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Common Sources of Stress in Our Lives and How to Manage Them

Stress can come from many sources and affect people in different ways. The end of a relationship can be a freeing experience for one person and a crushing one for another. Even the experience of sitting at a desk and working while the sounds of birds and lawnmowers come in through an open window can feel soothing to one person and frustrating to another. Because of this variation, we cannot say for certain which experiences are inherently stressful to everyone, and to what degree.

That said, surveys have shown that certain experiences tend to feel particularly stressful for many people and that certain situations are more commonly experienced as stressful. The following are some of the top sources of stress that people commonly experience.

Work

Many people cite work as one of their biggest stressors, and there are many reasons for this. Since most of us spend a considerable amount of our time at work,
jobs are often closely related to our personal identity, finances, and our entire lifestyle. This makes our work lives quite influential on our overall well-being. People with jobs that have certain characteristics are at risk for higher levels of stress, as well as an increased risk of burnout, anxiety, and depression. Here are some of the most serious on-the-job stressors.

1. Unclear Requirements

When employees are not clear on what their jobs entail, they can be asked to do things that are not their responsibility, and they may be unsure if they can refuse. They can work hard all day and never know if they have done enough. They can find themselves feeling insecure or resentful and not know what to do about it. Particularly when those in charge are not clear communicators, this can present a stressful dynamic.

How to Manage

If an unclear job description is part of the problem, be sure to talk to whoever is in charge and see if you can get clarification on these issues. If you are self-employed, be sure to take the reins in communication and clarify with your clients what their expectations are, letting them know what they can expect from you.

2. Unattainable Demands

This is a situation where self-awareness becomes very important. People in jobs in which there are unrealistic demands can feel very stressed if they do not realize that the demands are unattainable, and do something about it. They may feel that the work is draining and difficult, but realizing that it is unrealistic to be able to complete it can actually be a relief.

How to Manage

If you find yourself in a job situation where you believe that the demands are unrealistic, it is important to talk to your boss about this and see if you can objectively show what it is about the job that might be unreasonable. If you are a freelance worker, you may have to have a talk with yourself and adjust your own expectations.

3. Low Recognition

When things happen at work that causes people to feel that they are not respected for the work they do, this can damage self-esteem, motivation, and drive, making a job feel more challenging and draining.

Feeling a sense of unfairness about being passed over for promotions; feeling belittled by a manager, co-worker, or clients; and feeling taken advantage of are all stressful feelings that can contribute to feelings of chronic stress and a lack of satisfaction with a job.

How to Manage

If you feel a lack of recognition in your job, talk to your manager, boss, or company’s human resources department. If it doesn’t work, you can create a supportive network of friends and co-workers, and congratulate one another on your accomplishments.

Another option is to enjoy your work as much as you can, even if the tasks themselves are not intrinsically enjoyable.

4. High Penalties for Mistakes

Jobs like medicine or transportation, there is necessarily a narrow margin for error if mistakes are made, people can die. Freelancers and business owners may lose customers when small errors are made, and those unhappy customers may be vocal in their dissatisfaction.

Penalties are part of a job, they can keep us in a constant state of vigilance and bring feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

How to Manage

There is not a lot that can be done to manage situations like those described above, other than to take care of ourselves so that we are functioning at our best and manage our stress as effectively as possible so we can handle a little extra stress from such jobs.

Relationships

Relationships can bring us the best of times and the worst of times. While often beneficial to our health and happiness, our relationships can also present obstacles that are frequently cited as the main stressors in people’s lives.
The following are types of relationships that can be stressful.

1. Toxic Relationships

It is highly stressful to be in relationships in which we are not respected. When we are subject to frequent criticism, gossip, unrealistic demands, contempt, mocking, and other negative experiences. When we do not feel safe being ourselves we may not realize the toll it takes on us.
Likewise, in relationships in which we find ourselves not being our best, it can be bad not only for us but also for other people in our lives. We may become used to the situation, may fail to recognize the damage that is done, and may neglect to do anything to change the circumstances we are in.
Relationships that habitually make us feel bad about ourselves can be constant sources of stress, because they can lead to negative rumination, feelings of low self-esteem, conflicts to constantly resolve, and other threats to our happiness and self-worth.

How to Manage

Seek help immediately – Find a friend or a family member to talk it out or a professional to help you through the process.
Express how you feel – The best way is to discuss your problems and how you feel about them to the person you are in a relationship.
Stay positive – Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Spend valuable time with yourself, go on a vacation, eat your favorite meal and do sports this can relieve stress. Don’t lose hope things will get better.
Make a Decision – If things mentioned above did not work decide whether you want to mend the relationship or leave.
Move on – If you decided to leave, stick with your decision and let go of things. You might want to get back together but remember why you came to this decision in the first place.

2. Caregiver Situations

People who are in constant charge of the welfare of loved ones are exposed to a particularly intense level of stress, the severity of which varies according to the level of needs that the caregivers must meet.
Those who are caring for sick, disabled, or elderly relatives often experience similarly high levels of stress. In fact, this type of stress can be much more taxing.
Caregivers may feel even more stress if they experience guilt for their feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed. However, even the most loving caregivers are human, and sometimes the demands of meeting another person’s needs can take a toll on our ability to meet our own.

How to Manage

Ideally, the responsibility of caregiving should be shared among several people so that no one person becomes burned out. Involving siblings in the care of an elderly parent or dividing responsibility among spouses and using outside resources in caring children with special needs can help reduce stress significantly.

Health

Stress and health are closely linked. Stress can affect our health, and health issues can bring considerable stress. In fact, dealing with health issues represents one of the bigger stressors that people face today.

How to Manage

The reality of dealing with a serious health condition brings much more stress. The best thing we can do is to carve out time to be proactive about remaining healthy, find support where possible, and practice stress management techniques to support our overall health and wellness.

Life Adjustments

The events in our lives that are both positive and negative can bring stress. Some events bring heavy stress and some light depending on the nature of the event, for example, a divorce or a death in the family may have a heavier impact on one person than on another, depending on the relationships involved.

The following events are obviously stressful.

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce in family
  3. Imprisonment

Which types of stressful events have you faced in the past year, and what toll do you think they have had? Let us know in the comments below.

Attitudes and Perspectives

We don’t always realize it, but the way in which we perceive and process our lives can actually be a source of stress in itself.
When we approach various situations in our lives as competitions for perfection, feeling a need to best those around us and beating ourselves up for anything short of an impossible ideal, we can cause unnecessary stress in ourselves and in those around us.

How to Manage

  1. Stop worrying about things, go with the flow.
  2. Always remain positive, expect things may go wrong.
  3. Face things the way they actually are, is ultimately less stressful.

Conclusion

After reading about the main sources of stress, you may already have a clearer picture of where the stress in your life is coming from, and you may have some ideas about where to start in managing your stress. Here are some additional exercises that might help controlling stress in your life.

1. Identify major stressors in your life. As you record what you face with regularity, you will likely notice more of what is taking a toll and can be motivated to make changes that can stop the stress.
2. Make a checklist of your stressors. Notice how you feel and why at various natural stopping points throughout your day: when you arrive at work, when you take a midmorning break when you have lunch, and so on. By becoming more aware you can easily fight your stress.
3. When you feel stressed out take a minute to relax. Find a quiet room, get comfortable, and close your eyes.
4. Seek help from friends and family ask them about the things you complain most.
5. Last but not least ask yourself, am I too busy? Does my relationship feel stressful? Are there any friends or family members contribute to my stressful life? What aspects of my job trigger stress?

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