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Consult a counselor to help you identify and address the sources of your stress. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
Are you experiencing too much stress and anxiety for no reason?
Do you find yourself worrying about the future or constantly on edge?
You’re not alone! Many people find themselves stressed out even though they feel like they should be fine.
Stress comes in different strengths and flavors. Many times, a person experiencing a great deal of stress is feeling the weight of many small stresses combined. It might not be a big deal to handle all of the small responsibilities of life, but when you combine them all together or throw a greater stress on top of it all, it can cause you to buckle under the weight.
If you can’t identify one big thing that is causing you stress, it is helpful to look at the smaller components of your life and lifestyle to see how they may be affecting your mental health.
1. Your diet is off-balanced or unhealthy.
Food and drink serve as the essential fuels to keep your body running. When you don’t have the appropriate fuel in your system, it will run inefficiently and under stress.
A bad diet can have a dramatic effect on your mental, emotional, and physical health. Sugary foods full of empty calories do not provide the kind of nutritional fuel that you need.
And it’s not just about eating better foods either. It’s also about what you drink.
How many people do you know who simply cannot function without at least one cup of coffee or tea? Pretty much everyone in the working world, right? Well, guess what? The caffeine in those substances fuels anxiety and stress. Add in a heap of refined sugar and sugary syrups into your morning coffee, and you’re increasing your own stress.
Energy drinks are terrible for causing stress and anxiety. Throwing yourself into that overdrive so you can get through your day takes a toll.
Really take a look at what you eat and drink. See if there are any unhealthy foods or drinks you can cut out of your diet. Drinking water isn’t nearly as tasty as that new flavored coffee from your local coffee shop, but it’s less anxiety-inducing.
2. Social media use exposes you to negativity regularly.
Social media is an incredible tool that’s brought people from all over the world together. Unfortunately, it’s also been engineered to exploit certain psychological tics of your brain to get you to scroll more, in much the same way that they used psychologists to make casino games more addictive.
Not only that, but social media exposes you to a constant fear of missing out. You’re regularly looking at the highlight reels of your friends and family – happy smiles, vacations, living their best life. Few people are posting about how unhappy they are. And even when they do, how many people really pay attention to that?
That’s not even touching on the constant bad news being spread and stupid garbage that people regularly share.
As useful and powerful as social media can be, it can also be addictive and stress-inducing. Reducing your consumption or quitting altogether will quite likely reduce your stress levels and improve your mental health.
3. Bringing work stress home with you.
Work seems like an obvious thing to be stressed about. But this is about more than just work. It’s also our relationship to the workplace and what we take home with us.
Employers are constantly pushing the envelope on what’s acceptable for infringing on your life. You need to be the one to set down firm boundaries and ensure they are not crossed. Unfortunately, the softer your boundaries are, the further they will push.
Granted, abusive employers may use your boundaries as a reason to try to get rid of you. But if you’re in an abusive employment situation, you’d want to be looking for an exit, anyway.
Do you answer emails or check your work devices off the clock? Stop doing that. You only exist from the time you clock in until the time you clock out. Before or after that is your time, not theirs. They aren’t paying you for that unless you’re on-call or something like that.
Do you find yourself constantly thinking about work off the clock? Stressed about going back in tomorrow? It would be good to work on mindfulness and grounding yourself in the moment. You want to keep yourself in the present, so you’re not thinking about work in your downtime.
Do you find yourself talking with your fellow employees off the clock? People have different opinions about how to relate to coworkers. If you want to make friends, cool. Just don’t spend your off-time complaining to each other about how much the job, the boss, or the people suck.
4. Too much screen time.
Technology is pretty amazing. It can also be pretty harmful. Regularly staring at screens and processing all of the information they present causes your brain to constantly be working. Too much time staring at screens can be anxiety-inducing in some people because they are overworking their minds.
Limit your time on devices. Take regular breaks to give your eyes and your brain a rest.
5. Your environment is stressful.
The environment you keep around you can be a source of stress or peace. Much like device screens, a cluttered space causes your brain to constantly be working in overdrive. Your brain needs to process and identify all of the stuff you see as you look around your space. This can be an extreme source of stress for some people because their mind just isn’t getting enough downtime.
Outside of personal living space, your environment includes where you live or where you work. For example, living in a rough neighborhood is always stressful. You can never be entirely sure of what you’re going to find when you open your front door. It may be noisy, there may be gunshots, people yelling and arguing, and all different kinds of negativity.
Maybe it’s a person you live with causing you regular stress. They may not be doing what they’re supposed to, not pulling their weight around the house, or just being an unpleasant person to be around.
Being around difficult people can raise your stress levels, even if they are someone you love. For example, a caretaker may love the person they’re taking care of dearly, but being responsible for a loved one’s well-being is a stressful thing to do.
6. You aren’t getting healthy sleep.
The importance of sleep to your mental health cannot be understated. A lack of good, quality sleep prevents your brain from reaching the deeper stages of sleep. The brain produces many mood-balancing chemicals that it will use in the coming day while in these deeper stages of sleep. So, if you’re a shallow sleeper or you’re depriving yourself of sleep, you’re going to have more stress than someone who doesn’t.
