5 reasons why modern life causes us stress (and what to do about it)
By Joyce Chong
Stress is an issue facing many individuals that we work with. Time and time again, we see people feeling overwhelmed because of the pressures that they face as part of modern life. So what are some common causes of stress in modern life, and what's the antidote? Read on to find out more.
1. Constantly being connected.
Technology is wonderful – we can connect with people far away, in different time zones, and have an insight into their lives simply by sitting passively behind our smartphone. It helps us to feel connected, right?
The answer, of course, isn’t as simple as that. With improvements in technology we’re typically tethered to our phones as work emails pile up. We’re also constantly connected via social media, which has its upside and its downside (see this article on The Tyranny of Constant Contact).
What would it be like to have a detox from your digital devices? Would that cause you relief or anxiety?
2. Trying to do too much.
Nowadays there’s a niche for everything (and Facebook and Instagram can attest to that), and it's as if we have to 'fit' into a niche:
- Busy professional scaling the corporate ladder and smashing glass ceilings? Check.
- Organised stay-at-home parent, whipping up Instagram-worthy bento boxes and tempering chocolate for the kids’ Easter school treats? Check.
- Adventurer and traveller snapping the sights of the most exotic, yet-to-be discovered destinations in the world? Check.
- The creatives, including the baristas who are into rainbow latte art, event planners who throw the perfect share-worthy children’s birthday parties, or the photographers whose pictures transport you to a different time and place? Check.
- The fitness and lifestyle bloggers/Instagrammers who make over their bodies in a few weeks and show off the fruits of their labour every moment of the day? Check.
The problem is that we’re fooled into thinking that we need to do all of these, and all at the same time. Witness the rise of the superman or superwoman, yet in reality it isn't possible to simultaneously excel at work and home life, to travel the world yet nurture your work, to be creative and fit all at the same time.
The pressure to maintain an image of perfection is surely exhausting. And yet, that’s what many of us buy into. If this sounds like you, it's helpful to ask yourself if you're heading towards burnout and what impact it has on your quality of life.
3. Not prioritising
Along with trying to do too much there’s a shortage of prioritising, leading to feeling pulled in different directions in life without a real focus, goal, or purpose. This can result in feeling a lack of achievement or accomplishment and this, together with a heightened workload, is a recipe for burnout.
4. Poor and/or infrequent stress-release mechanisms
Stress is an inevitable part of a busy, modern life. Unfortunately, as most of us are time-poor, stress-release mechanisms frequently tend to be poor (e.g. drinking alcohol, having a shot of caffeine or sugar, eating fatty comfort foods), or infrequent (e.g. going for a long run once a week, going for a relaxing massage once every three weeks).
However, we need to be on top of our game when it comes to our basic building blocks if we’re to combat stress, or our health will itself reinforce the stress that we experience.
Air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution…everywhere we turn there’s a constant source of stimulation and not necessarily in a positive way. From being constantly connected (see Point 1, and also this article on Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain) to air pollution affecting our wellbeing, and noise pollution affecting our ability to hear ourselves think…it’s not surprising that we readily become stressed.
What’s the antidote to modern life stress?
Short of going off the grid, there are some things that we can do to help the stress of modern life. Here are 3 quick tips:
1. Ease up on trying to be everything to everyone
What difference would it make to your stress levels if you didn’t try to be everything to everyone? Would you feel less stressed trying to meet your own (and others’) expectations? Would this create some breathing space for you? What impact would that have on your overall wellbeing?
Take a step back. Why are you trying to be everything to everyone? Is it because you think that's what's expected of you? Or is it an attempt to avoid conflict and avoid being seen to be selfish? Or is it to look 'impressive' and perfect to the outside world? Think carefully about how your motivation for trying to be everything to everyone is actually serving you. If the problem is perfectionism, take a closer look at this article.
2. Detox (for a bit) from being constantly connected
Occasionally – just occasionally - detox for a bit. There is no need to be connected 24/7, and there is no need to tune into the mental chatter all of the time. When you're not glued to social media waiting for the latest update, or living in a state of stress while dreading the next email to arrive, it can make a real difference to your stress levels. Unplugging for a bit can also tell you a lot about yourself and how you cope with life and stress more generally (see Point 3).
What can you do when you're detoxing from being constantly connected? Try doing things that give you meaning and engagement in life (learn more about meaning in this article on PERMA, the ingredients for resilience and wellbeing), doing something relaxing such as reading a book or go for a walk along the beach, or practise some mindfulness for a heightened state of calmness (check out our 5 quick tips for mindfulness that you can even do at work)
3. Improve your coping skills
As much as we can talk about decreasing unhelpful coping skills (alcohol, comfort eating, procrastination), it’s important to develop coping skills that can actually help. Below we're looking at two great starting points:
(A) Take action when it comes to healthy habits. A healthy body promotes a clear mind, but when we're stressed our healthy habits often fall off our radar and we resort to unhealthy lifestyle choices. To keep you on track - and to keep your healthy habits on your radar - try our free Daily Habit Tracker. It's part of our FREE Productive Life Planner which you can grab right here. It's designed as a To Do list to help us keep on top of our busy lives, but also as a way to remind us to stay on top of healthy habits.
(B) Boost your overall resilience and wellbeing with our 14-day Wellbeing Challenge. We've designed it with busy lifestyles in mind:
- Each tip takes only 15 minutes. We’re realistic in what people can fit into a busy lifestyle, and so we’ve tailored this 14-day Wellbeing Challenge for the time-poor.
- It’s convenient for you. Each tip will be delivered straight to your inbox. That way you have it as a handy reference. Our tips are also designed to work in with everyday life, and so won’t require any fancy equipment.
- It’s backed by science and written by clinical psychologists. Sick of wading through tips to work out which ones actually work? We’ve taken the guesswork out of it by drawing on tips that are backed by science. They’re also written by us and draw on the collective wisdom of our team in working with busy, time-poor individuals.
- It’s FREE. Who doesn’t love a freebie? Even more reason to sign up!
Read more about the 14-day Wellbeing Challenge here or if you're keen to get started sign up below!
Want more? You can connect with The Skill Collective in the following ways:
- Contact us to make an individual appointment to get started on making changes.
- Get access to our FREE resource library filled with exclusive tip-sheets on Wellbeing, Mental Health, and Performance that you won't find here on the blog
- Join our FREE 14-day Wellbeing Challenge. Tailored for busy lives we're talking wellbeing tips for better body, mind, and heart in just 15 minutes a day, delivered straight to your inbox.