The top ten stressful events listed on the original Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory included: death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, death of a close relative, injury or illness, marriage, loss of job, marriage reconciliation and retirement.
As painful and difficult at these events are, I submit that there are more insidious and chronic stressors that take an even heavier toll.
The research backing this new list of lifelong stressors is my own analysis of over 500 clients during a 20-year period. These are the common denominators at the heart of most psychological issues.
Other research has proven that a daily grind of internally generated stress over time can shorten your life span and damage your DNA.
Worse, you may not even mind living a shorter life, given how taxing stress is on your mind and body.
These following seven stressors are what you need to deal with if you want to live in peace. As you read, keep in mind that the issues on this list can work together to compound the effects of stress.
Freud called it the superego. It is commonly known as the inner critic. Most people experience it as an internal voice that monitors and berates, criticizing on autopilot.
The purpose of the inner critic is to find fault regardless of the circumstances. So, no matter what you do, the inner critic will have a problem.
If you want to try something new, the inner critic will predict failure. If you did well, the inner critic will point out that you could have done better. If you like yourself, it will call you conceited. If you hate yourself, it will tell you it’s because you really are worthless.
Living with the inner critic is chronic stress itself. Most people respond negatively to the inner critic without realizing what they are responding to, which makes the inner critic a formidable force.
Clinging to stressful, negative relationships is a revolving door for stress and depression. In this case, you have shackled yourself to negativity and empowered another person to pummel you with stress.
Common scenarios involve maintaining relationships with people who:
Refuse to meet your needs
Refuse to pull their own weight
Never validate you
Take advantage of you
Cheat on you
Relationships are a two-way street. If you experience any of the above over time in one of your relationships, rest assured you are playing a part and inviting the negativity to continue.
Self-sabotage happens when you do the opposite of what would make you happy and successful. It’s called getting in your own way.
Examples of self-sabotage include:
You know you should not eat that donut, but eat three.
You know you should be working, but surf the Internet instead.
You know you should help out around the house, but ignore the chores.
You know you should set goals, but drift through life anyway.
You know you should speak up, but keep your mouth shut.
In other words, you know you should, but do something else. As you are doing that something else, you are probably making a series of excuses that you don’t really believe.
Self-sabotage is perhaps the number one destroyer of success. It takes otherwise happy, powerful and mature people and turns them into powerless, whiny wimps.
Internal conflict is at the heart of indecisiveness. On the one hand you want this. On the other hand, you want that. You can spin your mind on inner conflict for weeks and months and not come to any conclusions or take action.
Meanwhile, you are stuck and not moving forward with your life. It’s as if you have chosen the nothing over something.
Inner conflict uses tons of mental and emotional energy that could otherwise be used to move ahead.
Psychotherapist Peter Michaelson calls inner passivity the Phantom of the Psyche.
Inner passivity occurs when you experience self-generated problems as if they were being done to you, rather than as something you are doing to yourself and therefore can stop doing. Nothing causes a greater sense of personal helplessness.
In a sense, all of these stressors contain an element of inner passivity. Some issues do seem larger than we are and take time to work our way out. During this time, it feels as if you are not making progress against a problem that seems to have a mind of its own.
Medical research suggests that autopilot thinking – the churning of the mind that occurs when you are not consciously engaged in a task – is associated with the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN).
The DMN generates a steady stream of thoughts that pass through your mind, generating spontaneous body tension. This tension keeps you from possessing a simple, clear mind that can relax.
Many people notice the DMN in action when they lay down to sleep. They are tired, but their mind is wired with thoughts that will not stop.
Finally, lack of proper nutrition is an epidemic of stress. When you don’t give the brain and body what it needs for fuel, things begin to misfire. food clogs the system and disrupts the delicate balance of blood sugar, hormones, neurotransmitters and more. A body out of balance cannot support a balanced mind. The malaise that results can only be defined as stress.
If you are going to work through these issues on your own, I suggest you pick just one at a time. Which issue did you identify with the most? Tackle it. Notice how it operates in your life. Call yourself on it whenever you notice it.
The truth is, the overwhelming majority of people cannot work these issues out by themselves. This is why these stressors endure. The most productive thing to do is get help from someone who knows how to help you through them.
Can they be completely resolved? In a word, yes. You can get to a place in life where each of these seven no longer keeps you from the peace that waits on the other side of stress.
If you’d like help overcoming these stressors in your life, consider life coaching with Mike Bundrant. To receive a free consult, click here.