5 reasons we are all too stressed

By Brandon Ferdig, Contributing writer
Published On: Dec 26 2011 04:01:02 AM EST
Updated On: Jan 05 2012 02:00:00 AM EST
office worker stressed with 9-to-5 clocks

iStock/pidjoe

Don't we all need to just stand up, raise our hands and scream at the top of our lungs?

Seriously, who hasn't wanted to do this from time to time?

After all, we're a stressed-out country. We're on deadline, but have an important meeting looming, while waiting in line and late to pick up the kids.

So unfortunately, but understandably, we've developed some less-than-healthy outlets for our stress. Many people are glued to the TV, and we have high rates of substance abuse. And that's not even considering high levels of depression and anxiety.

Ugly, huh?

Well, it doesn't have to be. Certainly, it isn't hard to identify some of the factors that lead to this high level of stress. And the good news is that, in doing so, we're equipped to take our wound-up nature down a couple of notches. So what are these culprits?

We thought you would never ask.

overworked man at desk surrounded by paperwork

No. 5: Little time off work

What does your job mean to you? How much do you equate your work with your sense of worth? Do you use work as an escape that causes you to miss out on life's other enjoyments?

If you're like a lot of Americans, you do.

Undoubtedly, it's a good thing to take pride in your work. But America is unique, particularly among the Western world, with our reluctance to separate ourselves from our jobs. Untold amounts of vacation time goes unused each year in America -- something the Europeans are confused by.

This attachment to our work serves as a double whammy to our stress. It has us miss out on other, potentially relaxing activities and causes us to narrow our focus, making our jobs too significant and more stressful than they need to be.

Plane landing on runway

No. 4: Too little travel

A narrow focus in life is also both a consequence and cause of a lack of travel.

So here's a nice remedy to our stress problem. Nothing can get you out of yourself like a trip to someplace new, and Americans do relatively little of it. While you can't run away from your problems, you can examine your whole life -- your work, school, local government, church, neighborhood -- and see them through the lens of being on different soil.

Travel doesn't just add cultural or geographic variety, it also reveals history and the change over time that the world has undertaken. The big picture is revealed. This is a freeing realization.

Lastly, you'll learn about yourself. How might you react while in a foreign land? What new experiences will you try? Maybe you'll even learn about your ancestry.

man praying meditating in field prayer

No. 3: Too little time for centeredness

There's a lot of ways to address this one, from meditation to yoga, from prayer to a walk in the woods.

Many of us know that these things are good for us, but the grip we have holding on to our concerns in life has us reluctant to let go -- though that anxious grip is all the more reason we need to find that centeredness.

Since there's little immediate joy to be seen in this, like a lot of resolutions each year, it gets put off.

But don't make this one so black and white. A person can start small, with 10 minutes, and go from there. There's a variety of methods to calm down when the hustle and bustle is driving you batty, and the benefits are enormous.

businessman with company car

No. 2: Keeping up with The Joneses

We love our toys and get a rush from buying new things -- and why not? It's fun! But when a competitive nature comes into play and causes us to spend foolishly, even feeling low for "failing" to have the best car on the block, well, now it's detrimental.

It's super common and so is the negative result of this mindset: More stress due to bad financial decisions.

Of course, none of this competition ever deals with assets such as your bank accounts, 401(k) or IRAs. It's about boats, cars and other toys. And the result is debt and a mountain we have to climb over.

We set ourselves up one step away from bankruptcy. Gee, why are we stressed?

Get advice about any large purchase if you're unsure. It's hard to resist a new toy, but consider your security down the road.

businessman walking to work

No. 1: Cultural wrap-up

This is an issue that's bigger than any one person. So don't beat yourself up. It's become common to use work as a haven, to lose a broader perspective and to spend that extra $300 a month on a better car instead of saving or buying assets.

It's normal, so it's comfortable -- despite the eventual repercussions. So, to be a bit more stress-free, break away from the pack a bit.

Don't let these tips cause more stress, such as using a credit card to take a trip if you're financially strapped. This is about mindset more than anything else.

In fact, let these tips work together for more relaxation and enjoyment out of life.

Go be quiet and meditate for 15 minutes, start seeing the world outside your tunnel. Then go explore it. Getting off your beaten path is probably a lot closer than you think.

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