Mistakes We Make When We’re Stressed

Stress - business person stressed at office. Business woman hold


NEW YORK – It’s safe to say we’re a little less than logical when we’re stressed — and that puts us at risk to make some mistakes. The next time you find your worries spiking, pay attention to these five behaviors.

Venting to the person next to you.

It may seem helpful to let it out — and for the most part it can be cathartic — but beware of perpetuating the problem. Studies show that stress is a contagious emotion, and soon your stress has become someone else’s, too. A vicious anxiety cycle isn’t good for anyone. Instead, try hanging out with your best friend while doing a few activities you enjoy. One 2011 study showed that quality time with your BFF can help ease your worries.

Making rash decisions.

Ever heard the phrase “don’t go to bed when you’re angry?” Well, here’s another one to file in your rulebook: Don’t make a big decision when you’re stressed. Researchers from Harvard monitored a group of students and found that students who reported high levels of stress were worse at making good long-term choices because their minds were preoccupied. In other words, that important decision about a job or that choice to make a down payment on a house should probably wait until you’re a little more relaxed.

Procrastinating your responsibilities.

We’ve all been there. We get overwhelmed and decide the best way to deal with our to-do list is to just ignore it (bonus points if you’ve used the “I work better under deadlines” excuse). That procrastination habit we create when we’re stressed may feel good at the time — but it’s certainly not helping later on. As psychologist Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., explains in a Psychology Today blog, pushing off important tasks reinforces the idea that we need that stress in our lives in order to function:

Instead of putting off something entirely, try breaking up your tasks into pieces. Research suggests we work best in 90-minute intervals. Dedicate yourself to your work during those intervals — then give yourself a rest by taking a look at those puppy videos.

Ruminating over every detail.

It can feel natural to dwell on every single hiccup when something goes wrong, but that incessant overthinking could be harming our health. According to a 2013 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, those who ruminate over negative thoughts and emotions are more at risk for depression and anxiety. The study also suggests that our psychological response to the negative occurrence seems to have more of an impact than the actual event itself. If you find yourself obsessing over every detail, try a fewmindfulness meditation exercises to get you back to the present moment. Let those thoughts float away.

Neglecting sleep.

Stress can wreak havoc on your sleep routine, and the worst thing you can do is to just give into the stress. Binge-watching a TV show until the wee hours may seem like the only way to get your mind off of things, but research shows your glowing screen could be messing with your sleep even more. If you’re stressed and struggling to snooze, trysmelling some lavender or even a warm bath. Sweet dreams.


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