Unexpected Reasons You’re Stressed (+ What to Do About Them!)
Not sure why you’re so stressed and anxious all the time? Here are some less than obvious reasons that you might be stressed.
If I’ve l could choose one era of my life to live in forever, it would probably be college. Genuinely no offense to my husband and daughter (love you!), but it’s hard to beat the level of freedom I had at 18. Not to mention the excitement of having endless possibilities and my entire life ahead of me.
But that is NOT how I felt like when I was living it! When I was in college, I felt stressed to the max. There wasn’t even necessarily anything specific to be stressed about. I was healthy. My bills were covered. My grades were fine. My parents were crazy proud of me. But regardless, the stress was always there like static in the background.
Maybe I had a tough professor. Or I was mad at my boyfriend. Or couldn’t find parking one morning. Or I slept through my 3pm class again. (So THAT happened!) But these are just everyday kinds of stress, right? Or, let’s face it, self-inflicted. (Who can’t wake up in time for a 3pm class? WHO?!)
There are the obvious reasons you’re stressed. Finals week, illness in the family, a blow out fight with your parents or best friend. But sometimes stress doesn’t just come from the obvious sources. There are a lot of unexpected reasons that contribute to stress too. Here are some of the common culprits.
1. Multi-tasking can be a reason you’re stressed
I used to be so proud of my multi-tasking skills. When I was in college, I worked as a server at TGI Fridays. (Back in the suspenders and flair days, y’all!) I was actually pretty great at it. I could hold 3 glasses in one hand, pour refills from a pitcher with the other, ask a passing server to grab some extra breadsticks my 10-top, all while flirting with the baseball players at Table 31. Doing twenty things at once is totally my zone.
But it turns out multi-tasking actually isn’t as valuable as we’ve been led to believe. It actually decreases productivity while increasing stress in the process. Multi-tasking leads to lower quality work and more mistakes too. Not really what we’re going for, right?
Focusing on just one task at a time allows you to do a better job faster. Which means you’ll be more productive without overloading your brain. Fancy that!
2. Social media can be a reason you’re stressed
You knew this one was coming! Social media takes up a LOT of our time. It can also totally overload us with information. Whether taunting us that we’ll never be ready for “bikini season”, that the 10,000 plastic straws we’ve used in our lifetime are killing marine animals, or that every male celebrity we’ve ever loved is a total creeper, the grand majority of the stuff we’re bombarded with on social media is negative.
Social media also gives us a chance to make unfair comparisons to our friends. Your best friend from preschool is going to Greece this summer while you’re be working at Jamba Juice? The new girl you met at soccer camp last year got a BMW while you’re stuck behind the wheel your mom’s minivan? Did you REALLY need to know that?
Combine that with all of the depressing news stories that come through our feeds and you have an awesome recipe for stress overload. When you’re feeling stressed, try limiting your time on social media for a bit. I guarantee it will help!
Wish you could get a handle on stress? Check it!
3. Caffeine can be a reason you’re stressed
Trust me when I say that it pains me to add this. But caffeine can contribute to stress and anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant (duh), which means that it speeds your body systems up. Too much caffeine can cause symptoms that feel a lot like anxiety, like heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, jittery feelings, and insomnia.
The recommended dose of caffeine per day for teens is only 100mg. That gets you a tall Latte or a grande Frappuccino at Starbucks. Cutting back on caffeine won’t completely eliminate your feelings of stress and anxiety, but it can definitely help improve the physical symptoms.
PS: Even if aren’t a coffee drinker (Tell me your secrets!), don’t forget that chocolate, soda, and energy drinks have caffeine too.
4. Unhealthy coping skills can be a reason you’re stressed
When I was in school, I sucked at dealing with stress. I’d eat like crap (if I remembered to eat at all), stay up late to finish homework, and either lock myself away in the library or party way too much, only to regret it the next morning.
Do you deal with stress by pounding energy drinks so you can stay up late to study? Do you lose your appetite, forget to eat, or binge on junk food? Or how about becoming a social hermit so you can spend your entire weekend studying for your AP exams?
If so, the ways that you’re dealing with stress might actually be making you more miserable. Using unhealthy habits to deal with stress can create a cycle that makes things progressively worse. Learning some healthier ways of dealing with stress and anxiety will make your life much easier in the short term and your future self will thank you.
Related: How to Balance Your Daily Life
5. High expectations can be a reason you’re stressed
When I was high school, I took the hardest classes offered and was at the top of my class. So when I got to college, I expected it to be the same. What I didn’t take into account is that all of my new classmates were at the top of their high school classes too. In some of my classes I felt like the dumbest kid there. I took the demotion really hard and started doubting that I was really as smart as my parents and teachers had told me growing up.
That caused a lot of unnecessary stress. I got into college and grad school and walked out of both with a degree. I got hired for a number of jobs and now I own my own business. Not only does no one care what my class rank or GPA was, I doubt anyone knows what degrees I even have. It’s a lot of stress for nothing. Long term, it really doesn’t matter what your class rank was. Nobody cares and I bet nobody will ever ask you about it.
If you’re an overachiever or a perfectionist *raises hand*, you probably have really high expectations for yourself too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it can be a huge source of stress if your expectations for yourself aren’t realistic. Instead of choosing targets arbitrarily (Valedictorian!), try setting goals that you are 70% sure you can meet. It’s enough to challenge you without making you feel discouraged.
There some things that cause us stress that we can’t change. But there are plenty of sneaky sources of stress that we CAN control. Getting a handle on some of those little stressors will save your energy so you have enough to deal with the things that are actually worth stressing over.