Warning: Do You Recognize These Stress-Creating Habits?

“A habit is something you can do without thinking — which is why most of us have so many of them.”

– Frank A. Clark

Stressed man with a broken pencilYour stress levels go up, your enjoying of life goes down. Your health and mental attitude suffer.

What can you do about it?

Life is full of choices and taking control of your stress level is one of them. Be mindful of your bad habits that are creating stress in your life and observe how they can drain you of energy.

Try taking an honest inventory of yourself and concentrate on correcting those nasty habits. You’ll immediately see improvements in your health and well-being, as well as in your business and personal relationships.

Here are a few known bad habits that cause stress, and some tips on correcting them.

Habit #1: You’re disorganized.

You may be resentful because you can’t find certain things. If your friends complain that you’re forgetful, that could be both a symptom and a cause of stress.

How to correct this bad habit:

  • Make notes: Write things down. Make lists of people you need to call or things you need to buy. Record important birthdays in your cell phone and your friends will be impressed at how caring you are to remember. This will help you deal with things once, by doing them right the first time around.
  • Avoid clutter: Tidy your home, your desk and your car so you can find things easily and avoid unnecessary anxiety and irritation. Sort your e-mail into folders at home and work and file important papers when you receive them — or shred them. And reduce your stress levels by eliminating the mad chase for your car keys, cell phone or shoes by always putting them in the same place.
  • How will this reduce stress:

    Being organizationally impaired creates unnecessary anxiety by wasting your time. You can worry yourself sick when you’re worried that you’ve forgotten something essential or that someone will ask you for something you cannot find. Taking charge of your belongings creates calmness from chaos.

    Habit #2: You’re often late.

    You’re always in a rush. It seems like you’re late more often than not and you arrive stressed and anxious. If you find yourself apologizing regularly for your tardiness, perhaps it’s time to become more realistic about time.

    How to correct this bad habit:

  • Plan ahead: Schedule sufficient time to get from one meeting to another, or to get from dinner to the movie theater on time. Write down your appointments fifteen minutes earlier than their scheduled time in your agenda. Always assume that things will take longer. You never know when traffic problems or last-minute phone calls might detain you so build in extra time, and alleviate your stress.
  • Trick yourself: Set your watch ahead a few minutes. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it can actually work. You look at your watch and see 11:00. In the split second it takes for your brain to register that it’s only 10:45, you’ve focused on the importance of the time and are less likely to be late. As time passes, however, this trick will lose its potency, and you’ll need to resort to other tools.
  • How will this reduce stress:

    If you are continually late, you likely expend a lot of energy apologizing, calling ahead to explain and trying to make excuses for your lateness. Recognize how much physical energy you waste rushing and how much emotional energy you squander justifying your tardiness. You’ll see it’s worth the effort to be on time or even early, for the peace of mind and stress relief it brings. Focus on honoring your commitments. And bring a book or newspaper — it may take a while before your friends realize that you’re finally serious about showing up on time.

    Habit #3: You procrastinate.

    You tell yourself you perform better under pressure. There’s always tomorrow. What’s the rush? If this sounds familiar, you might be a procrastinator.

    How to correct this bad habit:

  • Take the 20-minute challenge: You can do anything for twenty minutes. Just get started on it, and after twenty minutes let yourself quit if you want. You’re wasting almost that much time thinking up excuses. Even with tasks you despise, you’ll feel much less stressed if you just buckle down and get to them.
  • Create bite-size pieces: Break down your projects into smaller tasks. Cleaning the basement is much easier if your first goal is to empty four boxes, rather than face the mammoth chore of accomplishing everything in one go. And don’t forget your “To Do” lists (daily, weekly and monthly). Use and update them constantly.
  • How will this reduce stress:

    Putting things off amplifies your stress level. Even trying to relax in bed, you are aware of impending deadlines, unfinished projects and things left undone. Promise yourself a reward if you find that helps reduce your tendency to procrastinate. The best dividend will be that you’ll feel calmer, less anxious and more relaxed when you stop stalling. And when you intentionally defer something to a later date, you’ll know it’s justified and not just an unhealthy delay tactic.

    Habit #4: You’re controlling.

    If you broadly want to be in complete control of everything, or you find yourself taking on an extra (and unnecessary) burden of responsibility, you may have developed a stressful bad habit.

    How to correct this bad habit:

  • Lighten up: Try to understand your perfectionist tendencies and ease up on them. What’s the worst that will happen if someone else organizes your friend’s birthday party or leads a work project instead of you? Being in charge all the time can add stress by consuming your time, thoughts and energy, so, unless it’s absolutely essential to your career or an interpersonal relationships, try playing a supporting role for a change.
  • Delegate tasks: Learn to separate yourself from tasks, and shake the idea that everything should fall under your purview. If your buddy Andrew agrees to man the barbecue, sit down and visit with other friends and resist the temptation to supervise. It’s not a reflection on you if the burgers are burned so relinquish the responsibility, relax and enjoy yourself. Learn to let go.
  • How will this reduce stress:

    You can eliminate many work and personal stresses by ridding yourself of the habit of constantly assuming the role of hands-on leader. Focus on controlling your stress, not extraneous events and the actions of others, and you will find that life is much smoother and your attitude much more easy-going. And when you do choose to accept a leadership role, you’ll enjoy the challenges and rewards more.

