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10 Hidden Life Killers You Are Tolerating That Are Stressing You Out

10 Hidden Life Killers You Are Tolerating That Are Stressing You Out

Are you constantly stressed out? Does your stress seem to have no immediate cause or solution? Here are 10 hidden stressors that can make you miserable and ruin your life.

Many times in life, it feels like everything is bad. You are so stressed that you cannot imagine a life without difficulty. Well, a good life is possible. Here are ten things to look for and handle that will smooth it all out for you and put you back in control.

1. Recognize that there are people who are out to sabotage you and are intentionally trying to be difficult.

Yes, I know it sounds paranoid, but these people exist, and when you recognize that they exist and take actions to protect yourself and those around, your life can magically smooth out.

Back in the day I managed an insurance claims office. It was a very stressful job and the reason it was so stressful, I later found out, was because there were two of my staff members who had nothing better to do than stir the pot with their co-workers.

They would tell one person lies about another person in the office, then go to the person that they had first slandered and tell lies about the other person. This pitted the two people against each other while the one manufacturing and telling the lies would sit back and watch the drama.

It happened over and over again. The entire office was in chaos and my staff were at each other’s throats. It was all because of these two people. Since the whole office was involved, I could not see the source of the trouble.

It turned out that these two pot stirrers were also the least productive of my staff, so I ultimately fired them. After I did this, everything smoothed out and the work got done.  It was like magic. These people hide themselves well but here are some clues to spotting them:

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Be suspicious when someone tells you gossip about a friend, family member or co worker. Chances are they are telling lies and gossip about you to other people as well.

Be suspicious when someone laughs or takes pleasure in another person’s pain or discomfort. This is a sign of sadistic personality.

Be suspicious when two people are constantly arguing and they can’t solve their differences. When this occurs, suspect that there are lies being told by another person who does not appear to be part of the conflict. Act accordingly. You can ask each one whether someone else has been talking down the other person.

You could be very surprised. Normal, ethical people have a hard time believing that someone would initiate hatred and upset just for sport, but it does happen and you need to be aware and protect yourself.

Be suspicious when someone you have been in good communication with suddenly is cold and hostile to you. Ask that person who has said something negative about you and clear the air. Then deal with the person telling the lies. The people who do these things depend on secrecy and “confidentiality,” banking on the fact that the person being lied to will protect their secrets. Don’t play that game. Open and clean communication is the key to harmony. When secret and harmful lies are told, it opens the door to hostility and chaos.

2. Don’t attempt to live up to someone else’s expectations.

Not only does this cause you stress, but it also limits you greatly! No one knows the miracles you are capable of but you. You are the only one who can shape and execute your goals. Sometimes they differ greatly from what your parents or peers may want from you, but the bottom line is that you shape your own future, and if it is YOUR plan and YOUR goal, you will meet it as long as you don’t agree with other people’s counter intentions.

There is an unlimited future for you if you stop trying to be someone other than who you really are.

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3. Don’t confuse the past with the present.

Everybody I know has had many moments of pain and upset in the past, and nobody wants to repeat them. But fear of repeating painful moments or past mistakes can paralyze you in the present. Just because you failed at something once doesn’t mean you will fail at it again. Our “failures” give us valuable experience that we can use for our next attempt. Redefine “failure” for yourself. I personally believe that the only “failure” is giving up. Which brings me to our next point.

4. Don’t give up on your goals

“Failure” is just lack of persistence. If you never give up, you have never failed. It is as simple as that. There are so many things that our society defines as “failures.” Things like losing money, finding out you wasted time or having something not turn out exactly as you wanted are not failures. There is a learning curve in life. With time and money, the simple rule of thumb is never bet more than you can afford to lose. As far as things not turning out the way you wanted, keep at it until they do, but don’t ignore the fact that sometimes they turn out even better if you allow yourself to see beyond your set idea of “success.”

For each step on the way, use what you have and make it better. Your goals can be fluid. They can change as you learn more about how to achieve them. It is ok to start with the goal of finding a castle and end up with a little cottage by the sea if that is what makes you happy.  Don’t let others make you stick to an original goal if you find that it is no longer what you want.

5. Don’t listen to people who are negative about your dreams.

A person without dreams and goals is a very sad person indeed. They have nothing that pushes and drives them to put one foot in front of the other. Your goals don’t have to be giant and they don’t have to be something that everyone else agrees on. All they have to be is YOURS.

