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Last Updated on April 23, 2020

How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life

How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “If I only had (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t have to worry anymore”? Maybe you don’t think that consciously, but most of us do unconsciously. It’s hard to overcome those deeply ingrained beliefs around stressors in life.

“You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer

We all have stressors in life, things we worry about and keep us awake at night. Stress is a normal part of life. It tells us when we’re in danger, but too much of it can compromise our health. It can cause irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Stress can even weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to illnesses.

In this article, I am going to discuss the 5 most common stressors in life[1], and give you some suggestions for dealing with them more effectively, so you can live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

1. Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is the most common stressor in life for many people. It can come from tensions with co-workers or a boss, work overload, or simply the nature of the work, such as law enforcement. Whatever the case, there are things you can do to reduce the stress. Here are some effective strategies.[2]

Start Your Day Off Right

Many of us are stressed out before we even arrive at work. We may have children to get ready and off to school, other responsibilities to tend to, and traffic with angry drivers to deal with.

Start your day off right by getting up early enough to take care of your responsibilities, eat properly, and cultivate a positive attitude. This reduces the likelihood of feeling all out of sorts when you arrive at work.

“Today is not just another day. It’s a new opportunity, another chance, a new beginning. Embrace it.”

Know Exactly What Is Expected of You

Many of us are not entirely clear about what our boss expects from us. This usually happens in smaller companies that may not be as organized as larger companies. It’s important to know what’s expected of you, so you can avoid unnecessary tensions.

Communication is the key to avoiding this type of conflict. If you’re not sure what your boss expects of you, then ask. There is nothing wrong with asking your boss to clarify his requirements. In fact, it demonstrates that you are conscientious and sincerely interested in doing a good job. Bosses like that.

Stay Organized

A disorganized work environment creates a great deal of stress. You always feel rushed because you’re not sure where things are, you misjudge the time required to perform tasks, and you’re not clear on your goals and objectives.

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To reduce stress, organize your work environment a little. You don’t need to go overboard. Start by organizing your work area, so you can easily find your tools. Then organize your time. Determine how long it should take you to perform certain tasks, and try to dedicate the necessary time and avoid unnecessary distractions.

Forget multitasking. The efficiencies of multitasking are a myth. Studies have shown that people are more productive when they focus on one task at a time.

Stay Away From Unnecessary Conflict

Much of the conflict at work is unavoidable. Each person has his/her own responsibilities, which may conflict with those of others. However, workplace drama is unnecessary and counterproductive. The best thing to do is to avoid this kind of conflict and save yourself the aggravation and stress. Treat everyone with respect, avoid gossip, and avoid sensitive topics like politics and religion.

With conflicts in responsibilities, a good strategy for dealing with them is to communicate your goals and objectives when they seem to conflict with those of co-workers. Remember, you’re all on the same team trying to achieve the goals of the company. Take a teamwork approach and talk things out.

2. Financial Stress

Finances are another common stressor in life. We worry about paying the rent, a mortgage, car loans, utilities, and food. We also worry about our investments, especially if we’re nearing retirement.

Now, you may think that simply having more money will take away these worries, but that isn’t necessarily so. Even wealthy people worry about finances. They worry about how their investment projects are doing and about people suing them just to get money from them.

Here are some suggestions for reducing financial stress.[3]

Live Within Your Means

One of the biggest mistakes people make is spending more money than they have. Credit card companies are quick to give you credit cards with high interest rates, so it’s easy to overextend yourself.

To avoid this mistake, keep track of your finances, and avoid the temptation to buy things you can’t afford. Also, give yourself a cushion. Set some money aside for unexpected expenses, such as car or home repairs. It’s a good idea to put money in a savings account every month, even if it’s a small amount. You will certainly need it later.

Educate Yourself on Finances

For those of you who do not have a background in finance, handling money responsibly can be a challenge. Professional football players were notorious for making millions during their short careers, and then ending up broke when they could no longer play.

Now the NFL gives rookie players a course in financial management so that they invest their money wisely and don’t spend it all. This is a good strategy for everyone. Some important things to learn are:

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  • Managing a checking a account
  • Using credit cards wisely
  • Borrowing money
  • Making large purchases (home, car)
  • Investing for retirement

Learning basic finances isn’t all that complicated. Once you have some understanding of finances, you can avoid the stress that comes from the unknown. There are many great books and courses to learn from.

Ask for Help

If you feel lost or unsure about making financial decisions, it’s OK to ask someone for help. Make sure it’s someone you trust. Don’t entrust your finances with somebody you don’t know well. There are many unscrupulous people eager to take advantage of others.

I would suggest consulting a loved one or a trusted friend. Parents are a great resource. Chances are they’ve been in your shoes. Learn from their mistakes, instead of yours.

Remember What’s Important in Life

Many of us experience financial hardships at some point in our lives. There is always going to be another recession in the future. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I had some friends who made a great deal of money in real estate in the early 2000s. When the great recession hit in 2009, they lost everything.

“The most important things in life aren’t things.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

It is during these times that we need to remember that there are other things more important than money, such as our relationships, good health, and peace of mind. We can cultivate these things without a lot of money.

It is a good idea to be mindful of the important things in your life before you experience financial hardship. This way you won’t be caught by surprise.

3. Health Related Stress

For many people, illness is one of the biggest stressors in life. This is more common when we get older, when our body begins to decline. When we’re young, we’re more resilient, and we can recover much more quickly from injuries and illnesses.

