What would you say if I told you that you’re probably your own worst stressor? Many of the biggest stressors in your life aren’t the stressful situations themselves, but rather how you respond to them. It may seem counterintuitive at first, because obviously it’s the situation or the person who’s stressing you out; but if you’ve ever looked back on situation with the 20/20 vision of objective hindsight, you’ll see that I’m right.
Some of the Ways You Stress Yourself Out
Oh my gosh, I could write a book on the ways we stress ourselves out. In the interest of space, however, I’ll limit this post to what I feel are the top 3. I’ll also give an example of each, but keep in mind that the possibilities for each are practically endless.
Assuming – If you’re like most people, this is the number one way you stress yourself out. Here are just 2 of the myriad assumptions people make on a daily basis: 1) Someone doesn’t treat you the way you want them to and you assume they don’t like you or that you did something wrong. 2) Whenever something doesn’t get done on your timetable or no one volunteers for a task/committee immediately, you assume that you have to do it. Take aways: 1) Maybe they’re just in a crappy mood and are less than friendly with everyone today. Maybe that’s just their personality. Remember that nothing anyone says or does has anything to do with you, and everything to do with them. 2) Maybe people are used to you doing everything, so they feel like they don’t have to do it. Perhaps if you ask, you shall receive. And maybe ask yourself why you’re so willing to work yourself to the bone without being asked, compensated, or thanked when no one else will. If it turns out that you’re the only person who cares about it, you’re going to have to come to terms with either doing it yourself or leaving it undone. Very rarely are our assumptions correct. I learned this one the hard way… Rarely will people volunteer for more work, but they often will respond to a request for help. If you never tell anyone that you’re overwhelmed, they’ll assume that you have it all under control. They may even secretly envy your ability to do so many things without cracking. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? * If you’re having trouble with this one, I highly recommend the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book totally changed my outlook and my life. I hadn’t realized how much assuming I was doing, which in turn was causing me to take things personally, which was stressing me right the [bleep] out.
Reliving the past – This one is double sided. It doesn’t just apply to 1) continually rehashing all the stupid things you’ve ever done or said and then beating yourself up over them again and again; it also involves 2) continually reliving the “glory days” of your youth or young adulthood. Remember: Not only do physical agility and ability generally decrease as we age, but high school and many colleges are pretty insular places, so they’re not very representative of the “real world.” Take aways: 1) Old embarrassments are done and there’s nothing you can do to get those moments back. Besides, most people are too busy reliving their own humiliating moments to remember yours. People can be pretty self-absorbed, you know? 2) As you age, the strategies that make you successful in life will change. Wishing that things could stay the same as when you were in a certain phase of life won’t do anything but stress you out. Being able and willing to change as life changes, as well as having a well-rounded life and personality, will help keep you from needing to relive the glory days. It’s much better if you can continually create new glory days, even if it means you have to redefine what “glory days” means.
Projecting into the future – This often involves playing some version of the “if only” or “when I” games, or else catasrophizing an event before it happens: 1) “If only I were rich I wouldn’t have all these money problems.” Maybe, but then you’d have a whole different set of problems. You know that, right? Right!? 2) “Work is a little slow right now and the boss was short with me today. OMG I’m gonna get fired and not be able to find another job and we’re gonna lose the house and be homeless.” Take away –1) By all means make a plan to achieve your goals, whether that be wealth, health, or something else; but don’t let stress or resentment build up for something that hasn’t happened yet. There will be plenty of time to stress over new stressors when you’ve finally got your millions. 2) How many times have your worst case scenarios actually happened? Probably never. If none of the others came to pass, why would this time be any different?
How many of these have you been guilty of at one time or another? Me? Every. Single. One. And since I’ve been in the business of helping people relieve and better manage their stress, I’ve either heard or seen countless clients, friends, and family members fall victim to these stressors as well. If you know someone who’s their own biggest stressor, do them a favor and pass this blog post along using the handy share buttons below, or the share button on whichever social media platform you found this on. Thanks.