From minor annoyances to major catastrophes, stress will always be a part of our lives. But sometimes we bring unnecessary stress upon ourselves. Some of the ways we cause ourselves stress include:
1. Not planning well in advance. Poor planning causes all sorts of stressful activity, like rushing to get ready in the morning, staying up all night to prepare for a meeting, running late for appointments, missing a flight.
To avoid this type of stress, focus on planning for things ahead of time. Lay your clothes out at night so you don’t waste time in your closet the next morning fretting over what to wear. Tell yourself you need to be somewhere 30 minutes before the actual time of the appointment. Start packing a week before you leave for vacation, rather than the night before.
2. Disorganization. When our desks, kitchens, closets, and counters are filled with clutter, we cause ourselves stress – not only because we lose things in the shuffle, but also because the visual clutter overwhelms us. We forget birthdays, lose addresses, owe the library late fees, miss important appointments. We feel stressed looking at the mess around us, not knowing where to begin.
To get better organized, take baby steps. Don’t try to do it all in a day or you will burn yourself out and become even more stressed. Start in one room, and pick up for 10 minutes a day. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish. Another idea for reducing clutter: throw away 20 things a day. It’s easiest to do this all at once – just grab a trash bag and walk around your house. Throw away old papers on your desk, cheap toys the kids don’t play with anymore, that used up candle, the scraps of litter on the floor. Your bag will be filled before you know it.
3. Worry. Worry is a wasted emotion. It does nothing to help us, and only causes mental stress and anguish. When we worry, we are focusing on the future, over which we have no control. Instead of worrying we need to bring our focus back to the present moment. We can do this by paying attention to our breathing, listening to the sounds around us, and thinking about the things we are grateful for in the here and now.
4. Guilt. Guilt is worry’s twin; another wasted emotion with one difference – while worry focuses on the future, guilt focuses on the past. We anguish over mistakes we have made – whether 20 minutes ago or 20 years ago. We wish we had done things differently, made different decisions, not said that harsh word, not behaved in that foolish way. Just like worry, guilt does nothing but cause us more stress and torment. Again, come back to the present moment. The past is gone. Let it go, and choose to accept all that went before. Mistakes teach lessons and help us grow. We can choose to learn from the past and move on, rather than try to live it over again.
5. Negative Thinking. Many people are surprised to learn how many negative thoughts they have each day. We constantly bombard ourselves with thinking that tears us down rather than builds us up. Thoughts like, “I have too many wrinkles,” “I can’t stand my job,” “I messed up that presentation,” “I’m such a loser,” cross our minds more than we know. This type of negative thinking wreaks havoc not only in our minds, but also in our bodies. Did you know that thoughts are actually chemicals? Every thought we put into our heads will have a reaction in our bodies. If we think negative thoughts, the reaction will be negative, while positive thoughts will produce positive reactions.
Try this tip: Every time you notice yourself having a negative thought, write it down. Then, come up with a positive thought to replace it. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend. Give yourself praise for the good things you do and the good person you are. Forgive yourself for mistakes.
We will always have stress in our lives, but much of that stress can be avoided. Making healthy choices in our lives and thoughts will greatly reduce our stress and result in more peace and well-being.