5 Surprising Ways You Are Stressing Yourself Out

Stress is a normal part of life—but some is within your control. Find out which habits—an unhealthy diet, skimping on sleep—cause stress overload.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

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Stress is a normal part of life—and a certain amount is good for you. It keeps you energized, sharp and at your healthiest, most efficient self. But too much stress can sap your mental resources and even make you sick. The fact is, we do have some control over how much stress we feel—and certain bad habits can cause it to spin out of control. Click through to discover some unexpected ways you may be adding to your stress.

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A cluttered environment means a cluttered mind, according to Ramani Durvasula, PhD, Sharecare expert and professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. “Lots of clutter can lead us to feel hemmed in, disorganized and contribute to a sense of stress,” she says. One of the easiest ways to turn stress down a few notches is by taking the time to get organized and do a deep clean, tossing things you no longer use or need. You’ll think more clearly on the job by cleaning up your workspace, too.

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Saying Yes to Everything

Agreeing to every single request that comes your way is one sure path to stress overload. “There are only so many hours in the day,” says Dr. Durvasula. Some people feel compelled to say yes out of guilt, while others think they don’t have a choice in the matter—when, in fact, they probably do. “Too many yeses can result in too many demands, not enough resources and growing resentment, all of which are stressful,” she says.

Get personalized treatment if anxiety is affecting your work, daily activities or personal relationships.

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Unhealthy Diet

Those chips, burgers or sweets are doing you no favors after a high-pressure day. “Lots of people use food to numb stress, which also impedes our ability to cope with it,” says Dr. Durvasula. She adds that feeling unhealthy in itself is stressful, so you only add to it by making poor food choices.

Try these diet-friendly comfort foods.

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Sleep Procrastination

Do you habitually stay up at night to finish one more episode of “House of Cards” or catch up with Facebook friends? You could be experiencing some stressful consequences because of it. A study from Utrecht University in the Netherlands examined what researchers called bedtime procrastination—meaning a person puts off going to sleep at his or her intended time when no other factors (insomnia, a sick child, noise) keep them from doing so. Skimping on sleep can cause a nonstop release of cortisol and adrenaline, keeping you on edge and setting you up for a high-stress day.

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Not Having a Routine

Starting the day without a plan not only makes things chaotic, it can make the easiest tasks seem like huge obstacles. “Routines ground us and help hard wire habits so that we are more efficient,” says Dr. Durvasula. “Knowing where things are and having things we can anticipate helps us better cope with the unexpected,” she says. “The lack of routine can leave us inefficient, disorganized and internally chaotic.”

We can reduce stress together, one person at a time.

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