Improving your sleep hygiene can be a significant way to reduce your stress. Trying to sleep on the same schedule as your circadian rhythm can help you stay in tune. For example, don’t use electronic devices for an hour before you go to bed. Don’t eat or drink a couple hours before bed, so you’re not up at 3 A.M. to use the bathroom. A comfortable bed, pillows, and environment to sleep in should be a top priority.
7. Substance use.
Substance use is an interesting subject because of the way people look at it. Most people realize that too much of any substance is an unhealthy thing. But, many people find that it helps them calm their nerves or quiet whatever is going on in their head. Fair play. It can absolutely do that. That’s why people self-medicate.
There are two problems, though. The first problem is tolerance. At first, you only need a little, but then you slowly want and need more and more to get the same effect.
The second problem is the long-term effects that substance use has on the nervous system. Regular use of any substance can change the basic ways that your body functions.
A glass of wine to relax may not seem like a big deal until one glass isn’t enough to get the job done. Then it’s two glasses. Then three. Then four. Then a whole bottle. And what about the times when you can’t sit down to have a glass of wine to relax?
Marijuana is a hot topic right now. Lots of people swear by it for stress relief, pain relief, and all other kinds of things that are questionable. But using marijuana over a long period can really mess with your brain and nervous system. Some people have full-on anxiety or panic attacks from marijuana use.
A wide variety of medications can cause additional stress and anxiety. That’s not just limited to psychiatric medications, either. Psychiatric medications seem pretty obvious. They’re supposed to affect your brain, right?
But since everything in your body is connected, other medications can negatively impact your stress and mental health.
You may want to double-check the side effects of the different medications you take, including any over-the-counter medications. Look for any that might cause adverse effects like depression, anxiety, or any other kind of mental influencing. Consider how you felt before the medication and whether or not it might be responsible.
Do consult with your doctor about it. They can likely tell you more. And don’t make any changes to your meds without consulting with your doctor first.
People can just be stressed at times. Sometimes, we don’t realize how stressful other people are. It’s easy to overlook, especially if you’re looking at the person with rose-tinted glasses.
Do consider the people you surround yourself with. Are they a source of happiness and well-being for you? Or do they bring in negativity? Do they cause problems? Do you find yourself avoiding certain people because you don’t like the way they make you feel?
These are the kinds of connections you will want to look at. It may be worth talking to the person about if you feel safe enough to do that. Limiting your time with these kinds of people can improve your stress and mental health.
10. Excessive busyness.
Are you a busy person? Do you constantly have things to do? Are you jumping from responsibility to responsibility without pausing to chill for a few minutes? Are you thinking about the things that you need to do once you’re done reading this article?
Being too busy is a constant source of stress and drain on your energy. Now, some people live for that busyness. Some people use busyness to avoid confronting their problems or thinking about their life which also causes stress. A busy person doesn’t have to think about how their job is unfulfilling, or their relationship is rocky, or their personal life is a dumpster fire.
Ignoring those problems is additional stress because your brain still knows they are a problem even if you aren’t actively thinking about them. Confronting and resolving those issues as they come up will help alleviate that stress.
11. Long-term exposure to smaller stresses.
There is a common belief that people need good stress relief practices to deal with long-term stresses. That’s not really how the brain works, though.
Long-term stress is still going to be stressful until it becomes a problem that cannot be ignored. Think of it like water eroding rock. Yeah, the rock is solid and firm. It’s temporarily dealing with the stress of the water flowing over it. But, little by little, the rock is being eroded by the stress that it’s under. Over time, the rock will wear down and break.
The fact of the matter is, if you’re in a situation where you’re under long-term stress, it is affecting you even if you don’t feel like it is right now. Sooner or later, it will be. Do your best to resolve the issue and get away from that stress.
12. Unrealistic expectations.
Some people inevitably stress themselves out because they have unrealistic expectations. They’re constantly worried, angry, upset, or depressed that circumstances didn’t go how they might have imagined they would.
Learning to accept what is instead of wishing for things to be different is a reliable way to reduce your stress and anxiety. How do you do that? By focusing on what is right in front of you. Wishing for things to be different is dwelling in the future. If only my job were better! If only my relationship were better! If only, if only, if only!
None of that really matters. What matters is what’s right here in front of you.
Have a problem? Devote some time to solving it, solve it, and move on.
Can’t solve it? Work on it, put it away when you’re done working on it, come back to it later.
Don’t waste your mental energy wishing for things to be anything other than what they are.
The world can be a rough, chaotic place. Life can feel uncertain and scary. There’s so much going on with the climate, COVID, news, politics, and society that stress is just a regular part of our lives.
Do what you can to eliminate the stresses from your life to preserve your mental well-being. Eliminating the small or hidden stresses can dramatically improve your mental health and happiness.
Still not sure why you are so stressed? Need a helping hand to deal with your stress? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced counselors on BetterHelp.com.
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