It seems like everywhere you go these days, everyone is talking about stress, and just how stressed out they are. Unfortunately, it seems that in our current world, it is part of our daily lives, essentially something we can’t get away from. It is estimated by the Heart and Stroke Foundation that 1 in 4 Canadians report a very high degree of stress in their daily lives. The American Institute of Stress reports more than half of Americans are stressed at some point during the day. There is without a doubt a correlation between modern diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, depression, diabetes, sleep dysfunction, just to name a few. It is most definitely a major contributing factor.
Though we often blame external factors for our stresses (ie: work, relationships, friends, family, certain situations, etc.), it is often our interpretation of, or reaction to these situations that fuel the chronic stress felt on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, it can be helpful to realize how we interpret and begin the self-exploration of why certain events or situations evoke certain responses out of us.
The following are five common ways that contribute to our stress response, and are often things we do and think without realizing it:
- Expectations….of Yourself and Others
Expectations naturally set us up for disappointment. If and when things don’t turn out the way we envisioned they would, it is a major let down. And for some, this let down may be expressed as sadness or anxiety fueling the feeling of stress. Expectations limit what could be a wonderful reaction to something new or an unexpected situation. Without limitations, the sky is the limit for personal growth. Try and have an open mind, and letting the cards fall where they may.
- Drama, Drama, Drama!
Hey, sometimes it’s hard because it just seems like it is following you around, and that you can’t catch a break! You can rid yourself of so much stress by not getting involved when you don’t need to. Many of us are ‘fixers’ and want to help. Though it can be difficult to not get involved when it involves family and close friends. Ask yourself, does this situation actually involve me? Is it really in my best interest? If not, then steer clear. There is nothing selfish about looking out for yourself and your well-being.
- Life is Messy, We Have to Learn to Accept It
There are people that find comfort in having control in situations. There is so much that is out of our control in the world we live in, and for many, it adds to their overall stress levels and impacts how they view the world. There tends to be this idealism in our society that what is most desired is order, and perfectionism. This is often times unrealistic. How many times did things not go your way? Or not work out how you envisioned them? You changed your mind about what you wanted from a career? A relationship? This happens all the time and is completely normal. Taking a step back, having compassion for yourself and accepting that though we can plan and plan, sometimes life just happens. And sometimes, though not immediately obvious, it allowed you to grow in ways you never expected, and realize that what makes you truly happy is something you may have never expected.
- Thinking Your Problems are Special – They Aren’t.
We, as human beings, experience very similar feelings, and thoughts but we often think we are alone in those feelings and thoughts, and that no one would understand if we shared our internal struggles. It is actually these struggles that unite us. Regardless of where we live, what culture we come from, or our socioeconomic status, our desires and what makes us happy are shared (ie: a career that is enjoyable and fulfilling, family, friends, etc.). When we are attempting to work through a difficult time in our lives, it can be so easy to bottle up all of our feelings, and it can become very lonely. There is something freeing and at the same time comforting in itself when we know we are not alone, and that we can turn to our most trusted confidants to lend a listening ear to work it out.
- Not Allowing Yourself to Feel Your “Negative” Emotions
There is this general sentiment in our society about staying positive, and “positive vibes only”, and finding that silver lining – regardless of the situation. Now, although living with a positive outlook on a daily basis can in itself lower the feelings of stress and anxiety, limiting or feeling guilty about having other “negative” emotions is detrimental. Give yourself permission to feel angry, enraged, frustrated, sadness, fear, hopelessness, and anything else that comes up. These are normal human emotions, acknowledge them, feel them, and allow yourself to let them go when you are ready. Denying them is not healthy in the long run. Feeling positive about everything all the time, is just not realistic. Embrace it all, it serves you more than you realize!