable.

  58. Amanda

    I really like what your student said about if we have control over it we don’t need to worry and if we don’t have any control over it we also don’t need to worry. That is something that I forget often. The mind is a powerful thing and simply thinking something elicits all kinds of responses whether we are aware of them or not. Just as our thoughts can cause us stress, we can learn to control them to reduce our stress.