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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better

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How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “If I only had (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t have to worry anymore”? 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 that keep us awake at night. Everyone experiences stress due to life events, but chronic stress 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.

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, 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, which your boss will appreciate.

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Stay Organized

A disorganized work environment creates a great deal of stress and negatively affects your mental health. 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.

To reduce stress, organize your work environment a little. Start by organizing your work area, so you can easily find your tools and papers.

Then, organize your time by determining how long it should take you to perform certain tasks, and try to dedicate the necessary time and avoid unnecessary distractions.

Forget multitasking, as 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 day-to-day 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 stressful events 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.

2. Financial Stress

Finances are another of the common stressors 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.

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.

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

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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. 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.

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[4].

Now the NFL gives rookie players a course in financial management so that they invest their money wisely. This is a good strategy for everyone. Some important things to learn are:

  • 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.

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, as 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, as well. Learn from their mistakes, instead of yours.

3. Health-Related Stress

For many people, health problems like illness and injury are some 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. 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.

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I’ve also avoided abusing my body with risky activities. 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, which I wasn’t willing to do.

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.

4. Relationship Stress

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

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.

Communicate

One of the keys to less stressful relationships is communication. It’s important to be open about how we feel 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.

Practice Maturity

Another key to less stressful relationships is maturity. It takes wisdom and mature emotions to not create unnecessary conflict and drama. These take time and experience to develop, but by being aware of how you’re acting, you can begin to learn these skills.

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[5]:

  • 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: 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. Nowadays, there is a wealth of good information on the Internet about almost every health issue you can think of.

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.

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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.

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, but 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. Therefore, 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.

More Tips on Handling Stress

Featured photo credit: Ivan Aleksic via unsplash.com

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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] Forbes: NFL Players Need A Playbook When Managing Their Financial Future
[5] 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 September 16, 2021

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

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Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

Reference

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