Could you be the cause of your own stress?

Stress is one of those words that is part of our daily life these days. You either have it…had it, or running away from it.

Stress occurs in your system when the demands of your environment are in conflict with your ability to cope. It is when you feel physically, mentally and performance over loaded. Most of us when we feel stress creeping up on us, make a decision to pull back, do a few time management tricks and consider our work life balance. We make promises to the stress gods that we will eat better and exercise more. Buying time. All of these methods can work. But when we look at what really causes stress most of the time we miss out the most important ingredient. Ourselves! Think about it. When you have a day off do you have to log on to the office just to check on things? When you go away on holiday are you bored out of your skull after 20 minutes on a beach? Do you get the shakes if you do not have internet access for more than an hour? When your mobile beeps do you have to take a look?

You see we all tend to think that stress is caused by external factors. But what if most of the stress that you experience is self-imposed. What if you are your own worst enemy when it comes to stress?

It goes something like this.

As a child you were depend on the ‘Big People’ for love and care and you would do anything to please them. (‘Big People’ is anyone who had influence over you in your formative life). It was essential to your survival to please them. They in turn had the responsibility to make you a model citizen. To be someone that they could be proud of. So they gave you messages about values, code and conduct. Sometimes these messages were mixed and confusing. So you did your best to interpret the messages. Over time these messages became self-imposed rules in your head. You said to yourself “If I do this or that then the ‘Big People’ will love me and not abandon me.” Now in adulthood you say to yourself “If I do this or that I will be Ok as a person in the world.” Because these self-imposed rules were installed in your childhood they make no sense in your life now. They are archaic. Because these rules are unconscious they have even more power over you because you cannot challenge that which you don’t know. These rules cause you a lot of stress because they are unobtainable. When you get stressed the rules intensify thus making you even more stressed. It is a vicious circle.

The renowned psychologist Taibi Kahler called these rules ‘drivers’. According to her there are 5 drivers that exist in everyone to a more or lesser degree: Be perfect. Please others. Hurry up. Be strong and Try hard. You might even have 2 drivers to beat yourself up with.

The table below shows how the messages from the ‘Big People’ became drivers.

What the ‘Big People’ meant to say …



the ‘Big People’ actually said …

How you interpreted it …
Achievement, autonomy, success, being right Don’t

·         make a mistake

·         take risks

·          be natural

·          be childlike

Be Perfect
Consideration, kindness, service Don’t

·          be assertive

·          be important

·          be different

·          say ‘no’

Please Others
Courage, strength, reliability Don’t

·         show your feelings

·         give in

·         ask for help

Be Strong
Persistence, patience, determination Don’t

·         be satisfied

·         relax

·          finish

Try Hard
Speed, efficiency, responsiveness Don’t

·         take long

·         think

·         relax

·         waste time


Hurry Up

Now that you have an idea of how drivers came about you might like to have a go at the questionnaire below to ascertain your own particular driver or drivers and how you stress yourself out.

Drivers Questionnaire

Complete the following questionnaire. Look at each statement and circle a number. The number indicates to what extent you agree or disagree with the statement:

Statement Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. I usually pack a lot into my work 1 2 3 4 5
2. Quality is important to me 1 2 3 4 5
3. It is difficult to organise my work because I am so overworked 1 2 3 4 5
4. When new projects come up I usually volunteer 1 2 3 4 5
5. I believe in setting challenging targets for myself 1 2 3 4 5
5.I sometimes make mistakes through hurrying 1 2 3 4 5
7. I am often the one to spot the mistake 1 2 3 4 5
8. I believe in good communication in the team 1 2 3 4 5
9. I like to see the big picture 1 2 3 4 5
10. People view me as aloft and unemotional 1 2 3 4 5
11. Colleagues find it difficult to keep up with me 1 2 3 4 5
12. I refer quality over quantity 1 2 3 4 5
13. People say I do not speak up for myself 1 2 3 4 5
14.I tend to leave stuff unfinished 1 2 3 4 5
15. I prefer not to delegate I refer to  do things myself and in my way 1 2 3 4 5
16. I usually tell people to hurry up 1 2 3 4 5
17. People ask me to read their emails to see if it reads well. 1 2 3 4 5
18. People come to me first when there is a problem 1 2 3 4 5
19. I enjoy thinking up new ideas 1 2 3 4 5
20. I work well under pressure 1 2 3 4 5
21. As long as the job is done quality is not an issue 1 2 3 4 5
22. Delegation is difficult because people never give you the results you expect 1 2 3 4 5
23. Team spirit is very important to me 1 2 3 4 5
24. Others say that I tend to talk about things that have nothing to  do with the subject at hand 1 2 3 4 5
25. Keeping my feeling under control is very important to me 1 2 3 4 5
26. When listening I  just want the person to  get to the point 1 2 3 4 5
27.I prefer to take my time rather than make mistakes 1 2 3 4 5
28. I find it difficult to say “no” 1 2 3 4 5
29. I tend to ask a lot of questions to find out what is going on 1 2 3 4 5
30. People think I can take care of myself 1 2 3 4 5
31.Peopel say I speak quickly 1 2 3 4 5
32. I pay  attention to details 1 2 3 4 5
33. People say I am a good listener 1 2 3 4 5
34. I lose interest in task if they go onto long 1 2 3 4 5
35. I enjoy working long hours 1 2 3 4 5
36. I tend to get impatient with people who take their time 1 2 3 4 5
37. Sometimes I get too involved with the detail 1 2 3 4 5
38. I have difficulty getting people to listen to  me 1 2 3 4 5
39. new idea excite  me 1 2 3 4 5
40. I am always calm under pressure 1 2 3 4 5


