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5 common causes of stress in modern life (and what to do about it)

Oh stress, there are so many causes of our stress these days. Stress is a survival instinct that keeps us safe and aware of potential danger, and modern life is full of pressures that trigger this response in us, probably most days. So keep reading to find out 5 reasons you’re feeling stressed due to modern life.

The advancements of modern life have added a lot of pressure to our everyday lives. While being connected with everyone we know and able to access all sorts of information almost always at our fingertips can be really handy, and served us well during the pandemic, we are feeling more and more bogged down by these things - and many of us haven’t realised.

We all know that the average person is under a lot of stress, whether it’s work-related, family, money, health or even all of the above. The grind of everyday life is simply more stressful and challenging than it used to be.

So what are some of the modern life pressures that are causing stress, and what can we do about them?

1. Constantly being connected

Technology is wonderful, allowing us to connect with people far away, in different time zones, collaborate remotely, and see highlights of others' lives at the reach of our fingers, with many of us owning smartphones these days.

But we’ve become quite tethered to our technological devices, meaning we’re constantly accessible and absorbing a lot of information at once which very quickly becomes overwhelming and often without us noticing - till we’re feeling frazzled and wondering why. You know what it’s like, you’re scrolling through social media, and you get a text from your friend - an instant demand of our attention - and then we find ourselves in our work inbox replying to emails at 8 pm, we’ve not switched off and anyone can interrupt our personal time.

What can we do: A digital detox or regular downtime from devices can give us the space we need from this information overload. Silencing notifications when you're trying to relax or work so you can focus can be helpful or even using digital apps designed to keep you off your phone! Make space away from devices to reduce your stress load.

2. Trying to do too much

Between the social media standards and societal expectations laid on us, the pressure to fit in and meet our goals can be overwhelming for any of us. From spotless homes, gentle parenting techniques, careers in travel or bringing in 6 figure salaries, to making Pinterest-worthy dinners, being a yoga enthusiast or a personal trainer on speed dial.

There’s so many things we can be doing in life now, that we can forget about the simple things and get swept up in trying to have it all. Unfortunately, that’s only adding to our stress levels and trying to do everything all the time isn’t sustainable for anyone.

What can we do: Try to avoid comparing yourself to your peers, colleagues, friends, and people you follow on social media. Remember social media is only a highlight reel and people don’t tend to post their worst moments, you are one human and cannot do it all - a lot, but not all.

3. Not prioritising tasks

While we’re trying to do too much, we’re also often not prioritising tasks that we need to do. This can be down to feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start - but it also causes this feeling. Not knowing what our priority tasks are can lead to us feeling scattered or trying to do all of them at once, leading to not really getting anything done, or only doing half of a few jobs.

Feeling overwhelmed, unsure or unclear about what tasks we’ve got on and which to complete first of course leads to feeling stressed out, and even feeling a lack of achievement, which in turn can become burnout.

What can we do: Make time to prioritise tasks on your to-do list, what is most important or pressing, with the closest deadline, that must be done. Complete those high-priority tasks to the best of your abilities (which likely differ day-to-day, like if we’re feeling under the weather), and when it comes to the rest of your list, those less pressing matters, take the pressure off yourself to complete them quickly - if the dishes are still on the side in the morning, but it means you can slow down and spend some time with your kids after tea don’t worry about it. Or if you don’t get around to replying to an email before your working day finishes, but it means you have time to switch off and relax rather than working late, reply tomorrow.

4. Poor or infrequently used stress-relief tools

Unfortunately, stress is inevitable in our busy, modern lives and many of us are lacking the tools to cope with it. There’s lots of conflicting information, from meditation techniques to what we eat, from experts in health and wellness to less credible information flooding social media. Or even how our current lifestyles dictate how we relax - like heading to the pub after a long day at work or ordering a takeaway when we can’t face cooking.

The information is out but working out where to start can be tricky as we’re all individuals and different things work differently for each of us. Exercise, eating well and getting good quality sleep are foundations for stress reduction, and many of us have inconsistent routines to support these.

What can we do: Schedule time for stress-reducing activities, like spending time with loved ones, practising a hobby we enjoy or following an online yoga tutorial, and taking care of your body’s needs. Scheduling this time can ensure we practice these things more often, which helps us when stress hits as it can be difficult to reduce stress in the moment when we’re not clear about what works for us. We can also make time to practice different techniques to find out what suits us best.

5. Pollution

This might be unexpected, but there is pollution everywhere we turn these days - air pollution, noise pollution and visual pollution. Everything often feels very busy, from being in the supermarket surrounded by stimulus, to the commute to work through the city you live in, even having the TV on ‘for background noise’, and it adds to our stress levels.

We’re constantly entertained by something, and it’s not always in a fun or enjoyable way. Overstimulating our senses and brains leads to higher levels of stress and makes it more difficult to focus or concentrate on tasks, and even hear ourselves think.

What can we do: Control what you can here - we can’t stop the neighbour's construction work going on, but we could find a quieter space maybe. We can’t clean up the city air with a click of our fingers, but we can spend more time in nature and green spaces. We can put our devices down, clear up the clutter in our spaces and make time to unwind to reduce visual stimulation.

6. Bad news

Unfortunately, we’re not free from the grips of bad news either, whether it’s regarding friends and family or the world on TV or news feed, even notifications from news apps alerting your attention to tragedy - throughout the day. From a family member receiving an unexpected health diagnosis to your partner losing their job, from the latest news of the war to the consequences of a global financial crisis: all of this can cause a significant amount of stress upon us, and it’s often difficult to just ignore.

What we can do: Again, we have to recognise how much we can control this, and avoid stressing too much about what we can’t, instead figuring out how to keep going despite the bad news. When it comes to media, social or news, and TV, we can reduce or limit our interaction, to prevent spending too much time surrounding ourselves with stressors. Check the news in small amounts, limit notifications and be intentional with social media. We are not built to take on the world’s burdens, while it can be hard to keep moving, that’s where joy comes in to dilute it!

Stress is inevitable in modern life, and it’s understandable to see why. But the impacts of stress can negatively impact our wellbeing so it’s important to practice reducing our stress as much as possible. It doesn’t mean the goal is to not feel stressed but to acknowledge what might be causing us stress and what we can do to tackle it, or simply take a moment to process it and have some compassion for ourselves. Perhaps something in here has been causing you stress recently?




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