Experiencing an illness is frightening because, until we get it diagnosed and treated, we usually don’t know what is happening to our body, or if we will recover. When we don’t understand what is happening to us, we usually assume the worst. However, there are things we can do to reduce the stress associated with health issues.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

The approach I’ve taken to reduce health related stress is to avoid poor health as much as possible. Since I was in my early 20s, I’ve tried to live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve eaten healthy foods, and in moderation. I’ve also exercised regularly and maintained an active lifestyle, so I’ve never been overweight.

I’ve also avoided abusing my body with risky activities and activities that cause a lot of wear and tear on my body. For example, when I was younger I was involved in bodybuilding in order to stay in shape. I wanted to compete, but I realized that would entail taking training and supplementation to an extreme that would compromise my good health. I wasn’t willing to do that.

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Know Your Risks

Many of us have certain risk factors that are unique to each of us. Some may be genetic, such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, or cancer. Whatever the case, learn your family history of health issues.

It’s important to talk to your parents. Sometimes they don’t want to talk about sensitive issues, but it’s necessary for your good health. I know of one case where a man’s father didn’t tell him that he had had colon cancer. With the son not being aware of the high risk, he didn’t look for it when he was young and developed the cancer. He’s still alive today but has undergone a great deal of unnecessary pain and suffering.

4. Relationship Stress

Relationships are one of the greatest stressors in life, especially for younger people. We usually aren’t taught how to have good, healthy relationships. This is something we learn through experience and a lot of heartache.

When we’re inexperienced with relationships, we usually let our emotions make our decisions for us. We get involved with people that we’re not compatible with, but who we care for deeply. If we’re not compatible, then we engage in power struggles, each person trying to exert his or her will in the relationship. This leads to a lot of stress because we feel like we lack control.

One of the keys to less stressful relationships is communication. It’s important to be open about how we feel, which isn’t always easy, and what we’re looking for in the relationship. Sometimes you can work things out, and sometimes you can’t. If you can’t, then you need to move on before each of you has too much invested in the relationship, which makes it harder to end later.

Another key to less stressful relationships is maturity. It takes wisdom and mature emotions to not create unnecessary conflict and drama. I’m afraid these just take time and experience to develop. It’s one of the things you can look forward to when you get older.

5. Poor Nutrition

Another stressor in life is poor nutrition. Most of us are not fully aware of how the things we consume can raise our stress level. Here are a few examples[4]:

  • Drinking Too Much Coffee – While coffee has many benefits, too much can increase stress by raising the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Eating Foods that Increase Cortisol Levels – There are other foods that raise your cortisol levels, such as refined sugars and simple carbohydrates, red meats, fried foods, and other foods high in fat.
  • Skipping Meals – In addition to providing us with the proper nutrients to maintain good health, stopping to eat gives us a break from our busy day, which allows us to relax and de-stress.
  • Not Drinking Water – This is basically the same as skipping meals. Our body needs water to function properly, and stopping to take a drink gives us a short break.
  • Eating Compulsively – We sometimes eat as a reaction to stress, and we usually make poor choices of what to eat when this happens.

Educate Yourself on Basic Health and Nutrition

You can eliminate a lot of health related stress by knowing what is happening in your body. Basic health and nutrition is part of most education programs in grade school and college. It may not seem too important when you’re young, but it is because how you treat your body when you’re young will affect your health when you’re older. So, pay attention in class, and try to put into practice what you learn.

It is also a good idea to keep learning. Nowadays, there is a wealth of good information on the Internet about almost every health issue you can think of. Every time I have something that ails me, I research it. I find out what the cause is and look for natural remedies. If it is something serious and beyond my capability to treat on my own, then I go to the doctor prepared to have an intelligent discussion about the issue.

In order to live a healthy lifestyle, you don’t have to follow such a strict diet and exercise regimen. Mainly eat foods that are healthy, in smaller meals, and more often. Also, try to stay physically active.

Keep in mind that healthy food isn’t necessarily bland and tasteless. I eat lots of delicious foods and desserts. And by staying physically active, I eat as much as I want without gaining any weight, even as I’ve gotten older, and so can you.

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Meditation

When it comes to dealing with stressors in life, mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool.

Meditation doesn’t necessarily solve your problems, but it does enable you deal with them much better. In addition, it calms your mind, which leads to calmer emotions.

Mindfulness meditation is easy to practice, and you don’t have to meditate for long periods to get the benefits. If you’re new to meditation, just sit quietly for 5-10 minutes following your breath. Do this several times a week, and you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel, and you won’t react so much to things that trigger your fears, anger, or anxiety.

Final Thoughts

Most of us long for peace and tranquility in our lives. When we’re young, we tend to think that once we get or achieve certain things, we’ll be able to relax. Those of you who are middle age or older have probably realized the fallacy of this way of thinking.

“By changing your attitude, you also change your perspective and change your life.” – Roy Bennett

We all have stressors in life, things that cause us to worry about our future. That’s natural. It is the unpredictable nature of the stressors that make us feel insecure and not in control.

However, it’s not really those things that cause us the stress, but rather how we view them. Thereore, if you want to lower your stress level, you need to change the way you mentally process the circumstances in your life. To accomplish this, you basically need to do three things:

  1. Choose wisely the things that are truly important in your life.
  2. Arm yourself with information about your stressors, so you have more control over your future.
  3. Learn to live with the remaining uncertainty.

If you can do these three things, then you can enjoy your life to the greatest extent possible. The suggestions outlined in this article will help you get there.

More Tips on Handling Stress

Featured photo credit: Gift Habeshaw via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The American Institute of Stress: What Is Stress?
[2] Very Well Mind: 9 Simple Ways to Deal With Stress at Work
[3] American Psychological Association: Dealing with Financial Stress
[4] Exploring Your Mind: Stress and Poor Nutrition

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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