Reduce Stress by Eliminating Stressful Situations

Some stressful situations can leave us feeling drained and chronically stressed. We may experience low-grade chronic stress without realizing where it comes from, or we may experience recurring acute stress without realizing that it can be minimized or avoided. The following are some of the more common sources of stress, with information on how to manage them.


Toxic Relationships

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The type of stress we experience from conflicted relationships is particularly damaging. In fact, the stress of a relationship that frequently fluctuates between positive and negative (such as the relationship you might have with a "frenemy") can be more taxing than the stress from a relationship that is continually negative and conflicted. Emotionally fluctuating relationships can engender rumination, anxiety, anger, and chronic stress, all of which can negatively affect your happiness and health.

If you're in a toxic relationship that is stressing you out, it is important to work on either improving the relationship or eliminating it from your life. Communication techniques, such as assertiveness and good listening, can help resolve many conflicts. However, we can work only on ourselves and can improve a relationship only to the point at which the other person must join in the work. Creating healthy boundaries also can reduce stress for all involved. Remember: certain combinations of people simply may not represent good matches. If you're in a mismatched relationship, ​the distance may be the best way to manage the challenge--either by establishing clear, strong personal boundaries or by letting go of the relationship entirely.

By identifying your toxic relationships, and working to either improve or eliminate them, you can reduce or eliminate the more stressful situations you may face.


Clutter In Your Environment

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Many of us may not realize this immediately, but maintaining a cluttered environment can contribute considerably to stress. There are several ways in which this happens. For example, you may find yourself spending extra time looking for things in your disorganized area, draining your schedule of time. You may feel that you can't invite anyone over, or fully utilize the space, which can make you feel depressed or overwhelmed. Just sitting in a cluttered space may subtly drain your mental energy as your mind works overtime to process everything around you. Your life may feel disorganized and chaotic, and the thought of how much work you must do to organize the clutter can produce feelings of helplessness. 

Everyone has their own clutter comfort zone, but if you feel that your space contains more clutter than you can stand, you should address the situation before it produces stress. Whether you take 10 minutes each day to whittle the piles that surround you or take a weekend to clear out and reorganize, you probably will discover that the results are worth the effort, as you find yourself in a more serene, relaxing environment day in and day out.

By culling your clutter, organizing, and creating a peaceful space for yourself, you can turn a stressful living situation (or working environment) into a space that works for you.


Clutter In Your Lifestyle

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If you're like most people, some of the clutter in your life probably takes the form of various different time drains and energy wasters known as "tolerations." These are things that cause minor stress that you simply tolerate, not realizing how the stress can add up. Common tolerations are obligations we agree to (because we hate to say no), unhealthy habits we put up with (because we don't want to do the work to quit), or any number of other things that make us feel stressed even though they are unnecessary. Having a life filled with tolerations can lead to a feeling of "being pecked to death by ducks." While the stress created by any one of these situations may not be an immediately noticeable, the gradual buildup of these small stresses can overtake you. 

To avoid that buildup, start by identifying your tolerations, so you can prioritize which ones to eliminate first, and then cut tolerations out of your life one by one. This may seem like a lot of work, but the more tolerations you eliminate, the more motivation and energy you'll have to work on cutting the rest. You'll end up with more time, more energy, and fewer stressful situations in your life.


Burnout-Inducing Aspects of Your Job


Burnout is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, lack of motivation, increased pessimism, and other negative signs. It can lead to lowered immunity, reduced productivity, and worse. Certain job and lifestyle factors can contribute to burnout, including situations in which you feel a lack of control. Inadequate recognition or compensation, unclear requirements, high penalties for mistakes, and other stress-inducing factors also can produce burnout. Avoiding or compensating for these factors can enhance your overall happiness.

While you can't always control the factors that you deal with at work, you can proactively take steps to relieve stress and find ways to obtain whatever it is you're ​lacking. For example, you can take time off to renew your motivation. You might make it a habit to share your triumphs with colleagues, and invite them to do the same,  as a way of giving each other the recognition you're not receiving in the workplace. It's also important to keep your life away from work as low-stress as possible.


Self-Defeating Thoughts

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Facing stressors with the wrong attitude can make things worse. Negative thought patterns can make a stressful situation feel even more stressful, or they may make otherwise unthreatening situations feel stressful. That's because our stress response is triggered when we encounter a perception of threat to our physical or emotional well-being, or when we perceive that we do not have the necessary resources to handle a situation well. When we view a situation more positively (for example, as a "challenge" rather than as a "threat," or when we remind ourselves of our strengths and resources rather than ruminating on what could go wrong), the situation is perceived as less stressful or threatening.

There are several effective ways to combat self-defeating thoughts. Start by simply becoming more aware of those negative thoughts and thinking patterns, so you can rethink them and choose different, more empowering thoughts. Another strategy is to use journaling and affirmations to get into the habit of more positive thinking. If you find yourself trapped in habitually negative thought patterns and rumination, developing a meditation practice can help you to maintain some mental distance and a more positive frame of mind. Finally, learning relaxation techniques can help you to avoid the mode of stressed thinking, so you can approach situations from a more balanced place.