Insert the score for each question into the score grid below. Sum up each column and enter the total score for each work style in the boxes.

Q no Score Q no Score Q no Score Q no Score Q no Score
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40

Hurry Up


Be Perfect


Please People


Try Hard


Be Strong

The results


Myth: Everything must be done as quickly as possible. “I will get a reward if I finish quickly”

Primary fear: Life

Symptoms: Rushing everywhere, driving fast, over filled diary at work and at home, speaking quickly, interrupting others, hate queuing or waiting, hard for you to relax.

Most likely to say: “I’m in a hurry” “How long will it take” “Get a move on” “This is tiresome” “No peace for the wicked” “Time’s money” “I don’t have time for that” “It’s a waste of time”.

Significant body language: Fidgeting and twitching. Brows knotted into vertical lines between the eyes, speaking rapidly and interrupting self and others, breathless, eyes shifty, taps fingers or feet.

Productive Behaviour: Efficient, responds well to urgency and deadlines, gets lots done in the day, quick thinking.

Unproductive behaviour: Mistakes, carelessness, interruptions, too many irons in too many fires. Impatient, Hate people who waste your time, waiting around for things to happen.

How others see you: lively, energetic, dynamic, adventurous, impatient, scatter brained…running around chasing your tail…always finishing their sentences.

Your biggest stress: Not achieving. Having a wasted day.

Your stress antidote: It is easier said than done for you to take it easy but that is exactly what you have to learn to do. While you are rushing around all over the place you are missing out on enjoying the fruits of your labour. You are missing out on your own life essentially. Having nothing to do is stressful for you, so build in times when you can reflect on your life little and often. Start with 20 minutes in the week and built up from there until you can take a whole afternoon off and simply do nothing. Learn to meditate or take up yoga. Do not multitask. Do one thing at a time and finish what you started. This will give you a better sense of achievement in the long run. Listen more and talk less. Live in the here and now. Your motto: yesterday has passed and tomorrow will take care of itself.

Read: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.


Myth: Please others even if they haven’t asked, I have to get it right for you.

Primary fear: Being blamed or criticised.

Symptoms: Lots of smiling, good eye contact, head nodding and listening, gets very anxious if there is conflict or anger, concerned about other people’s opinion and what they think.

Most likely to say: “I mean…you know”, “Dear… love…darling” “that is not what I meant too” “you know”, “I meant”, “You can’t please everyone” “I don’t know what to say” “you misunderstand me” “look what I did for you”

Significant body language: Nods head, raises eyebrows, not good at making eye contact. Runs fingers through hair, horizontal lines on forehead, questioning inflexion when speaking.

Productive Behaviour: Flexible, adaptable, concern for others, team player, intuitive, particularly to people’s feelings, good listener.

Unproductive behaviour: finds it difficult to confront, finds it difficult to say “no”

How others see you: willing, likable, friendly, considerate, empathetic, a doormat, a push over, you may appear manipulative, or insincere to some.

Your biggest stress: If I disagree with you, you may not like me, if I am rejected what will I do? You think you are responsible for how others feel. You hate being ignored criticised or blamed.

Your stress antidote: Your issue is that you are overly concerned about what people think about you. Make the decision that what people think about you is none of your business. Your challenge in life is to know what you think about you. You need to be more assertive. You are not here on this planet to win friends and influence people by being a door mat, Say this to yourself “ this is me this is what I believe in” You are here to express yourself in whatever format you choose. Assertiveness techniques will teach to how to do this. Speak up for yourself. If you disagree with something or somebody know that you will not be struck by lightning. Learn how to say no. If you cannot say no your yes is worthless. Think about it; if you said yes to a child all the time, instead of being kind you are actually spoiling the child. By learning to say no you are training people how to treat you. Think about all the things that you are good at and accentuate the positive. For the next 6 months read as many self-help books as you can. They do work!


Myth: I can cope, to show any form of weakness is bad.

Primary fear: rejection or being vulnerable

Symptoms: Distant, aloof, unemotional and detached.

