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Stress comes in many different forms, and in many cases it’s unavoidable, but today I want to talk about some of the more subtle forms of stress that we might not even realize are having an effect on us.
It’s true that what seems only mildly stressful to one person may be extremely stressful to someone else, and we’re all effected to different degrees by the various stressors in our lives. It’s also true, though, that we can be unaware of the things that are causing us stress until they have been removed from our lives.
Since there are so many stressful situations and circumstances in our lives that are difficult or even impossible to control, I wanted to highlight a few potential stressors that we can have some control over (at least some of the time.)
Everyone’s different, and some of us are more sensitive to these things than others are, but I think we can all benefit from being aware of the fact that some of these things could be subtle, hidden sources of stress in our daily lives.
Hidden Sources of Stress:
Clutter has always been something that I never realize is making me feel stressed until I actually tidy things up and breathe a sigh of relief that everything is neat and organized again. Chaotic, crowded environments of any sort feel stressful to me, and that includes having a messy house.
Clutter can be stressful because it makes it easier to lose things you need, but it can also be stressful because the visual impact of having too many things scattered around in disarray can make your mind feel cluttered and chaotic too. When I bring clutter back under control I always find myself feeling a bit more relaxed.
Multitasking might seem like a great way to get a lot accomplished at once, but the reality is that most of us aren’t actually as good at is as we think we are. Studies have been done that show that even though we might think we’re doing several different activities at the same time, are brains are really only able to focus on one thing at a time, and what we think of as multitasking is really just our brains rapidly switching from one thing to the next to the next.
Some people are better at juggling many different things than other people are, but in general, most of us would probably feel more relaxed and more productive if we focused on one thing at a time. As much as we’re able to, of course. It’s nearly impossible to avoid multitasking altogether.
I’ve found that minimizing unnecessary distractions helps me to focus better. When I started writing this blog post, for example, I had about a dozen browser tabs open on my computer, and I found myself switching back and forth between writing this post to checking my email, to checking Facebook notifications etc. I was able to focus so much better and feel calmer when I got rid of those distractions and focused just on what I was writing.
Procrastination gives you the false sense of having avoided a stressful situation, but in reality it only ends up making you feel more stressed in the end. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of having something hanging over your head, and that’s exactly what happens when you procrastinate.
As much as possible, it’s so much better and less stressful in the long run to just do the things you need to get done rather than putting them off for later. Easier said than done, though, I know! I’ve always been a terrible procrastinator, but I’m trying to get better at it. The ten-minute rule is one thing that’s really helped me to procrastinate less and get more things done.
4) Background Noises
Background noises (especially loud or continual ones) can make you feel tense or stressed, and, just like with clutter, you might not even realize that you were feeling that way until the noise has stopped.
It’s impossible to avoid all background noises, and there are many situations where you really don’t have much control over your exposure to them, but when you can, reducing background noises can help you to feel a little bit calmer.
Sometimes even just a slight adjustment can make a big difference. My air conditioner, for example, was making a loud buzzing sound that was driving me crazy, but by pushing in one of the panels on the front a little bit, I was able to make it quieter. Sometimes shutting a door or a window can help to reduce noise, or shifting the position of something to stop a vibrating or buzzing sound, etc. Even small things like that can help to reduce your overall stress level.
5) Information Overload
Information overload can take many forms. It might be an email inbox that’s overflowing or constant notifications about new text messages or Facebook messages etc. Even scrolling through Facebook newsfeeds can be a form of information overload with the virtual roller coaster ride of status updates mixed with links to trending news stories.
And it’s not just the amount of information that can cause us to feel overwhelmed either. It’s the frequency of it because, with our modern technology, we can get a new email or see a new status update every five seconds if we want to. This constant information overload can distract us from what we’re trying to get done, for one thing, but it can also cause us to feel an underlying sense of tension and stress.
One of the best ways that I’ve found to help reduce information overload is to set certain times of the day to check email, social media, etc. rather than checking every few minutes to see if there’s a new update. If you have a smartphone, it can also really help to shut off the notifications. I have mine set so I’ll see notifications if someone calls me, just in case of emergency, but I have notifications turned off for my email and social media sites. It’s not a perfect solution, but when it comes to information overload (and stress in general), every little bit helps.