The 365 Commitment

Day 196 – Stress is a Dependent Variable

I have relearned Algebra six times in my life—once for myself and five times for my family members. Each child grapples with algebra as they go through middle school, and I find myself having to relearn all the terms, equations, and rules that go along with elementary math. This last go-around, I had to go through an exercise with my daughter, plotting dependent and independent variables. Something new dawned on me as I tried to define this in simple terms.

Independent variables have a causal link with dependent variables.

When one variable directly impacts another, it is often called a “causal relationship.” This means that changes in the first variable (the independent variable) directly cause changes in the second variable (the dependent variable). The term “causation” is used to describe such scenarios where the influence of one factor on another is direct and definitive.

This is what a causal link actually means. When one variable changes, the other variable is directly impacted. The one that changes based on the causal relationship is known as dependent. This got me thinking. What are the dependent variables in my life?

The first one that I thought of was stress.

Stress is a dependent variable. It goes up and down based on other variables I control. So this led me to the following conclusion.

Decision-making has a direct causal link to stress.

Yes, your decisions are the independent variables in this equation. I argue that decisions have multiple factors that lead to the weight of the decision variable. The first would be the quantity or amount of decisions that you are making, and the second would be the severity or impact of the decisions being made. Simply stated, the more decisions you have to make and the greater impact those decisions will have on you, the more stress you will feel.

Stress has a direct causal link to decision-making.

There is considerable evidence suggesting that decision-making can have a direct causal link to stress levels. Making decisions, incredibly complex or high-stakes ones can significantly increase stress for several reasons:

  1. Cognitive Load: Decision-making often requires processing information, which can overload your mental capabilities and induce stress.
  2. Uncertainty: Uncertainty about outcomes can heighten anxiety and stress as you weigh different options.
  3. Consequences: A decision’s potential impact can also increase stress, especially if the stakes are high and the consequences are significant.

Psychological research supports the idea that the responsibility of making decisions can increase stress levels, affecting both mental and physical health. This is why techniques for managing decision-making processes and reducing stress are often recommended. 

So, you want to reduce stress? 

The first and easiest thing you can do is make a decision! If a decision haunts you, then come to a quick resolution and make the decision. Your stress level will immediately drop. Also, if you are making too many decisions, remove some responsibility or change how many roles you are pursuing. You might be taking on too much, and as a consequence, the sheer volume of decisions has gone up. Time to take an axe to your commitment, apologize, and duck out of a few. Suddenly, your stress level will drop. 

The bottom line is that you cannot control your stress level because it is a dependent variable. What you can control is the cause, which, in this case, is the independent variable of decisions in your life. So when you are feeling stressed, look to your decision-making process, and there will lie the answer to your stress level. 

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