Too much stress isn’t good for you and neither is too little. If you have too much stress in your life you’ll likely become overwhelmed and unable to function. An optimal amount of stress motivates you to move forward and follow through on things. Too little and you’ll tend to procrastinate, drift and feel life has no meaning or purpose.
There are other reasons for procrastination, drifting and feelings of meaninglessness or lack of purpose. If you struggle with ADD or ADHD then procrastination can also be caused by too little of a brain hormone that helps you focus. If you struggle with depression you may procrastinate for other reasons. The same is true if you’re depressed and feel like life has no meaning or purpose. There are potentially other factors at play. However, stress can make depression and ADD/ADHD worse.
If you’re at the low end of the stress meter and have too little to motivate you, find ways to build structure into your life. Develop routines like regular exercise (a good stress buster), volunteer work or social activities. If you’re at the high end of the stress meter, consider the following areas to see where you can get a handle on stress:
Accepting Good Enough
If work is going well and family and relationships are in harmony, stress is usually not a problem. Even if one area begins to be problematic, if the other two are working stress is often manageable. However, when one area isn’t working, you may already be at your limit for tolerating stress. You may accept what isn’t working or at least try to cope. But if another area begins to malfunction, so to speak, you’ve just amped your stress level to the “overwhelmed” level. What areas of your life are you accepting when they really aren’t working?
Going it Alone
Another issue at play in stress is we often keep it to ourselves. We see it as a personal failure or at the very least something to be endured, so we bear it and keep trying to move forward. Or we ignore what’s happening and hope it will go away. Stress shouldn’t be endured. It should be dealt with ASAP because prolonged stress is damaging to your physical and emotional well being: (read more about how to manage stress) What are you putting up with? What can you do to change it?
How We Make Stress Worse
We add to our stress by what we tell ourselves. If a car is going slow in front of you do you believe it’s because they’re lost and you remember when you’ve been lost? Or do you assume they’re complete idiots who shouldn’t be on the road? If problems arise at work do you talk to your boss or coworkers? Or do you worry that your boss doesn’t like you or your coworkers are spreading rumors? We can be our own worst enemies. What might you be telling yourself that’s adding to your stress?
Stress is sneaky.
There are obvious things most of us know cause stress such as losing a job, selling a home, the breakup of a long-term relationship. And we know certain events cause stress such as public speaking or job interviews. We’re often less aware of the every day things in life that add up and cause stress or the part we may play in creating stress. Building your awareness of the stressers you’re accepting or creating is a first step in trying to deal with it more healthfully.
Lynne Coon, LPC — counselor serving communities in the greater Portland metropolitan area including: Portland, Vancouver, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, King City, West Linn, Wilsonville, Gresham, Troutdale, Scappoose, St Helens, Camas, Brush Prairie, Battle Ground, and Multnomah County, Clackamas County, Washington County and Clark County.