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8 Things That Stress You Out That You Should Ignore

8 Things That Stress You Out That You Should Ignore

If you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out consistently, you might actually be a victim of your own thoughts/decisions. There are many things that can cause stress, but here are eight things that can stress you out that you should simply ignore.

Negative People In Your Life

Commonly referred to as “da hatas”, these people will criticize you every chance they get. Especially when you try something a little different, or you dare to challenge the status quo. In a world where it’s easy to make Facebook friends, but not so easy to make real connections, it can be incredibly hard to “dump” your negative friends. In most cases, you can sort the problem out by ignoring their negative input, and if you realize that’s all they have to offer, ignoring them completely and stopping spending time with them.

The Opinions Of Strangers

Something that can be a rather overwhelming source of stress, is the prospect of the opinions of strangers. Typically this concerns people the most during high school, but many keep being haunted by this concept throughout their twenties, or even their entire lives.

Not only do the opinions of strangers not matter at all, it’s unlikely they even care enough about you to make up one about you. Sure they may look at your fancy suit, and your fancy car, and think “he seems rich” or “oh great, another wealthy douche moved into my neighborhood” but it’s unlikely they’re going to dwell on you for any amount of time after that.

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You can take solace in the fact that even if you’re about to speak to a large group of strangers, no matter how badly you flop, they will likely forget about you completely at some point during the next hour. Another thing that can help to remember, is that the most visible parts of our society are the extremes, the very best, and the very worst. Sure the only speeches you see online are either amazing or mindblowingly terrible and hilarious fails, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t millions of average speeches in buried in there somewhere.

What Your Parents (or Others) Think Is Best For You

This can be a tough one, as your parents will often use the “life experience” card, and many times rightfully so. (Other times they are just plain wrong.) But even if they are right, in life, it’s important to have your own failures and reach your own conclusions, not always simply receiving and following guidance from “more experienced individuals”. Don’t let what your parents think you should be doing stress you out while you’re out there doing what is best for you at this time.

If they are always on your case, and getting in the way of your work/project/studies, you can always let them in on your secret (fake or real) back-up plan to do what they want you to do, if your current endeavor fails.

Your Ideals

If you’re doing any kind of creative work, it’s easy to get stuck, never feeling quite ready to release it, or move on to the next project, because it’s “just not right.” Ira Glass describes this problem as “the gap”, between how you feel good creative work should be, and your current ability. Watch this video to help you overcome this tendency.

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And if you’re stressed out about not being the person you want to be, don’t. Nobody is their own ideal person. Even the greatest people you can think of had their own flaws. Either you learn to accept them, or you choose to slowly tackle one area at a time, and focus your energy towards improvement rather than worrying.

Or if you’re one of those people that have a 100% clear idea of what your perfect partner looks like.

Resistance

Sometimes things are difficult. Sometimes you keep running into barrier after barrier after barrier, and you can’t seem to get into any sort of acceptable pace. Instead of focusing on the barriers, and indeed, expecting more of them and letting that stress you out, focus solely on the process of overcoming them and learning from every experience. Instead of getting stuck in an “Oh God why did this happen again??” pattern of thought, instead immediately think “How can I overcome this problem? Have I run into a similar problem before?” And focus your energy on moving forward.

Your Expectations

It’s funny how your expectations of something stressful happening can be almost as stressful as something stressful happening. And while it’s healthy to remain realistic, and be open to possibilities, it’s counterproductive to remain overly focused on worst-case scenarios you cannot prevent or do anything about, as it will only cause stress and is unlikely to yield any valuable insights. Instead quickly consider a few things that could go wrong where countermeasures are available, take the countermeasures and move forward.

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Another thing that can cause stress, is expecting something to go well, or a certain way, only to experience that it doesn’t. For everyday matters, it can be better to try to expect nothing, or as much of a neutral result as possible, and focus on enjoying the process instead.

Your Self-Criticism

Now don’t get me wrong, a certain amount of self-critique is necessary to remain sane. But after a point, it can not only become a dominant source for stress, it can lead to a downward spiral towards depression. While having the self-insight to realize when you’ve messed up is good, things start to turn bad when you dwell on those mistakes, and then infer that you have some deep character flaw that is causing you to make this mistake, and similar ones, earlier. Of course, the second you start believing that this character flaw exists, it becomes more and more apparent, (as it becomes easier and easier to use it as an excuse to make bad choices). The most obvious example is laziness. Half a generation is crippled by their self-affirmed belief that they are too lazy to go out and actually do things. And because they’ve told themselves so many times, it’s no longer debatable. You can’t even suggest to these people that they have the potential to change, because it’s simply “part of who they are”.

Thankfully, avoiding this is rather straight forward. When reflecting on mistakes, accept the blame when the fault is yours, but don’t try to conceptualize the flaws in your character that lead to this mistake. And always remember to challenge any negative conclusions you reach about yourself. If you find yourself thinking “I’m just lazy!.” Simply ask this: “Am I really? Has there never been a time when I have proven to be the exact opposite?” It can be hard to stay objective when you’re in a bad mood, but give yourself some time. Think of a few examples and avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of “laziness”.

Worry About Being Stressed

If you feel that you’re too stressed all the time, it can become a source for more worry and stress. Some studies even suggest that the adverse effects of stress come mostly from the belief that stress is harmful for you. (Watch this video.) So if you have a rather stressful job, or life in general, learn to welcome it as a boost of energy, to join hands with it and become friends, and you will not only likely feel less stressed/worried in your free time, but you can reduce the negative health effects that many associate with prolonged periods of stress.

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Although there are many more things you can obsess over and stress yourself out, I think we’ve established a few ways you can deal with this tendency and reduce your stress through conscious choices, and conscious thoughts.

Featured photo credit: Stefan Neuweger via flickr.com

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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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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