Do you lie awake at night, worrying? Does the stress of the day seem to weigh you down and control your mood, your decisions, and your life? If so, surely the amount of stress you deal with is taking its toll on you and those around you, keeping you from living the happy life you deserve. You can start to change this right now by determining the root causes of your stress. This is the first step in down the path to living a more relaxed peaceful life.
Root Cause = Fear of What’s to Come
Being afraid of what could happen in the future is a big stressor for a lot of people. You may be stressed over something as small as whether you remembered to set the timer on the coffee maker for the next morning or over an issue as important as whether peace will ever come to the Middle East.
“When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” ~Winston Churchill
Every time you stress over something that could possibly happen, or may never happen at all, you let future fear get the best of you. Here are a few red flag phrases you may hear in your head:
- “Do I have enough… savings to survive if I’m laid off at work?”
- “What if… she turns me down?”
- “Is that the right… doctor for my mother?”
- “How will… my children be affected by climate change?”
These thoughts may even be inhibiting your normal sleep pattern, which in turn will cause you more stress. You may soon find yourself in a worrisome cycle where lack of sleep feeds off existing stress, and new stress feeds off lack of sleep.
Root Cause = ‘Shoulda Coulda Woulda’
Another big stress provoker is concentrating on past mistakes. When you can’t forgive yourself for things that have happened in the past, you only fuel your stress.
- “I should have… studied more for that test.”
- “I could have… done something to help.”
- “I would have been… in a better position to pay for my kids’ college if only…”
Of course, a person may have some normal regret about things they would have like to have had happened differently in the past. But, beware of falling into a worry cycle.
How to tell if You’re Caught in the Worry Cycle
Worrying about the past or the future (or both) can throw you into a worry cycle, and thoughts like those above are what will keep you there; they are the underlying source of your stress. When you’re caught in the worry cycle, you quickly become susceptible to anxiety, depression, confusion, and sadness. Stress can overtake your life at this point and you may even become worried about your constant state of worry.
As we said before, it is perfectly normal to think about the future or wish you could take back or change some things in the past; however, it becomes unhealthy when you find yourself thinking about the same subject over and over, and when you feel so strongly about that subject that it affects your mood and even your relationships.
It’s very hard to be happy when you begin to fall into a worry cycle. So be aware that anytime you start to feel uncomfortable and find yourself thinking about something over and over again the cycle has probably begun.
Setting Yourself Free From the Worry Cycle
Just as with any pattern or habit, it will be difficult to break the worry cycle. This is because worrying has become familiar to you at this point and it probably starts without you even being aware you’re doing it. Fortunately, we have some effective strategies that will help you kick this stressful habit forever.
These next three steps will help you create a new habit that will diminish your stress levels almost immediately:
Step One: Be aware of your feelings. Our feelings are indicators of how well our actions are corresponding with what we value. When we feel stressed, scared, sad, or any other related feelings, our emotions signal to us that something we value is lacking in our lives. Learn what these signals feel like so you can correct the situation before you fall into a worry cycle.
Step Two: Find out what you value. In step one, you learned to be aware of your feelings so you’ll know when something you value is lacking. In order to correct the situation, you must know what that value is so you can satisfy it.
Step Three: Do something! You always have options for taking action in a situation. When you take an active role in the situation, you will feel more in control and you’ll have less time to stress.
Determining the root cause of your stress and following these simple steps will support you in taking back control of your mood, your decisions, and your life. Congratulations, you’re well on your way to living a more relaxed and peaceful life.
Beth and Neill