In our digital age of social media and consumerism, we are inundated with an overwhelming amount of noise from every direction. Advertisements pushing products pour out from everywhere you look, and the drive to do and accomplish more than ever is at an all-time high.
Many individuals in America are suffering from feelings of being overwhelmed in various forms; whether from a demanding job, home responsibilities, media overload or financial burdens the stress of trying to manage it all can be complicated and unnerving.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, stress has increased for a considerable number of Americans across generations, with Millennials reporting the highest average stress levels . When stress levels become unmanageable, it is typical for unhealthy coping mechanisms to develop. In fact, Millenials and Gen Xers report being more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors because of stress and symptoms related to stress .
While there are some facets of a stressful lifestyle that can’t be controlled, there are many things that can be done to help minimize the experience of stress. Much of this begins with reevaluating your current lifestyle and examining all potential sources of stress that might be contributing to your burden.
Why is this important?
Unmanageable stress levels can be a trigger for many mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Research studies have uncovered how chronic exposure to stress may actually create physical changes in the brain, which can increase susceptibility to mental illnesses .
It may be easier to try to ignore the various areas in your life that might be stressful and continue trudging forward with daily responsibilities. The reality is that most people can only realistically handle a certain threshold of stress before reaching a breaking point. For many, this is a serious wake-up call that your lifestyle and behaviors need to change in order to thrive and function at your best.
If you want to avoid reaching a breaking point in your physical, mental, and emotional health, it’s essential to take an honest look at where you are at, the types of stressors you regularly encounter, and your ability to effectively manage stress. If you feel you’ve already reached a breaking point by overwhelming stress levels, it’s important to know that there is hope for change. You can give yourself room to breathe and better enjoy your life by learning how to let go of the things in your life that are not serving you well.
Simplifying the Mess to Manage Stress
One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your overall health and well-being is to get back to basics. Take the time to reflect on your current lifestyle and assess where you regularly encounter stress. As you ponder this, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this [activity, relationship, behavior, habit, thing] a necessary part of my life right now?
- How does it make me feel when I engage with this [activity, relationship, behavior, habit, thing]?
- If this [activity, relationship, behavior, habit, thing] is a source of stress, how can I approach it differently?
Decreasing stress does not mean you have to avoid any potential stressors, as that isn’t always a realistic approach. Instead, it’s important to understand what areas in your life you can create space and room for you to breathe. In a culture that is inundated with noise, it’s easy to lose sight of and connection with your own purpose and the things that bring you joy.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few areas of life that are able to generate stress which you can simplify to help improve your overall wellness:
- Calendar: Are you overbooking yourself or committed to so many different activities that it feels overwhelming? Can you delegate activities to other people or give them up all together? Take an honest look at what is necessary and minimize the other things in your life. Learning to say ‘No’ for the sake of your mental health can be life-changing and allow you to use your time wisely.
- Social Media: How much time are you scrolling on social media? How do you usually feel after a scroll session? If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, angry or anything less than stellar about yourself than this could be a stress trigger. Limit the amount of time you spend on your social platforms or consider taking a periodic break altogether.
- Sleep: Lack of sleep can intensify everyday situations and make things even more challenging to manage. If you’re not regularly getting enough time with your pillow, consider prioritizing your schedule to make this happen. This might mean turning off Netflix or your phone after a certain hour or saying no to non-necessary activities to make time for your health.
- Tidy Up Your Space: Take a look at the environment you frequently spend time in, including your home and workspaces. Are you overwhelmed with mess or excess? Is it hard to find things you regularly need? Your surroundings can contribute to how you feel, and a chaotic environment can trigger stress. Create a place of calmness and comfort, even if it’s in your own bedroom, to have a place of peace to unwind at the end of the day.
- Relationships: The people you regularly spend the most time with have a significant influence on your life, including how you feel about yourself. Are there any relationship in your life that are toxic or unhealthy? Do you need to establish healthy boundaries with family members, friends or loved ones? Aim to build relationships and connect with others who support your overall well-being.
- Movement: Are you over-exercising or forcing yourself to complete strenuous workouts? This can be an underlying source of stress for many people. Instead, try to move your body in ways that you enjoy and that don’t cause burnout, injury or strain.
- Eating: Is your current lifestyle so busy that you hardly have time to feed yourself and nourish your body well? If eating has become more of an afterthought rather than a priority, you may not be getting adequate nutrition to care for and nurture your body correctly.
As you can see, many different areas of our lives could warrant a little more care and attention to help us create more purposeful and simplified lifestyles. Being intentional with your time and energy can be an essential step for decreasing stress levels and helping you better cope with and manage the stressors you do encounter in your life.
In some instances, stress may be overwhelming to the point that it becomes difficult to manage. In other cases, stress can be a contributing factor to mental illnesses, such as eating disorders or substance abuse disorders. If you require support to help you get back on the right track, please consider reaching out to The Meadows Ranch today. Our caring and compassionate team would love to help you find healing and recovery. You don’t have to do this alone, and our team is here to guide you along your way.
: American Psychological Association, “Stress by Generation”, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/generations Accessed 8 March 2019
: MQ Mental Health, “Stress and our Mental Health – what is the impact and how can we tackle it?” https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/posts/stress-and-mental-health Accessed 11 March 2019