The Main Causes of Unnecessary Stress + How to Avoid Them

It’s time to spring clean the unnecessary stress from your life.

By: Lexy Parsons

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. In fact, 55% of Americans report feeling stressed during the day, and according to stress statistics, stress levels experienced by Americans are a whopping 20 points higher than the global average.  While stress is a natural part of our lives, there’s a difference between acute and chronic stress. Unfortunately, for the majority of us, we’re experiencing the latter. This is the kind of stress that wreaks havoc on our health if not managed. The good news? There are many stressors within our control. In fact, we may even be experiencing self-inflicted stress without realizing it. Little things — like worrying about the opinions of others, stressing over past (or future) events, and living on social media — can have a profound effect on our stress levels and overall health. Ready to get your stress in check? Find out the main causes of unnecessary stress and how you can avoid them for a healthier, happier you!  

9 Unnecessary Stressors to Eliminate From Your Life 

#1 A Cluttered Space

When life is busy, sometimes the laundry and dishes get neglected. If you can’t see your floor and your kitchen is too dirty to use, we’re not judging! But did you know that a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind? That’s right mess can cause stress, and maybe worse! A 2009 research study found women with messy homes had elevated stress levels compared to those with clutter-free spaces. Visible clutter was correlated with increased cortisol levels and adverse health outcomes. Just think about how you feel when your space is dirty versus how you feel when it’s clean — maybe a little stressed? Overwhelmed? 

The Fix

Say goodbye to unnecessary stress by committing to a set cleaning schedule. Try to maintain a  regular laundry and dish schedule. Maybe you designate set days to do laundry and make an effort to clean the kitchen every evening before you go to bed. Simple things add up! 

If you’re not a fan of cleaning, tidying your space can be a stressful task within itself. But try thinking of others — it can make the process a feel-good experience! Donate items that no longer serve you, Create a donation pile of books, toys, clothes, food, and even furniture. Check in with local churches, thrift stores, and charities to see how you can give life to your old items.

#2 The Opinion Of Others 

Another thing to let go of? The opinion of others. “Did I say the right thing? Are they mad at me? Does this outfit look good on me?”  our thoughts are exhausting! When we spend our energy worrying about what others will think, it creates unnecessary stress and a toxic mental mindset. Everyone wants to be liked, this is a normal feeling. We crave connection and yearn for relationships. But remember: you’re not for everyone! And everyone isn’t for you! And that’s ok. If you find yourself caring too much about the opinions of others, it’s time to reframe your mindset. 

The Fix

If you constantly find yourself wondering what others think of you, it may be time to reevaluate who you let into your inner circle. Why are you feeling this way? Are you surrounding yourself with people that support and inspire you? If not, it may be time to break up with toxic relationships. This may mean letting friendships fade, separating yourself from toxic work environments, and even distancing yourself from social media.

#3 Social Media Stressors

Speaking of social media… is your virtual connection causing more harm than good? Between cyber bullying (which, thanks to the internet, is starting younger and younger), the (unrealistic and unattainable) social media highlight reel, and a world of picture-perfect filtered features, it’s easy to get stressed or down on yourself. Truly, even picking up your phone could mean sacrificing your mental health. In 2020, it was estimated that the average time spent on social media amounted to 145 minutes per day. With seemingly *everything* online nowadays, it’s likely this number will continue to climb. 

So, in a world dependent on virtual connection, how do you protect your health and rid some of the unnecessary stress caused by social media?

The Fix

Take a social media detox. Here are some suggestions! 

Designate Online Hours

Sign off for the weekend or take extended social media breaks every so often. If your job requires you to stay connected, create social media boundaries by designating “offline” hours. Let your co-workers know you won’t be checking emails after a certain time of the day.  

A Phone-Free Morning Routine

Create a morning routine that doesn’t involve immediately looking at your phone. Before you give your energy to others, take time to set your day up for success.

Limit Your Social Media Exposure Before Bed

Scrolling on your phone right before bed may disrupt your sleep cycle, further contributing to unnecessary stress. 

Be Selective with Your Followers

Don’t be afraid to unfollow or unfriend anyone that is no longer serving you. This isn’t to be mean or judgmental — it’s to protect your energy! If someone’s profile makes you feel insecure, jealous, or uninspired — even if it’s a friend or loved one — it’s okay to part ways. Choose wisely; follow accounts that inspire and motivate you.

