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Examining Your Beliefs to Manage Stress

Topic Overview

When your beliefs conflict with the way you are living your life, stress may result. It may be helpful to examine your belief systems so you can better manage your stress.

World view

Your world view is your basic beliefs about human nature, how the world works, and what life is about. Your views about religion make up a part of your world view, but it includes more than that.

Your world view can cause stress when a long-held belief is challenged or contradicted by a new experience or when most of the people around you hold a very different world view. For example, you may hold the belief that people are truly good at heart. Then when someone takes advantage of you, it may be very stressful because it violates your beliefs and causes you to reevaluate part of your world view.

To help clarify your world view, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do you see people? Are they good? Selfish? Insecure? Fair?
  • How do you see life? Is it fair? Surprising? Interesting? Difficult?
  • How do you see society? Is it going in the "right" direction? Are there insurmountable problems?
  • Do you have strong spiritual beliefs? What are they?
  • Do the actions you see every day support how you see people, life, or society?
  • Do you feel the world is moving away from your spiritual beliefs?

Values

Your values are what you think is important in life. As you think about your values, make sure they are your values, not values important to your parents, spouse, or society. We often share our family's values, but sometimes we decide to reject values that were given to us or to change their priority in our lives. For example, you might value financial success much more or less than your family or society expects you to.

Your values can cause stress when you spend a lot of time and energy doing things that are not important to you or when two values conflict. For example, values related to family and career are in conflict for many people.

To help clarify your values, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What values are important to you? Honesty? Compassion? Friendship? Success?
  • How are these values expressed in your life?
  • Are any of your values in conflict with how you behave?
  • Are any of your values in conflict with your job, friendships, or relationships?

Goals

Your goals are what you want to accomplish in your life. You should have both short-term and long-term goals, which should be appropriate as well as meaningful. In other words, your goals should be attainable, but not so easily accomplished as to be unfulfilling after they are met. These goals can help you figure out how you spend your time and energy. Be sure that your goals reflect your beliefs and values, not those of your parents, family, or friends.

Your goals can cause stress when you feel you are not moving toward them or that they are outdated.

To help clarify your goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are some of your daily and weekly goals?
  • What are your goals for the year?
  • What goals do you have for the next 5 to 10 years?
  • How are you meeting your goals?
  • Are any of your goals in conflict with the way you are living your life?
  • How do you make time for your goals in your life?

Answering these questions may not solve any short-term, stress-related problems. But it can help you identify sources of stress that you hadn't considered before, and it can help with long-term stress issues by getting you started with the process of thinking about the core issues behind your stress.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Steven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised May 3, 2013

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