Statistics show that Americans feel 44% more stressed today than 5 years ago, with 1 in 5 Americans experiencing extreme stress, meaning shaking, heart palpitations, and depression. And those numbers will continue to rise. Today, stress can be attributed to 60% of all human illness. In fact, 3 out of 4 doctors visits are for stress-related ailments.
- The risk of heart disease by 40%
- The risk of stroke by 50%
- The risk of heart attack by 25%
Sounding familiar? If you have spent countless hours feeling stressed about one thing or another, you are not alone. You and I both know high-stress levels can lead to poor productivity, poor health (physical and mental) and can often result in difficult relationships. Stress itself causes more stress.
The top 5 things Americans stress about are:
- Personal Relationships
But, what do we do about it? We’ve all heard the typical responses: Eat healthy, exercise, make lists, sleep more. All of those are excellent things to incorporate into your daily routine, and will significantly impact your quality of life, but sometimes we need to take things a step further and take actionable steps to help reduce our stress levels. Simple mindset shifts can help improve your mental strength, allowing you to control the thoughts that keep you from breaking free of your stressful day.
Don’t Focus On What You Can’t Control
The field of psychology has a term called locus of control. It essentially means that we decide what is within our control and what isn’t based on our own belief systems. You either have an external locus (i.e. your life depends on fate, luck, destiny) or an internal locus (i.e. your life and future are completely within your own control) and that determines how you view your circumstances. It is important to find the right balance of control to reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
You can control your input, but you can not control the outcome.
- You can do your best at work, but you can not make your boss acknowledge your hard work.
- You can control your diet, but you can not always prevent illness.
- You can offer your advice, but you can not force someone to take it.
When you stop trying to control every aspect of your life and accept that your behavior affects your chances of achieving your desired outcome, but external factors can also play a role in your success, you will notice you have more energy to devote to the things you care about. You will also:
- Increase your happiness levels.
- Improve your relationships.
- Feel less stressed.
Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Do you often agree to do things because you don’t want someone to be mad at you for saying no? Do you ever change your values based on what other people say? Do you feel responsible for other peoples feelings? Is your greatest fear having people think you are selfish?
So often our self–worth becomes attached to the way we perceive other people’s thoughts about us, often leading to us taking on more responsibilities than we can handle, out of fear of disappointing someone. If you want to stress less, it is time to let those thoughts go! Think about this: Saying yes to one thing, means saying no to something else. That might be time with your own family, money for something that interests you or your own energy.
Take the time to do these things:
- Determine who you actually want to please. Your husband? Your parents? Your kids? Yourself?
- Determine what is important to you. Family? Faith? Career? Friendships? Free–time?
- When you are put in a situation where you need to say yes or no, think about who you care about most and what matters to you most, and determine your answer based on that ranking.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Alone Time
Spending time with yourself is important for so many reasons. If you are struggling to take time to yourself, consider the following:
- Spending time alone has been shown to increase productivity
- Spending time alone has been shown to boost creativity
- Spending time alone has been shown to improve mental health
With this busy, technology-crazed world, it can be difficult to carve out time for yourself every day, but there are small things you can do each day to practice being alone with your own thoughts. For example:
- Don’t scroll mindlessly through social media while waiting in line for coffee
- Reflect on your goals when stuck in traffic rather than listening to the radio
- Do a digital detox on the weekend
Set specific, measurable, realistic goals
This is where those typical self–care responses come in. Yes, they are important! There are plenty of ways to work towards having a less stressful day–to–day. The key is to set specific goals that you can measure the success of. They should be realistic, meaning you can set a date to achieve your goal, and it will be doable. Don’t set unattainable goals that will just contribute to your stress levels.
- Can you commit to working out 3 days a week? Mark them down in your planner at the beginning of the week, so you don’t schedule events over your workout.
- Pack your gym bag the night before, so you can put it in your car before work and drive right to the gym when you have free time.
- Wear a FitBit to help you track your steps each day.
- If you don’t have time to hit the gym, pull up an easy at–home workout, like this one.
- Pick a specific day to pay your bills and make it a habit.
- Have a mail bin close to the front door and go through it once a week.
- Keep a to-do list on the fridge so you can add grocery items to it throughout the week.
- Go on a cash budget. Keep envelopes for specific needs, such as eating out, entertainment, etc. and do not overspend.
- Download an app like Mint to keep your budget on track.
- Use apps like Ibotta to get cash back on purchases.