Most likely to say: Strong/weak, boring, pull yourself together, I don’t care, no comment, vulnerable it’s no good getting upset/crying over spilt milk, you don’t appreciate what I am saying

Significant body language: Over-straight back, legs crossed, apparently in Adult while actually in Adapted Child, pulls socks up, lack of lines on face

Productive Behaviour: Calm under pressure, firm but fair, strong sense of duty, work at unpleasant tasks

Unproductive behaviour: Will not delegate, work long hours, unemotional when the situation needs empathy.

What people think of you: Reliable, trustworthy, rock solid, unapproachable. Cold and lacking empathy.

What stresses you: Not having all the facts. Forced to talk, being vulnerable, and being close to others, team building events…. looking stupid.

Your stress antidote: You could benefit from learning emotional intelligence. Kindness doesn’t mean weakness. Showing vulnerability from time to time is a good thing because it allows others to open up to you and for people to get closer to you. When Confucius was asked what he considered to be the greatest strength that human could possess, he answered ‘empathy’. Empathy is a virtue. Develop your empathy muscle. Decide that it is Ok to ask for help. Consider your work life balance you don’t want to become a workaholic do you? Take time off to be with friends and family. I would be a good idea of you could find a hobby were you do not have to think too much and it is simply for fun. Something like drawing or dancing.

Read anything by Brene Brown. She does an excellent talk on TED talks about vulnerability.


Myth: Being right every time first time.

Primary fear: Loss of control.

Symptoms: Deliberate speech, immaculate clothes, everything need to be just so, getting into detail, control issues.

Most likely to say: Perfect/worthless, clean/dirty, tidy/untidy, should/shouldn’t, obviously, actually, as it were, depression, believe, of course, exactly, actually, precisely, absolutely.

Significant body language: Precision, won’t be interrupted, itemising and numbering of points while talking, purses bottom lip between forefinger and thumb. Doesn’t listen.

Productive behaviour: Organisation skills, planning ahead, accurate, logical and concerned with the ‘How’ Purposeful, moral, very high standards, task-orientated, logical.

Unproductive behaviour: Depression, rage, critical, autocratic, dogmatism, bigotry, over thinking. May not meet deadlines, overly critical of self and others, will not delegate, over complicating things.

What people think of you: Structured, organised, detached, exact, reliable, and trustworthy. Creating issues where there are none.

What stresses you: Mistakes and carelessness, loss of control, certainty and structure, you struggle in times of high change.

Your stress antidote: You need to learn that perfection doesn’t exist. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence but trying to be perfect in everything you do is too much pressure. What do you want to prove and to whom? Chances people already think that you are amazing. If you overdo it people will to feel comfortable in all your amazing perfection. You will make people feel inadequate and you may find yourself alone. Decide to have perfection ‘down times’ where you just let things go. You cannot control everything and so control the things you can. Learn to use mistakes as a learning tool, when given a task at work ask what the criteria for success is and go with that. Learn to laugh at yourself and don’t take yourself or life so seriously. Take a drama class. In the class you will learn about more than perfection you will learn about interpretation. You will also learn how to lighten up.


Myth: It’s the effort that counts.

Primary fear: failure (and success)

Symptoms: I try to do that but it didn’t work.

Most likely to say “Here’s something that I could have a go at”, lots of questions, has a trail of unfinished jobs at work and at home Try, could/couldn’t, impossible, inferior/superior, fail/succeed, I don’t know, it’s hard, lucky/unlucky, I’m better than/ not as good as you/him/her.

Significant body language: Sitting forward, elbows on knees, chin in hand, puzzled look, asks more than one question at a time, does not answer questions and falters when talking.

Productive Behaviour: Persistent, enthusiasm, earnest, innovative, creative, hard worker, setting high goals.

What others think of you: Passionate, motivated, enthusiastic, and interested. Butterfly, faddish fickle, no attention to detail, superficial, a dreamer.

Unproductive behaviour: Not finishing task, getting bored easily, wants to do own stuff rather than follow the team goals.

What stresses you: being criticised, Fear of failure.

Your stress antidote: You have to learn that you are good enough. You do not have to prove anything to anyone. You have to work on your self-esteem. And appreciate yourself more. The world accepts you at the same level you accept yourself so if you believe in yourself the world will believe in you Think more of yourself and your abilities the world will believe in you. One thing you can start to do is to set some clear goals. What do you want to achieve in your career, relationships and your health? What do you want to have in your life and what do you want to do? Make a list and stick to the plan, and stop volunteering for everything, instead choose one thing and be the ‘go to’ person for that thing. Anything which comes up which is not on your list, doesn’t get done unless you add it to your list. Setting clear goals for yourself and achieving then will enhance your self-esteem and confidence no end and work wonders for your internal stress. Take a class. Learn a language. Get fit!

If you want to understand more about your mind and how you can have a more efficient mind and a more effective life, read: ‘Mind Synergy’ by yours truly Bev Baker available on Amazon. Find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or drop me an

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