#4 Procrastinating

While many claim to thrive under pressure, leaving tasks until the last minute may promote feelings of unnecessary stress. We get it when you’re feeling overwhelmed, procrastination may offer temporary relief. But, consider how you feel when it’s crunch time — totally stressed out. 

The Fix

Time management! Developing time management strategies has been shown to decrease unnecessary stress and anxiety levels while increasing productivity. Setting clear goals, creating to-do lists, and staying organized are all strategies to improve time management.

Try doing your hardest (least favorite, most urgent) task first! By getting this out of the way (or taking steps toward completing it), you’ll reduce feelings of anxiety and be better able to focus on the rest of your day.

#5 Ruminating Over Past Events 

To put it simply, we cannot change the past! By replaying past events, you churn up prior emotions and subject yourself to unnecessary stress by living through an emotional experience more than once. Research suggests ruminating over past events can significantly increase the risk for anxiety and depression your thoughts are more powerful than you may think!  

The Fix

Try forward thinking, not backward! Practice putting your attention on the present moment and focus on factors within your control. If you find yourself ruminating on past events, try adopting a meditation practice to bring your mind back to the present moment.

This Present Moment Awareness meditation with Rachel Ruth can help you come back to the present and forget about your past — in just 7 minutes!

To further your mindfulness journey, press play on the FitOn App and head to the meditation category.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Meditation

#6 Planning For The Worst 

Do you find yourself constantly imagining the worst-case-scenario? A single negative “what if” has the potential to spiral into a full-blown disaster… of an event that hasn’t even happened!  Catastrophic thinking can induce feelings of pain, worry, and unnecessary stress. The imagination of these unrealistic situations can trigger a fight or flight response in the body, leading to increased cortisol and high levels of anxiety. 

The Fix

Practicing mindfulness can put a stop to negative thinking, helping to increase feelings of self-confidence and self-worth. Meditation, journaling, and positive affirmations are great tools! 

This 10-minute Mindful Awareness meditation with DeAndre Sinette can help you sift through your thoughts with mindfulness — and without judgment. 

RELATED: 3 Expert Hacks to Break The Cycle of Negative Thinking 

#7 Trying To Do It All Yourself

If you’re afraid to ask for help, ask yourself why? There are many reasons you may be called to “do it all” alone. Maybe you feel like you’re a burden or fear rejection, or maybe you fear losing control over the situation. Asking for help isn’t always easy. For some, it feels unnatural and even awkward, but with a little practice, you’ll see that it’s easier than you think!

The Fix

Ask for help! And ask for it often! Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Keep it simple, and try to be straightforward and clear with your requests.
  • If possible, avoid social media ‘asks’ — texts, emails, DMs. It’s easy to overthink what you’re going to say, and words can get misconstrued. Ask in person, or give them a call!
  • Rather than feel guilty or like a burden, simply be gracious when someone agrees to help! Say thank you, not “I’m sorry.”

#8 Putting Yourself Last 

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Putting yourself last isn’t doing you — or anyone else, for that matter — any favors. It’s actually a form of self-sabotage and unnecessary stress! If you’re depleted and drained of your energy, you can’t be of service to anyone else. Self-care isn’t selfish, and it doesn’t need to be lavish or elaborate. But, for your physical and mental health, it needs to happen! 

The Fix

Make self-care a routine part of your day — every day. It could be sneaking away for 5 minutes of uninterrupted deep breathing, waking up a half hour earlier to sip your coffee in silence, hitting a yoga class (alone), or cooking yourself a nourishing dinner. Whether you have a few minutes or a whole day, make it a priority. A non-negotiable, if you will!

RELATED: 12 Upgrades to Make to Your Self-Care Routine

#9 Saying Yes… To Everything 

Speaking of feeling drained, are you guilty of overcommitting and agreeing to just about everything? How many times have you said yes, when you really want to say no? You don’t have to (and frankly, you can’t) do it all. 

RELATED: Signs You Need a Mental Health Day + How to Take One

The Fix

Prioritize your needs and where you put your energy. Rather than spreading yourself too thin and agreeing to anything and everything, be selective with your ‘yes.’ This requires setting healthy boundaries, which can feel uncomfortable at first. But, putting boundaries in place will help reduce stress — they can even improve your (work and personal) relationships and boost your self-esteem! Here’s how to get started, according to an expert.

The Takeaway 

While stress is a natural part of life, we may be adding unnecessary stress without even realizing it. If you find yourself participating in any of these behaviors, it may be time to reevaluate where you’re putting your energy. Replace self-inflicted stressors with healthier habits by using these tips!