Stress is so much a part of our everyday lives, what with the expectations of a 24/7 society, the ‘always on’ nature of social media, the pressures of work, and the general busyness of our personal and professional lives.
Stress is now the most common reason for people taking time off work. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 526,000 people took time off work for a mental health condition during 2016-17 – leading to the loss of 12.5 million working days. And those figures are rising.
Pressure comes from all angles, it seems. Yet sometimes the worst stress can come from the pressure you put on yourself. You can develop behaviours that serve only to exacerbate your stress, and you can end up in a loop where you’re constantly stressed and can’t find a way to relax. Does that feel familiar? That’s certainly our experience working with clients who approach us for counselling and psychotherapy. The stress in their lives has prompted them to reach out for help so they can achieve some balance.
Here we’ve identified five ways you might stress yourself out – and how to stop.
Ruminating over what you’ve said or done, and what others have said or done to you, can take up an awful lot of thinking time. Trawling over the events of yesterday and wondering how you could have done things differently is a major source of self-stress.
How to stop: You may like to try some mindfulness techniques that support you in being present with yourself and your surroundings, rather than running a script of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Allow your thoughts to come and go and treat them as thoughts, not facts.
2. Worrying about the future
They say that worrying too much about the future merely robs you of the present. Fretting about what might or might not happen is an activity that may delude you into feeling better, but in reality it can deplete you.
How to stop: Allow yourself a time in the day which is ‘worry time’. This could be around 20 minutes when you’re permitted to worry all you like. When that time is up, you return to everyday life and get on with things.
3. Being a perfectionist
If you can’t let things go, and need to work on perfecting everything you do – whether it’s hosting a dinner party, producing a top-notch presentation, or making cupcakes for your child’s school fete – then life can feel exhausting. Perfectionism can have its plus points, but if the effort to perfect is draining you then this can have a severe effect on your stress levels.
How to stop: Allow yourself to be average, rather than perfect. Trust that there won’t be a punishment for not being the best at absolutely everything you do. Test this out with something that has low stakes for you and see how it feels to survive not being perfect. Then you can apply it to other things in life that matter more.
4. Expecting others to do what you want
The high expectations you have of yourself may sometimes be projected onto those around you. You may have a scenario in mind that you are determined will happen. If others don’t fit into this plan then you can feel let down, angry, disappointed or resentful.
How to stop: Work out what you have some control over, what you don’t, and learn to know the difference. Have a mantra in your head that reminds you that you can’t control what others say, do, feel or think.
5. Having poor boundaries
If you say yes to everything, without even thinking before you reply, then you can end up feeling overworked, under-appreciated, and resentful that you’ve got to carry a bigger burden than anyone else. You may feel taken for granted by those around you – yet you have partly created this dynamic by allowing people to take advantage of you.
How to stop: The easiest way to stop stressing yourself out this way is to say no to things you don’t want to do. This may require you to identify your core values, so that the things you say yes to are aligned to your core purpose.
If your stress levels are becoming too much and you could benefit from professional support to help create a less stressful life, get in touch. We have therapists available seven days a week at our Clapham and Tooting centres, with no waiting list. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] to book an initial appointment.