We all strive to avoid stress. There is nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. However it turns out there’s a lot of stuff we do without realizing that actually contributes to our stress. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we’re striving to help you all stay stress free! So we turned to the experts in order to learn what seemingly innocent habits we all share that actually might contribute to our stress. So take a deep breathe, and read on!
Here are seven surprising habits that are stressing you out.
1You’re using social media a lot
Everyone’s favorite distraction is actually not great for your stress levels! Even though we often turn to social media when we need a quick break, we might be absorbing other people’s stress through the web. According to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, using social media will make you more aware of stress in your friend’s lives, and therefore add to your own.
It definitely makes sense, because if you’re already worried about your own life, worrying about other people’s troubles will only make you stress out more. Add to that previous findings that show social media can promote bad body image, prolong breakup pain, and sometimes increase rates of depression, and it goes to show it might be worth it to take a break from Facebook if you have a big project coming up!
2You’re skipping meals
While you might think you’re saving time by skipping meals, you’re actually depriving yourself of vital brain power! According to Forbes.com, eating regularly regulates your insulin and metabolism. Keeping those in check will help you stay even-keeled and less likely to cave into stress. So next time you’re late and thinking about skipping breakfast, be sure to grab something quick and healthy like a banana or a granola bar. You might think it seems silly or you don’t feel hungry in the moment, but your body will thank you later.
3You often think about the worst case scenario
Sometimes thinking of the worst case of scenario feels like a good way to be prepared for anything. If you’re ready for the worst, anything that falls short of it can feel like a success, right? However, that attitude might not be great for your overall well-being.
In an interview with Self.com, Manhattan-based holistic psychiatrist and author Kelly Brogan, MD says that we sometimes do this because we don’t trust that everything will turn out ok. While that isn’t necessarily bad, it is an anxiety inducing state to be in. Thinking like this all the time will likely harm your mental health.
Brogan recommends taking a couple minutes before reacting to stressful information. Examples include going for a walk, meditating, or otherwise finding a way to pause. While your first instinct might be to fly into action, you’re actually more likely to make a calm, rational decision if you disconnect for a second.
4You’re always multi-tasking
People often applaud the merits of multi-tasking. On paper we totally get it. Sure, it would be awesome to be able to juggle multiple projects at once and be more effective overall. However, that isn’t quite how multi-tasking works. Past studies have shown that there actually isn’t a high percentage of the population that can multi-task effectively.
On top of that, a 2012 University of Irvine study found that people who tried to answer emails and get work done at the same time experienced more heart rate variability, which is a sign of mental stress. A group that just focused on answering their emails experienced much less heart rate variability. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try not to multi-task. Approaching challenges one task at a time is an easy way to cut down on stress.
5You’re constantly hanging out with other people who are stressed
It turns out seeing other people who are stressed can actually make you stressed out, too. A 2014 German study found that participants who watched others complete stressful tasks began to feel stress themselves. We totally get this, though. Have you ever watched a stressed out person enter a room? Without even realizing it you can feel their stressed out energy before they even say anything.
So if you’re in a situation that might start to stress you out, try to create some distance between you and other stressed out people. For example, if you have to study and your roommate is feeling the stressful heat themselves, it might be time to pack and go to the library or a quiet spot outside. It’s all about environment!
6You consume a whole lot of caffeine
A lot of us might not feel awake without our coffee, and there is definitely a desire to hit the coffee machine when you’re up against a deadline. It makes sense — caffeine helps you stay alert and focused, and those are two things that are important when you’re facing any challenge.
However, too much caffeine isn’t necessarily a good thing. Too much caffeine can actually make you more jittery and less focused. On top of that, caffeine will make it harder for you to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation is a classic thing that will add to your stress, since it will be harder to concentrate and you’ll feel more irritable.
It’s also important to remember caffeine isn’t just in coffee. If you drink soda, tea, or eat a lot of chocolate when you’re feeling stressed, that can also increase your caffeine intake. So when you’re facing a big project, it might pay off to go easy on the caffeine.
7You let the small stuff get to you
The old adage tells us to not sweat the small stuff, but sometimes you can’t help it. Even if you’re having a perfectly good day, little annoying things can add up. Maybe nothing major happened, but you got stuck in traffic or a stranger was rude to you on the street. These little frustrations can pile up into a seriously bad mood.
The best way to combat this is a zen approach. It’s important to remember that we can only control our own actions and what we feel. So if it feels like the universe is out to get you, try to remember it’s sometimes out of your hands. You have the power to react in a way that benefits you and you alone.
These are seven incredibly common habits that might make you more stressed out on the regular. Even though they seem totally innocuous, it’s good to keep in mind how they might affect you. It might not be what you want to hear when you’re feeling stressed, but sleeping, taking care of your health, and keeping a positive attitude are what will keep you ahead of the stress game! Good luck out there.