For many of us, day-to-day life can feel like one big stress. We’re stressed getting up out of bed, we’re stressed on the commute to work, we’re stressed at work and we’re stressed about cleaning and getting to bed on time even when we get home.
Does that sound miserable to you? Well it should! And it’s the reason that it’s so important to find every way you can to stop stress from bringing you down and to get some respite from the ongoing ruminations.
There are a number of ways you can do this but one of the very best tools that can be used to stop stress is what’s known as ‘hypothesis testing’. Here we will look at what the term means and how you can use it to start living a more stress free existence.
What Is Hypothesis Testing?
The term hypothesis testing comes from CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is a psychotherapeutic treatment that is very popular for combating stress, anxiety, phobias and other mental health problems by looking at the content of our thoughts and how these guide and form our emotions and behaviors.
If you think about what is causing you to feel stressed, then in many ways you’ll find that it’s probably the fact that you’re always thinking of the bad outcomes that could occur if you get something wrong. This is human nature but it can also be maladaptive if it’s allowed to get out of hand.
For instance, if you find yourself stressing on the way to work, then it’s probably because you are worried that you’re going to get late and that you’re going to get shouted at.
Likewise, if you’re always stressing about the house when you go away from the weekend it’s probably because you’re thinking about things that could go wrong – like robberies potentially.
And if you’re stressed at work, it’s probably on some level because you think messing up is going to mean you get fired/lose a client/get demoted.
Hypothesis testing is all about looking at these beliefs and then literally testing them to see if they’re accurate. This way you run little ‘experiments’ and determine whether or not you actually need to be anxious. This is a fantastic way to stop stress, as we will see.
How to Use Hypothesis Testing to Stop Stress
So how do you actually use this process?
The best way to explain it would be to use an example, so let’s take the idea that you are going to get ‘fired’ or ‘shouted at’ if you arrive late to work. This is causing you to rush out the door every morning with your clothes disheveled and it’s causing you to feel anxious on the tube/bus/car/train every time there’s any kind of delay.
To test this hypothesis then, you would try purposefully arriving late into work. One morning, you could try lying in for an extra half hour and then leaving leisurely at your own pace. You’ll likely arrive 30-60 minutes later than normal. Tell your boss that you’re sorry you overslept and that you’re more than happy to make up the time.
In 99% of cases you’ll find that this is perfectly fine – Jeff in accounting is late all the time – and they appreciate your honesty.
By doing this, you will immediately have proven to yourself that you don’t need to be so worried about being late in the morning and that a lot of your stress has probably been unnecessary in the past.
Likewise, if you’re very stressed that staying out late with your friends will mean your partner is going to leave you, try doing it. If you’re someone who is always feeling under pressure to answer texts and e-mails within five minutes of receiving them, try turning your phone off for a day to test whether anything bad happens.
Gradually you can use these hypothesis tests in order to look for times you are worrying where you really needn’t be. This can then help you to stop stress from hindering you when really it doesn’t need to be.
Ultimately this process will teach you that the whole world is not relying on you doing everything perfectly and that very bad things actually very rarely happen. Employers actually need incredibly good reasons to fire staff and it’s very hard for them to do so under any circumstances. Likewise, your friends and your partner value your relationship as much as you do.
As you start to learn this, you’ll find that you can stop stress in many areas of your life and ironically you’ll actually start performing much better as a result too.