    Habit #5: You’re lethargic.

    Given a choice of hitting the gym or watching the game on the TV, munching on chips and quaffing a few beers, does the couch potato option always win? This self-defeating perspective creates stress when you know your choices are not healthy ones.

    How to correct this bad habit:

  • Commit yourself: Make a list of things you would like to do instead of just flopping on the sofa and commit to it for 30 days. It takes a month to create a habit, so make it a good one. Try yoga, kempo or karate. Going for an early morning or evening walk can also help you relax.
  • Buddy up: Go to the gym or practice sports with a friend. Create a buddy arrangement for activities and you’ll be less likely to make excuses to skip out. Have fun, plan activities with friends and achieve balance in your life.
  • How will this reduce stress:

    That comfortable couch may look charming at the end of a long day, but it presents increased opportunities to over-eat, over-imbibe and under-stimulate your body and brain. Your stress will increase if you feel hung over, become overweight or just get bored with your life. Eliminate the lethargy and get moving, for the good of your body and soul. When spending an occasional evening in front of the tube becomes a conscious decision, it will be an indulgence, not a bad habit.

    Prioritize, delegate and become more physically active. Challenge your brain and your body, and create a healthier lifestyle. Conquer the problems created by bad habits and you will strikingly reduce the stress in your life.

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    11 Comments

    • D says:

      This seems like common sense but it really helps. Thanks for another great post!

    • Great post.

      A major reason for procrastination is ‘you are overwhelmed’.

      Learn to say, “No!” to activities and individuals that do not contribute to the attainment of your goals. Often, people take advantage of your kindness and generosity without ever realising you have better things to do with your time.

      Andrew

    • Another great post, thanks.

      I recognise most of these habits in my clients. It seems to me that these habits often come in cycles. Take #1 for example, some people get stressed because they are disorganised. When they feel stressed, they become even less organised, being less organised makes them more stressed.
      The trick seems to be to help the clients find ways to break the cycles.

      Thanks
      Doug
      http://www.dougwoods.com

    • Quotes says:

      Good points. For breaking habits, I refer you to the advice of Mark Twain: “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

    • Ririan says:

      Andrew, I agree with you here, the best tip I use to pare down my schedule is to get good at saying no to new commitments. Learning to say no to more requests is one of the biggest favors I did to myself and those I love. It helps reduce stress levels and gives me time for what’s really important.

    • Johnny says:

      For about 3 years now I have been having horrible anxiety attacks during situations in the classroom. Usually when I have to speak up or do presentations. I start sweating profusley (I mean bad) my heart is racing I cannot even concentrate, I lose my breath and my mouth trembles, it’s horrible.

      I have been to a psychiatrist, but he says I can get through this on my own, that I will over come it with exposure. I need to find out what to do now, is there any groups I could join to help me with this? I am sick and tired of this. Never had this 4 years ago. I could do everything just fine, a switch in my brain got turned and messed everything up.

      Please, anyone know of any support groups or anything or ways to help? I was prescribed buspar but that stuff made me feel more anxious, so I stopped taking it, breathing techniques don’t work or any of that stuff.

    • Michael says:

      I get anxious before I have to speak, too, but not this bad. I eat a banana for the natural beta blockers and try to be really prepared. If I am overly prepared, then I don’t get so nervous.

      Do you have any other anxiety, or is it just when you have to speak in class? Like, with your friends?

    • Ririan says:

      Johnny, I had a similar problem myself — I hated classroom situations — I would do almost anything to avoid them for fear of the very same tremors and shortness of breath. I found yoga, mediations, and as funny as it sounds, a relaxation chair (for fifteen minutes) to help me a alot! Good luck!

    • Zzzip says:

      Johnny, I also used to get irrationally anxious during classroom presentations. I found that my anxiety decreased considerably one year when I was required to do several presentations to a small group. They were very simple presentations, about a topic I knew quite well, and felt more like a conversation rather than a presentation. I think those few months created an association in my mind between presentations and casual conversation, and I am much less nervous now.

      Perhaps what you need is a chance to practise your speaking in a non-threatening setting where neither your reputation nor your grades are on the line, and one in which you are having a little fun. You might try finding a local public speaking club to give you a chance to practise. I have heard fantastic things about Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org/) – look them up, there may be one in your area.

    • directory says:

      Double WOW 2 your design!

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