Ever wonder why you feel so stressed out all the time? We’ve rounded up the most popular culprits.
A recent survey by NeuroBliss revealed 44 percent of Americans spend over 2,000 hours a year stressed out – and that’s just the stress we’re aware of. Holy. Crap.
Stress is good for us in the short-term – it boosts our immune system, motivates us and energizes our bodies. (Admit it: you feel pretty badass when you accomplish something that scares you a little.) But many of us are doing it all wrong, pushing ourselves to extremes and getting stressed out for all the wrong reasons. We can’t tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress anymore, and what’s worse: we’re used to it.
“When you have too many stress ‘inputs,’ whether good or bad, they can pile on top of each other very quickly,” says Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., author of The Secret of Vigor: How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Metabolic Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy. “The good stressors don’t cancel out the bad – they all add up at once.”
The key, says Talbott, is to take inventory of all of your sources of stress – the short-term, and the ongoing – and start creating boundaries to prevent getting stressed out. Most of us are well-aware of our limits but push ourselves to go further by justifying our actions (i.e. “I really need the money,” or “I don’t want to let anyone down.”), and don’t take stock of what it’s going to do to our bodies in the long-term. Start listening to your body: figure out which areas or situations cause you to be stressed out and decide exactly what you’re going to do about them.
For example, when it comes to my cell phone, I get a little…cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Between checking my e-mail every 35 seconds to lunging at it every time I receive a text, I really need to get a grip. (Sometimes I check for texts “in case” I didn’t hear it! Face. Palm.) By creating a few small boundaries: turning off e-mail notifications, only texting when it’s actually convenient, and turning my ringer off before bed, I’ve managed to be less stressed out and, you know, have a life again.
By being mindful of how you feel throughout the day, you’ll also be able to suss out autopilot behaviors that are causing you stress behind-the-scenes, such as:
1. Ignoring bodily reactions.
It’s estimated that 70 percent of people suffer from food intolerances that cause symptoms – from mild to severe – in any system of the body.
2. Criticizing yourself.
Self-criticism is linked to stress-induced changes in our biochemistry, making us more susceptible to engage in unhealthy behaviors (like overeating or drinking).
3. Watching television.
Sure, it takes our mind off painful emotions and stress – but it doesn’t decrease them. It also contributes to a sedentary lifestyle that actually causes our bodies to be more stressed out in the end.
4. Shallow breathing.
When we’re stressed out our breathing becomes shallow, which brings on fatigue and even more stress because of a lack of oxygen in our cells.
Poor posture creates muscle imbalances that can alter your body’s motor patterns.
6. Avoiding emotions.
It takes energy to suppress emotions once they’re triggered. A recent study by the University of Canterbury showed a link between avoidance coping and higher levels of anxiety.
7. Saying yes… to everything.
When we let our sense of obligation call the shots, we overextend and exhaust ourselves.
8. Sweating the small stuff.
A recent study in Psychological Science revealed that people who let everyday stress get to them have a higher risk of psychological distress ten years from now. (Let the hyperventilating begin!)
Women are especially prone to multitasking, says Talbott, which leads to weakened focus, increased errors and lowers our ability to block irrelevant information (which we already suck at in the first place).
10. Hoarding mail.
Letting your mail pile is a stressor on its own, never mind how it contributes to other stressors like lost bills, late payments, finance charges, bad credit… sigh.
Even though stress is no longer considered a badge of honor, tell that to society! Am I right, ladies?
On a scale of one to 10, how stressed out are you?
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