I once had a sky high goal of purchasing a property abroad. I spent hours researching, dreaming, saving money and telling all my friends how great it was going to be. Some people came out of the wood work to tell me how stupid it was to even consider doing so. I went ahead with my plan and did it anyway. That has been the single most exciting and wonderful thing I have ever done. Set your goals sky high and go after them. If you “fail,” think of a another way to get what you want.

There are many ways to go about achieving goals. Keep thinking up new ones if the old ones don’t work.

6. Prepare yourself for what you know is coming.

This is vital. Those who know me know that I am a musician and an instructor. The biggest barrier my students face is overcoming stage fright. This is crippling for so many people.

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My one piece of advice is prepare your act so well that you can perform it even if a volcano is erupting in front of you. Many times, stress is simply fear of the unknown. You never know what is going to happen and if you are well prepared, you know you will pull it off. You cannot deal with the uncertainties of performing or even making a presentation at work or asking for a raise unless you prepare your “act” in advance and allow for every possible unexpected occurrence.

This can be true for anything in life that you have difficulty with. I am sure that the best marriage proposals in history were very well rehearsed.

7. Stop listening to those nasty little doubts inside your head.

Those little doubts are not some unconscious positive influence. They are not angels or divine advice. They are internal sabotage mechanisms. Listen to them at your peril.

So many times I have seen people give up their dreams because of these stupid doubts. What I have also seen is that the more you listen to them and take their advice, the stronger they get and the weaker you get. How many brilliant people with brilliant ideas have been idle because they listened to their inner doubts?

There is nothing to be gained by running around inside your head and listening to those little creepy doubts that arise for no reason at all. Kick them to the curb. Instead say this to yourself: “I am strong and smart enough to do this. Anything that says otherwise is completely wrong and I won’t listen to it. I WILL keep going on my path.”

8. Stop looking for the bad in yourself and others and start looking for and praising the good.

This is something that turned my life around recently. I wrote a blog about it because it completely salvaged my relationship with my children. As an artist and instructor, I am constantly looking for tiny imperfections that, when corrected, make my performance and those of my students better. As a result I can see the most imperceptible imperfections in anything. It is a blessing and a curse. I can use this to get my students to a very high level of perfection but, if not controlled, it can make it impossible for them to live up to what they believe my expectations are and theirs should be.

While it is good to see imperfections, it is bad to focus only on those. One must see the good and the perfect in people in order for them to have the confidence to go after and achieve their own goals. If you see and comment upon the good in people and ignore the bad habits and things that irritate you, you will build great relationships with others and your stress level will dramatically decrease.

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Try it! Go to the supermarket and find something you like about the clerk. Tell them you like their earrings or whatever. You will get a smile, a nice chat and you will have made someone’s day. Go practice this! It’s fun!

9. If your boss or job is stressing you out and you cannot find a way to change it, get a new job!

I know that changing jobs is very scary and that you may feel that there are no jobs out there. If this is the case, start looking! Sometimes, just knowing that there are jobs available can make your life that much less stressful. Don’t ignore other skills you have and a possible career change. Don’t ignore your dream career either.

If you hate your job, decide what your dream job is, find out all about it and start getting the skills together to go do it. The best day of my life was when I quit working in insurance and started teaching Music. I had been a musician for years and for some dorky reason thought I could not teach. I started doing it and have been doing it happily ever since. There is no more stress coming from my job at all.

What do you want to do? What skills do you have? Get started! You can get through the worst day at your job if you know you are doing something to create your dream job in the future.

10. Go find someone to help and help them.

There is NOTHING more empowering than helping someone else. And there is no more powerful idea a person can have about himself or herself than the fact that they are worthy of being helped.

When you carry someone’s groceries or hold the door open or (my favorite) buy their Girl Scout cookies, you are letting them know they are worthy of being helped. It is a very powerful and sometimes life-changing message.

Also, give someone else the chance to help you. This empowers them because they have given you the gift of recognizing that you exist and are worthy too. If everyone did these things, not only would their stress levels decrease dramatically, but the world would be a much more comfortable, safe and friendly place.

In all of these points, the most important thing I have found, is to be true to your integrity. Know what you know and stick to your guns. Sometimes when you make changes like this to take control of your life, there will be people who don’t agree and sometimes even blow ups occur. Believe me, it’s better to let things blow up and recognize them for what they are than to allow them to go on being hidden parasites that drain your life of pleasure and meaning and stifle your productivity. Blow ups are soon forgotten but energy draining factors continue to ruin your life if they are not handled.

Be brave! Start looking at these things and handle them when you find them. Pick the one that you think affects you the most and handle that one first, then go down the list and handle the rest.  Your new life awaits!

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Chris Ellis

Successful Author, Life Coach and Musician

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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