How to Identify the Sources of Stress in Your Life
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
One of the keys to managing stress is to realize where it's coming from. That may seem simple - doesn't stress come from stressful situations in your life? Yes and no. Sometimes, it's how you look at those situations that makes the difference.
If you're wondering how to change your stressful life, a good place to start is learning how to identify the sources of stress in your life. Then, you can work on your perception and attitude to help relieve stress.
1. Circumstances Won't Change
This may sound depressing at first; but think about it: waiting for everything to fall into place and be perfect in your life hasn't happened off so far, has it? The thing to realize is, tough circumstances are part of life. They may go away, or they may not; or if they do go away, they may well be replaced with something different but no less stressful (for example, your problematic child may grow up and leave home, but then your aging parents move in). The point is, you can't count on problems just evaporating.
Accepting that your circumstances are what they are (at least right now) can actually be very freeing. You can now take charge of your life because you have learned to let go what you can't control. So you can take hold of what you can control! And that would be your attitude, schedule, outlook, feelings, etc.
2. Take a Look at Yourself
You may be creating more of your stress than you realize. Be honest - is it the work deadlines or the fact that you procrastinate that stresses you out? Do you feel like you can't say no when people ask you to help? Are you "comfortable" with your stress and don't see any way out or way to change it?
3. You Can Change Things - Starting with You
Go over your schedule. Be honest about what stresses you - feeling rushed to get somewhere on time? Having relentless deadlines? Seemingly endless responsibilities? Go ahead and write them out - no one needs to see the list but you. Identify these things, then you can start to work on managing them.
4. Look at Your List - Is it You?
Some items on your list may be external circumstances - a death in the family, divorce, children leaving home, a new baby, loss of a job, insufficient income...the list can be a long one. Some of the items on your list may be internal, however, and be rooted in personal fears, discomfort with being out of control, beliefs and opinions that put pressure on you to act a certain way, etc.
5. Managing External and Internal Stress Triggers
Just because some triggers are external does not mean you can't take some control over how you respond. And internal triggers can also be managed, sometimes without outside help.
Managing external triggers might include:
-Learning to say no
-Asking for help
-Learning effective time management
Managing internal triggers could involve the following:
-Training your thoughts to be more positive
-Identifying negative thought patterns and challenging them
-Meditating and/or relaxation techniques (like yoga or stretching)
Once you identify the sources of stress in your life, you can evaluate your choices and then manage them effectively.