Why do I feel stressed without doing anything?


I’ll start by telling you about the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow.

Anxiety, Worry, Apathy, Boredom: They are related to stress. Arousal – may or may not. The other states of your mood don’t give you stress.

  1. When you’re not doing anything, you’re in the LOW SKILL LEVEL STATE which tends to the left side of the graph. (low on the x-axis)
  2. While the challenge in front of you (y-axis) can be of any level.

So you lie either in the Anxiety, Worry, Apathy or Worry areas in the quadrant.

The ideal state is to be in the Mihaly Flow, but for that your skill level and the challenge level should grow together which can be attained only when you’re active and trying. Because in the process of trying you keep getting skilled, and as you get more skilled, the challenge level can be increased.

So to not be stressed there has to be something you’re doing actively which takes you closer to some target.

To speak a little bit about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfillment and the notion of “flow” — a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”


Another way that this can be understood is that, (and, this is just my interpretation) that nature has designed us in such a way as to be most productive and most efficiently productive. Once we go against nature, it has it”s own mechanisms to bring us back to track. And causing us stress is nature’s way of punishing us for not working, while when we work, nature gives is more resources and responsibilities.

Another explanation

When we work we increase the entropy in the universe. Since increasing entropy is the final goal of whatever we do, if we aren’t doing what we are supposed to, that’s against nature and we need to pay the debt. Nature pushes us to work by giving us stress.

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