Why am I Stressed?
We tend to describe ourselves as ‘stressed’ when life’s demands outweigh our ability to cope.
We know it’s not possible to never be stressed, and there are times when it has a place. If we didn’t experience stress at all, our brains would not warn us of danger and prepare our bodies for fight or flight.
We would avoid anything that is difficult or challenging. Without a bit of stress, how would we master a new skill for example?
But let’s not sugar coat it- stress can take over and feel like a persistent state of existence. But we can get control back and manage it the best we can.
In this post, I will talk you through one way of thinking about stress and what we can do to tackle it.
What causes Stress?
There are 4 main causes of stress, and although it is not always possible to fit it into a category, you may be able to find the source of the stress. The 4 main triggers are:
1. Novelty- (you have not experienced it before)
2. Unpredictability- (you had no way of knowing this would happen)
3. Threat- (your competence or capability is being threatened)
4. Sense of control- (you feel you have no control over something)
How can I manage my stress levels?
Imagine you are stood under a huge, wide ceiling and your head is tilted upward, looking at it. The ceiling has a painting of your life across it, every little detail is intricately painted in vivid colours, giving you a sharp image of what your life looks like right now.
Your gaze drifts around the room and you notice that there are tall pillars holding up the ceiling, you count them and find that there are 9 pillars.
They all hold their place, strong and secure. Each of these pillars represents a different area of your life, and they all work together to keep the ceiling (your life) stable and supported.
If you wanted to make sure the ceiling remains intact and strong, what would you do? You would look after the pillars.
Now, if one of these 9 pillars collapsed or cracked, what would happen to the ceiling? It would probably be okay, there are 8 other pillars ensuring that the ceiling is not going to crumble down.
However, what if only 1 or 2 pillars were holding up this ceiling? The ceiling would probably collapse.
Our lives work in a similar way.
Focusing too much or all our attention on one area of our lives put us at risk of stress taking control, or ‘the ceiling collapsing’.
For example, people who solely concentrate their time on work will encounter greater stress levels if they are made redundant because there are no other areas to keep them afloat.
Additionally, spending too much time in one area means that you are under a lot more pressure to keep that ‘pillar’ strong and to succeed, this pressure alone makes us much more vulnerable to overwhelming stress.
What are the 9 pillars of a Balanced life?
Many people feel better able to manage stress if they maintain a balance between the following areas (or ‘pillars’) as much as possible:
The 9 pillars of a Balanced Life:
1. Alone Time 2. Personal Growth
3. Hobbies 4. Exercise
5. Relationship 6. Friends
7. Family 8. Contributions
What areas are you investing in currently? What areas do you pay little or no attention to?
It is worth noting that it is not easy to have a perfect balance between every area of our lives. Life can get busy, complicated, and full of responsibilities, meaning that having a ‘balanced life’ is not necessarily a priority.
If it was easy we would all have a balanced life without any effort.
However, cultivating a balance as much as we can will actually help us be more effective in the time that we DO spend in a given area, than if we just spent all of our time consumed by it- because we will be less stressed.
There’s no need to jump into the deep end, we can start with small steps.
Just as we normally wouldn’t expect ourselves to wake up and run a marathon without any training, it’s not realistic to simply say ‘right, time for a 100% balanced life!’ because this takes time and effort to achieve. Think about what areas need some attention and put small goals in place.
Making these small changes as accessible as possible, and realistic FOR YOU is what is going to improve your stress tolerance levels long-term.
You can use the worksheet below to write down everything that is going on in different areas of your life. Write in each of the 9 pillars as headings. Think about which areas you want to develop and add small goals into the relevant areas.