How to Break Free from Stress: 9 Habits That Hinder Your Joy

stress relief this way - billboard signage

Life is a journey of ups and downs, good days and better days, bad days and the worst of days. 

Each of our lives is a work in progress. Just as few college graduates advance from student to CEO in their first few years of post-grad employment, few broken people become whole without a great investment of time and effort. It is the same with stress; it can be relieved but does require some effort on our part to do life differently. Even minor changes can bring about real relief. Yet there is a process one must follow - even through all the twists and turns and fates and failures which may land at your feet.

red flag atop mountain at end of curvy path upwards

Consider your own journey for a moment: Birth, childhood, sports, music lessons, tween and teen years, school issues, friends and enemies, growing into adulthood, health, family and money issues, college, getting started on a career path, marriage, hobbies, church life and ministry, job advancement opportunities or losing a job after many years of loyalty, frustrations of trying to balance work and home life, sleep issues, managing kids, sitters, and pets, years of accumulated debt, car, health and insurance problems, marital counseling, new homes and aging parents, dealing with divorce, traveling the world, experiencing loss and grief, retirement, and perhaps enjoying grandchildren . . .

Look at all these phases of life and consider other aspects of life that are unique to you. It is easy to see how and why stress can quickly become a part of all our lives. 

question of the day - 4 question marks

The question of the day is this: 

Have you yet learned to love, appreciate, and find joy doing this thing called life?  

If not, resolve today to make some changes in your life. How? By breaking habits which tend to hinder the joy of living. The insights below can help you live a less stressed life, especially when responsibilities, troubles and tough decisions seem overwhelming.

We live and we die, but what about the in-between years? It’s worth taking some time to ponder the quality of life in which we live. And I’m not referring to the size of our homes, the types of cars we own, one's annual income and net worth, or the mere attractiveness of all that we call ours.

stop stress - enjoy the little things

I’m talking about the minutes between morning and evening, the time spent with family, friends, coworkers, bosses, clients, and new acquaintances. I'm referring to the hours we spend shopping, dining out and driving, and even the brief moments we spend with cashiers and other customer service people who serve us well or sometimes not so well.

Life, your life, is always saying something to those around you. It’s either something positive or something negative. If you leave no impression at all, that’s still a negative. Whether intentionally or merely out of habit, what are you conveying to others each day?

  • with your attitude, often unspoken but loud nonetheless
  • with the words that actually come out of your mouth
  • regarding your priorities and the choices you make as a result

HABIT #1: Misplaced priorities

stress less - life is beautiful

When you wake in the morning, is it with dread? What if you were to awaken with whispered appreciation for the good things in life and for another day in which to live, breathe, help, and inspire others? What if you could change your perspective regarding your purpose in life and your reason for getting out of bed each morning? Might it change your mood and stress level too – even when the workload and tasks ahead remain the same?

HABIT #2: Grouchy disposition

lower stress - 3 family members holding hands

Once you’re up and moving, how do you treat those with whom you live? Are you cranky and irritable? What if you determined to begin each day with a smile and a good morning - no matter what? What if you hugged each of your family members before leaving for the office? What if you turned on some music? It’s a mood changer! What in the world would your tribe think?

HABIT #3: Easily annoyed

stress verbiage - anxiety, pressure, hectic

What if on your way to work, you purposed in your heart and mind to utter kind words instead of derogatory lingo at all the annoying and reckless drivers on the road?  You know what I mean. Try to tame the road rage.

What if you considered each of those drivers as people with needs and frustrations just like yours – such as the need to get to work or to the doctor's office on time or the frustrating inability to drive faster for myriad reasons - and instead sent them a good thought for safe travel and a blessed day? Why? For your own sanity and to avoid a heart attack from too much stress and loud expression of your own opinion to those who can’t even hear you. 

HABIT #4: Careless words and actions

stress relief - relax

What if you remembered to intentionally relax, slow down, look around and breathe deeply? Notice the little things and talk about them. Take in stride the important and worrisome things, and yell less about them. And when you are in the company of a child, focus on the fact that they are constantly learning from your example. If you stress over things, more than likely, they will too as they grow up, and then it will be too late to retrain them. Your corrections regarding their attitude and bad habits will probably go unheeded. Moreover, the bad habits will remain unchecked, possibly for a lifetime.

HABIT #5: Always in a hurry

man running in fading image

What would your co-workers think if you walked into the office with a slow smile and a kind word or even conversation rather than with a “gotta move quick agenda”? Shock, confusion, and delight would take over! And if you made this a new habit, you might just change the culture of your place of employment. Suffice it to say, similar efforts could even lead to a beautiful transformation of one's own home.

HABIT #6: An out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude regarding family

woman hopes for mail while sitting at laptop

What if you emailed or texted your spouse and children at least once a day to tell them you love them and are thinking about them and hoping their day is a good one? Would that change their attitude and outlook in this world? Perhaps bring a little more certainty, encouragement, and beauty into their uncertain world - not to mention your own busy world?

HABIT #7: Too busy

sunflower beauty

What if you found time to shift your focus and look at the trees, sky, and flowers at least once a day? If you are more accustomed to focusing on tasks, learn to look at nature and appreciate the beauty of each season. 

In addition, what if each of your family members was gifted with your direct attention for at least 1 to 5 minutes each evening? Put your cell phone down. Turn the TV off. Then talk to them about their day. Stop by their room for a brief chat before they go to sleep. Ask good questions. Do this daily so that you KNOW the right questions to ask. Try to develop this routine before they are teenagers so that they KNOW the concern is sincere and not a ploy. Reassure them of your love and support.

HABIT #8: Negative Words

be positive with smiley face

Are you a complainer? A critical and judgmental person? Are you your own harshest critic? What if you started monitoring what comes out of your mouth and began eliminating the negative? 

Your spoken words are an overflow of what is in your heart. Does the negative need to be replaced so that you don’t stress your life away (angry, worried, depressed)? So that what you do and say will accurately portray what is in your heart?

Did you know that with every negative word you think or speak that you are unintentionally training your brain to react a certain way? If you tell yourself that you are a loser and truly believe it, your body will react in conjunction with that thought. You will then FEEL like "your own personal definition of a loser" every single time. You may even ACT on those feelings in consistently negatively ways. Imagine for a moment what happens when you exercise this bad habit by labeling your own family members and coworkers in similar negative fashion. Don’t let your years be filled with lies, negativity, judgment and regret!

HABIT #9: Self-Absorbed

Do you take the time to really see and concern yourself with other people? Whatever the race. Whatever the position in life. Whatever the attire. Whatever the disposition or personality. Whatever the age. Whatever the need.

Are you too self-absorbed to even notice all the people around you? If you see them, how do you respond, especially to those who are not like you? Do you avoid, judge, ignore, stare or engage?

Maybe we should all begin to practice the golden rule once again: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Practice kindness, respect and appreciation, in appropriate ways. Speak. When the situation allows for it, engage the people around you in something other than mindless conversation. Get to know your neighbors . . . 

3 characters below globe in a high-five stance

There are many more habits in our lives which need to be challenged, but these will get you started. Stress will so easily take over if we allow it too, so take deep breaths – it’s good for your health. Open your eyes to the world and to others. Watch your words! Pay attention. Ask and listen. Share your life. Think about your family. Show each of them love in word and action.  Take time to share the realities, difficulties and joys of life with others. Be authentic. And be a part of the change that this world needs: less stress, more honest caring, and joy.


This blog was posted by Brannon Professionals, a staffing firm located in the metro Memphis area. To learn more about our placement and consulting services, visit our website today.