What Would You Give Up To Relieve Stress In Your Life?


A friend and I were talking yesterday about what we would give up or take up to make our lives better. We were looking at things in terms of what would make the biggest impact and be something that we could realistically take on or go without for at least several weeks.

I decided to take up exercising every day (okay, I actually started doing that again several weeks ago, so I’m hoping to continue to do that because of the many benefits of exercise), and give up complaining.


Yes, there may be other things that I could give up that would also benefit me: I eat a little too much chocolate, I watch a little too much T.V. (sometimes I think that any T. V. is too much when you have other goals in life!), and there are other habits to be shed. But complaining, which, to me, encompasses the spreading of negativity, rumination and gossip, carries some heavy drawbacks that I’d like to get rid of:

  • Complaining keeps you stuck in ‘problem mode’ and inaction.
  • Complaining can be a form of rumination, which carried many negative consequences.
  • Complaining spreads negativity to others.
  • Complaining can magnify problems, making frustrations seem more intense and chronic than they perhaps are.
  • Complaining isn’t a very effective route to feeling better or solving problems.

Quitting the complaining habit isn’t the same as being unaware of potential problems. With the economy being what it is right now, many people have multiple problems they’re facing at work, at home, and everywhere. These problems need solutions, and the stress of these challenges must be minimized and managed. But complaining about the problems, big or small, just isn’t an effective solution. Cut out complaining, and you’re much more likely to see the world with optimism and gratitude, I believe. So that’s what I intend to do.

What about you? If you were to give up one thing that you think might be holding you back or causing you excessive stress, what would it be? The following are more ideas to get you thinking.  If you were to give up the following, you just may feel transformed after a few days.

Snacking On Junk

You may already know that a poor diet can exacerbate stress, but you may not be fully aware of how much of an effect your diet truly has on your stress levels, or of what you are actually putting into your body.  You may find it to be eye-opening to track your daily food intake and see how much sugar and “junk” you put into your body, and monitor how it makes you feel.  Do you crash a few hours after your 3rd cut of coffee?  Do you find yourself feeling emotional, exhuasted, or depressed if you eat too much sugar? Give up poor eating habits and see how much stress you eliminate in the process.

Making Comparisons

It’s human nature to look at others and compare our experience to see how we measure up.  However, it becomes easy to slip into unhealthy habits with social comparision, particularly in the age of social media.  Facebook stalking, competitive friendships, and “humble bragging” are commonplace now, and this type of behavior can create social stress for everyone.  For one thing, people can usually sense when they’re being judged, so it can put a strain on relationships if you cast a critical eye on your friends too often.  Also, we feel worse about ourselves if we find ourselves “less than” our friends.  For peace of mind, you may consider giving up the comparisions, at least for a while–when you find yourself analyzing someone else and comparing yourself to them, just stop, mentally wish them well, and then shift your focus.  Here are some specific strategies for minimizing the stress of social comparison.

Jumping To Conclusions

Many people think they know things they don’t actually know, jumping to conclusions, “mind-reading,” and assuming things about others without having all the information.  A common cognitive distortion, “knowing” can lead to anxiety and stress when you think things are worse than they are, when you react without having all the facts, and when you assume the worst about others.  It can be tempting to see something that’s merely possible as a certainty; it can feel uncomfortable not knowing what people are really thinking, or feeling a lack of control.  However, jumping to conclusions can compound the problem and exacerbate stress levels.  When a chronic “mind-reader” decides to give up on the assumptions and give people the benefit of the doubt more often, for example, things can feel less stressful for everyone.  This is a great one to give up!

Holding Unrealistic Expectations

We often hold unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, and this can be a source of stress in relationships and in life.  Like social comparisions, holding unrealistic expectations can cause you to compare your actual life to an idealized version of what you think it should be, and can often create a feeling of disappointment and lack.  Why not give up the expectations you have about yourself, of others, and of life in general, and hope for the best, but prepare for the worst?

Savaging Your Sleep

Whether you wreck your sleep with too much caffeine (or, rather, caffeine at the wrong times of day), or keep yourself too busy to sleep, if you’re getting significantly fewer than the recommended 7-8 hours, you’re setting yourself up to feel more stressed.  Find out why, and make a plan to safeguard your sleep.  (Note: prioritizing sleep may mean giving up other things, but it will be worth the effort.)  You may need to make a few changes, but you’ll feel more empowered in your life, you’ll be better equipped to solve problems you face, and you’ll enjoy life more.  What would you need to give up that’s worth more than that?

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