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Top Stressful Situations

Reduce Stress Be Eliminating Top Stressful Situations


Updated January 06, 2012

Some stressful situations in our lives can leave us feeling drained of energy and chronically stressed. We may experience low-grade chronic stress, but not realize where it is coming from, or experience recurring acute stress without realizing that it can be minimized or avoided. The following are some of the most commonly-experienced sources of stress, with information on how to manage these common stressful situations.

1. Toxic Relationships

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The type of stress we experience from conflicted relationships is particularly damaging. In fact, the stress of a sometimes-positive, sometimes-negative relationship (like what you would have with a "frenemy") can be more taxing than the stress from a relationship that is always negative and conflicted. These types of relationships can lead to rumination, anxiety, anger, and chronic stress, all of which can have a negative impact on your happiness and health.

If you find yourself in the stressful situation of having toxic relationships in your life, it is important to work on either improving them or cutting them out. Communication techniques such as assertiveness and good listening can help resolve many conflicts. However, we can only work on ourselves, and can only improve relationships to a point before the other person needs to work, too. Creating healthy boundaries is important as well, and can save stress for all involved. Certain combinations of people are sometimes just not a good match, and sometimes distance is the best way to manage this challenge--either through very strong personal boundaries, or by letting go of the relationship entirely.

By identifying your toxic relationships, and working to either improve or eliminate them, you can cut out ond of the more stressful situations you may face.

2. Clutter In Your Envioronment

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Many of us may not realize this right away, but maintaining a cluttered environment can contribute considerably to stress levels. There are several ways in which this happens. We may find ourselves spending extra time looking for things in our disorganized area, draining our schedule of time. We may feel that we can't have anyone over, or fully utilize our space, a situation that may drain our energy as well. Just sitting in a cluttered space may present a subtle but tangible drain on our mental energy as our mind work to process everything around us, leading to a feeling of inner chaos, and perhaps a subconscious awareness of the work it would require to clean.

Everyone has their own clutter comfort zone, but if you feel that you may have a more cluttered space than you would like, this is a stressful situation that should be addressed. Whether you take ten minutes a night to chip away at the piles that surround you, or take a weekend to clear out and organize, you will likely find that the results are more than worth the effort that you put in, as you find yourself in a more serene, relaxing environment day in and day out.

By culling your clutter, organizing, and creating a peaceful space for yourself, you can turn a stressful living situation (or working environment) into a space that works for you.

3. Clutter In Your Lifestyle

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If you're like most people, you have a little clutter in your lifestyle that takes the form of various different time drains and energy wasters known as "tolerations." These are things that cause minor stress that you simply tolerate, not realizing how the stress can add up. Common tolerations are obligations we agree to (because we hate to say no), unhealthy habits we put up with in our lives (because we don't want to do the work to quit), or any of a number of other things that make us feel stressed and are unnecessary. Having a life filled with tolerations can lead to the feeling of "being pecked to death by ducks." While the stress created by any one of these may not be a supremely stressful situation in itself, the overall feeling you get from the buildup of several of these can feel draining, or sometimes overwhelming.

The first step is to identify your tolerations, so you can eventually prioritize which ones to eliminate first, and start cutting tolerations out of your life one by one. This may seem like a bit of work, but the more tolerations you eliminate, the more motivation and energy you'll have to work on cutting out the rest. You'll end up with more time and more energy, and fewer stressful situations in your life.

4. Burnout-Inducing Aspects Of Your Job

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Burnout is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, lack of motivation, increased pessimism, and other negative signs, and can lead to lowered immunity, lack of productivity, and worse. Certain job and lifestyle factors can contribute to burnout, including situations where you feel a lack of control, a lack of adequate recognition or compensation, unclear requirements, high penalties for mistakes, and other stress-inducing factors. Avoiding these factors, or compensating for them, is very important for your overall happiness.

While you can't always control all of the factors that you deal with at your job, or in other areas of your life, you can add certain factors to your life to relieve stress, and add others that can give you what you may be lacking. For example, you can be sure to take time off to renew your motivation, share your triumphs with colleagues as a way to give each other the recognition you may lack at your job, and keep the rest of your life as low-stress as possible. Learn more about how to find greater satisfaction at your current job.

5. Self-Defeating Thoughts

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Facing stressors with the wrong attitude can make things worse. Negative thought patterns can make any stressful situation feel more stressful, and can even make situations seem stressful when they wouldn't feel that way otherwise. This happens for a few reasons. First, our stress response is triggered when we have a perception threat to our physical or emotional well-being, or when we perceive that we do not have the necessary resources to handle a situation well. When we view a situation more positively (i.e. as a "challenge" rather than as a "threat," or when we remind ourselves of our strengths and other resources rather than ruminating on what could go wrong), the situation is perceived as being less of a threat, less stressful.

There are several effective ways to combat self-defeating thoughts. One of the most effective steps you can take is to simply become more aware of your self-defeating thoughts and thinking patterns, so you can rethink them and choose different, more empowering thoughts. Another strategy is to use journaling and affirmations to get into the habit of more positive thinking. If you find yourself trapped in habitually negative thought patterns and rumination, developing a meditation practice can help you to maintain some mental distance, and return with a more positive frame of mind. Finally, learning relaxation techniques can help with positive thinking if you are under heavy levels of stress because they can help you to get out of a mode of stressed thinking, and approach situations from a more balanced place.

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