Reducing Negative Stress

Well, here’s what I learned from Minified Meals November: I’m not always realistic about what I can do in a month. I mastered about five new recipes, maybe more (I’m making one tonight!) and I remembered to actually eat dinner most nights, whether or not it was made from scratch. That’s pretty much the sum total of November’s habit change. So I’ll keep working on that one. At least I’m still honoring October’s resolution to get more sleep.

This December, I’m all about decreasing the amount of negative stress and worry in my life. Why does that fit within a year of “healthy living”? The effects of excessive stress are pretty dire. They’re also pretty diverse! Here are a few adverse effects either causally linked or strongly correlated with stress:

  • baldness and hair loss
  • insomnia (this ties in with my resolution to get better sleep!)
  • personality changes
  • depression and anxiety
  • gastrointestinal disease and distress
  • cardiovascular problems and hypertension
  • reproductive problems
  • eczema and psoriasis
  • muscle spasms and pain

To be clear, stress doesn’t cause all of those conditions. But it does make a lot of them worse.

Not all stress is a bad thing. Some kinds of stress (getting married, the birth of a new baby) can be wonderful and exciting. But other kinds of stress serve no positive purpose. I’ve been thinking about what stresses me out. Here’s my short list:

  • bad things happen that are beyond my control, but I really stress about the things I could do, but haven’t (getting renter’s insurance, for example, or buying a fire extinguisher)
  • when I put something off for a long time, it stresses me out and I start to feel bad about it (this goes for returning phone calls, writing papers…)
  • when I feel that I’ve behaved badly in a social situation, that REALLY stresses me out (like if I say something I shouldn’t, or make someone feel bad). Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of playing a board game with me knows I’m obnoxiously, inexplicably competitive about board games. I also feel really badly afterwards!

Aside from never playing Risk again (really…never), what can I do about all of that? I’m not sure about the answer. I know I should plan for the things I can control in the future, or that I really should do (like life insurance), so that I can relax about the things beyond my control. And I can start doing one thing on my list everyday that I’ve been putting off and feeling bad about. So I’m going to start there – getting rid of the things I feel badly about, and seeing whether my stress level changes. It’s an approach advocated over on the Happiness Project blog, and according to the book, it works pretty well. I’m going to give it a try and see what happens this month, and blog as I go!

Hopefully, by the end of the month, my life will be at least a little more peaceful…we’ll see! In the spirit of decreasing our financial stress and stress on the earth (see what I did there, making a totally unrelated topic tie in with this post?) we’ll also be working on handmade Christmas again this year, so stay tuned for some gift making posts!

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One thought on “Reducing Negative Stress

  1. Pingback: How to Get More Exercise in 3 Easy Steps | Project Minify

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