How to Not Stress Yourself Out More Than You Already Are

If you weren’t already aware of it, life is already pretty stressful and overwhelming, so if you’re doing things to increase your stress without knowing it, there may be some blind spots that you want to consider.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, especially in our modern living. We are bombarded and inundated with needs, requests, digital overwhelm, traffic, responsibilities, and financial obligations.

We play many roles in our lives, including parents, husband or wife, employee, baseball coach for your kid, son or daughter, etc. Stress will inevitably be a part of those experiences, and how you handle it may make or break you and the way that you approach your life.

We’re going to talk about some things that you might want to consider if you are adding stress to your already stressful situation. You may not know what you don’t know, so read on.

Are you aware of the possible ways that you might be contributing to your own stress? Have you ever really stopped to consider that maybe you’re making it worse to a certain degree?

Most people don’t. It’s really easy to get caught up in day-to-day living, and fall into routines and mindless living. We wake up, get dressed and go to work, come home, and crash, and then do it all over again. It’s hard to really stop, assess the big picture, and consider what is going on with things, so that things can be tweaked or altered to improve your overall approach to stress.

Right out of the gate, if your eating habits, sleep schedule, and exercise routines are problematic or non-existent, you’re going to have a lot higher stress levels, for sure.

If you’re not eating the right foods, getting the right sleep, and exercising on some kind of regular basis, your experience of stress will increase. I’m not going talk to much about this on this post, as I’ve blogged about this before.

Giving Too Much Away to Others

One of the things that I see people getting into problems with is overpromising to others, or taking on too much in their lives without saying no.

People want to be of assistance, be needed, or generally like to help and please others, but don’t know when to cut off and create a balance between taking care of others and taking care of themselves. I know this happens a lot with mothers at home, but I also talk with guys wear this happens, as well. It’s a zero sum game with energy, as there’s only so much of it to go around in your finite life and schedule.

Learning how to drawn healthy boundaries with others, your work, and your other obligations is key. Start by assessing your life energy, and how much of it goes where.

How much energy is not going to the places it should be going? Are you getting feedback from those in your life (friends, spouse, kids, boss, etc.) that they’re not getting the best of you, or that there are problems in the relationships that you have with them? Those are the best, first indicators that you might be taking on too much and not leaving room for other things and people.

How to Diagnose Your Stress: From Your Feelings

If you’re working a full-time job, and have kids and a family, the balancing act becomes even more important to achieve. If it doesn’t happen, typically frustration, resentment, and other negative feelings tend to accumulate. For a lot of men who don’t know how to express themselves, this keeps building up over time, and it affects one’s internal stress levels, as well as other relationships around them. It may manifest as headaches, body aches, general malaise, indifference or numbing, or a feeling of wanting to withdraw from the world and from people. It may go as far as depression, or at least dysthymia, which is a lesser form of depression.

I also see men withdraw and avoid other people when their stressors are piling up and they don’t have an outlet. A lot of these guys also don’t know how to take care of them selves, which is another point but I want to talk about now. Withdrawing actually will speed up and worsen stress in a number of ways, including by not attending to the stress management needs you may have (diet, exercise, meditation, getting out with friends) or attending to the important relationships in your life.

Knowing when you hit your limit is an essential part of the process of helping yourself. If you feel like you keep taking stress in, over and over again, with no output, things are going to keep building up and will manifest as either physical stress, mental or emotional stress, anger or irritability, or general withdrawal and disconnection. This is where the unhappiness starts, if it hadn’t started long before this point.

Being able to language the stuff is important, because if you can’t language it and communicate it to other people in your life, they’re going to have no idea what’s going on with you. You’re going to be suffering in silence and not feel like anyone really gets what you’re going through, which would be true, because you haven’t said anything to the people that matter. It’s important to be able to recognize that experience of stress, and identify some of your feelings about it (e.g. overwhelm, “drowning”, exhaustion, pain, etc.). You need to be able to call it something, and then get the help that you need.

Also being proactive about stress management is much more effective than being reactive. It’s easier to get things in place in your life and do them as often as you need to, rather than just pulling things off the shelf in a crisis.

For example, what I mean is that if you’re experiencing stress headaches, anger, or your relationships are starting to suffer, those are signs that you’ve waited too long to manage your stress.

After identifying the problems, and seeing them come up over and over again, it would be advisable to start to come up with some long-term solutions, meaning proactive ways that you can identify, diagnose, and prevent or minimize those stressors in your life from taking over.

Coming up with routines or simple solutions that accumulate over time is advisable when you’re trying to integrate stress management techniques. Meaning, come up with things that you can do quickly, they don’t take a lot of effort, time, or money, but that you can build into a routine or regular part of your life. You may have to experiment with what works in your life, and how it will fit into your busy schedule. This will be considered time for yourself, and no one else.

For starters, you can get to bed and get up at the same time like clockwork. You can also prepare for making bulk your food for the week, so that you’re not leaving yourself susceptible to stress, anger, or irritation because you haven’t eaten.

Do a weekly check in with yourself for an hour first thing Sunday morning, and take yourself out for coffee and journal about the previous week and see what stressors you experienced, and how you dealt with them. Come up with practical solutions when you hit your limits, and have conversations with those that need to know what you’re dealing with. It won’t be considered “unmanly” to talk about those things. Those stereotypes of “handling it all” are fast fading.

Learning how to name the stress, put a finger on it, and know that it’s actually there is good for starters. You have to be able to know that your stress is there in order to be able to deal with it. Learning how to communicate it, even if it opens you up to vulnerability. Without opening up, your loved ones actually may get the reverse from you, which is pushing them out or getting your anger. Neither one of those well help you deal with your stress of hand. They will just exacerbate it.

Learning how to deal with your stress can take time, and sometimes it’s a whole lot of trial and error so that you figure out what’s good for you. The idea here is that life is already stressful, but you might be making it infinitely more stressful on yourself in the ways that you’re living your life, or failing to.

Take a good look at your life now, see what’s working and what’s not, and commit to making minor weekly changes. Pick one or two things a week, and get an accountability partner, even your spouse or significant other. Commit to making one or two minor changes over a course of time, say 30 days, in the spirit of trying to reduce your stress or not actively work to increase it. Check results at the end, and make notes.

Dealing with stress is essentially developing the good relationship you have with yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight, and new stressors are always introduced as we get older. Without that first hand knowledge and awareness, we don’t know what we don’t know, and are often left to the grip of stress without forethought and proper planning.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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