According to the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of adults say that managing stress is extremely or very important, but only 35 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job at it. Seventy-two percent report experiencing physical symptoms of stress. Can you relate? If so, you’re not alone. Let’s take a look at what it is we’re doing to stress ourselves out.
1. Trying to do too much
I could go on about this for days. But then that would be making my point, wouldn’t it? Ease up a bit. Chances are, the world is not going to stop if you decide to take a little of your own time back for yourself. My mother always says that if you put too much in your little red wagon, it will get to heavy to pull. Figure out what is most important to you and focus on that. As hard as it is, leave things for other people to do. Lighten your load a little.
2. Excessively worrying about world events
The Russian/Ukrainian conflict, the Ebola outbreak, violence in the Middle East, and Russian hackers: there is plenty out there to worry about. I’m not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and ignore what’s going on in the world around us, but worrying ourselves to death isn’t really going to make anything better. Care, be informed, and do what you can. But don’t kill yourself worrying about it. That’s not going to help anybody.
3. Viewing too much news
Number three goes hand-in-hand with number two. While it is important to be informed, overindulging in news can spiral anyone into a cycle of fear and stress. Be objective and don’t believe everything you see. Different news outlets can flavor reports with their own perspective or bias. I don’t have anything against news media, but would recommend a variety of sources and balance. How much news do you really need to watch? Keep a balance: a balance between different news sources, and a balance between news watching and other constructive, peaceful, or active pursuits.
4. Trying to control everything
Some of us carry the idea that ‘if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself’ too far. It loops us back to number one on the list—trying to control everything leads us to trying to do too much. It’s probably going to put us at odds with people more often too. Delegate and then trust others to do their best. They may not, but then again they may surprise you!
5. Negative self-talk
You cut your fingerwhile making dinner and have to have stitches. Does that mean you are a complete klutz in the kitchen, an idiot? Or does it just mean you had an accident or made a mistake? Do you always blame yourself or anticipate the worst?
Many of us engage in negative self-talk without even realizing it. Next time, pay attention. Lower your stress by practicing positive thinking and self-talk until it becomes a habit. Learn more about positive thinking from this previous Extension of You Home Care blog post.
6. Taking on other people’s stress
When your friend starts telling you about her marital problems, do you find yourself getting emotionally involved? I’m not talking about domestic abuse here, but about problems that don’t require intervention. It is important to set personal boundaries in our lives. We can’t take everyone’s problems deep inside our hearts. It would simply crush us. If we keep a little emotional distance, we can see things more clearly. Maybe it will help us be less emotional and reactive and more able to provide the help that others need from us. And here’s a tip: often times what people need from us most is for us to just listen.
7. Keep working and waiting for tomorrow
We put a tremendous amount of stress on ourselves when we think that everything will be great when we get that promotion, lose those 20 pounds, or find our soul mate. We treat life as a destination instead of a journey and in the process miss out on living. A good friend of mine living with cancer hasn’t put everything on hold until her cancer is cured. She lives every day. She understands that life is for living now.
8. Taking yourself too seriously
Lighten up. Laugh a little. In the practice of yoga (which by the way is a great way to reduce stress), instructors encourage smiling when the poses are challenging. In the gentle words of the wonderful yogini Micha Federico, “smile, and if you fall down–laugh.” How can we take that idea off the mat and into our everyday lives?