The Top 3 Mistakes People Make When Stressed

You’re stressed, and you want relief. Maybe you’ve thought things like:

  • I feel like I can’t catch a break!

  • This day is going to be a total waste.

  • Go ahead, kick me while I’m down.

  • I cannot handle another thing. And another thing just keeps happening.

In fact, I know you’ve said things like this. You have either posted it on social media, told me in a coaching session, confessed it at the end of one of my workshops, or emailed me.

The good news? This 4-minute crash course will help you identify common mistakes people make when stressed. It will also give you three better choices for those times when you’re having a case of the Mondays. At the end of this article, you can sign up for my new FREE stress management e-course: 6 Proven Ways to Calm Down.

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What makes me the expert?

I’m glad you asked. The truth is: life is a hell of a teacher. Suffering and stress nearly destroyed me, but self-compassion, self-care, and professional help have changed my life. So, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way, in hopes that you save yourself some trouble.

If you heed this advice, you’ll quickly be able to avoid compounding your stress. You might even be able to help those you care about, too!

The top 3 mistakes people make when stressed:

1. Commiserate with other stressed out people

When we’re stressed to the max, it’s easy to find other stressed out people. Like attracts like, right? However, when is the last time you left a grip session with another miserable person and felt better about it? When did it change your situation or improve your outlook?

Probably never.

Like it or not, the best thing you can do for yourself when you’re stressed is to avoid other stressed people, who are operating in a negative headspace.

Instead, surround yourself with people who seem to be in a good place.

Can’t handle the super optimistic, always-bubbly personality? Fine - read a book. Alternatively, listen to a podcast. Chill out with some music. Or make an appointment with a counselor or life coach. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re filling yourself up with useful, positive, helpful information.

Otherwise, it’s all garbage in/garbage out, and you’ll never get better that way.

Here’s a great article from HuffPost: 5 Ways Commiserating Keeps You from Moving Forward

2. Engage in numbing behaviors

When I’m stressed and not dealing with it healthily, I want one of two things: ice cream or alcohol. No, really.

The sugar gives me that temporary rush (and who doesn’t love some Ben and Jerry’s?), and the beer (or maybe the whiskey) helps my shoulders lower. But it doesn’t fix anything. After the sugar or the buzz wears off, I’m still dealing with whatever stressors put me there in the first place. And now I’m dealing with all those extra calories, plus the guilt from binging.

What is it for you?

Netflix? Zoning out on your phone? Smoking a cigar on the back patio?

Look, I’m not anti any of the things listed above; the problem is the heart behind it.

Instead of engaging in numbing behaviors, why not deal with the stress in healthy, productive ways, and then reward yourself with a treat or your favorite show? See the difference?

Instead of the ice cream or the booze, why not take a walk when you’re stressed? Rather than Netflix or Facebook for two hours (I’m guilty, too), why not get together with a friend who always seems to listen without judgment? Or have that stogie while you make a phone call to your life coach.

Read this from Psychology Today: Stop Numbing Out and Awake To Your Life

3. Push it down & ignore it.

I was reeling from panic attacks brought on by my childhood sexual abuse. I tried to cover it up in the following ways:

  • Making the rest of my life seem perfect.

  • Becoming involved in every church activity possible.

  • Masking the pain by being the life of the party.

Eventually, it all came tumbling down, and I had to face myself for the first time in 29 years.

A shame-based culture tells us to discount our pain and avoid seeming weak at all costs. We try to Botox our flaws away, and we wish life came with an Instagram filter. But perfection is a big nasty lie. And the only way to move forward when it feels like you’re drowning is to find the courage to tell the truth and ask for help.

You have to start telling the truth.

Stress is a serial killer. Shame is, too. And the only way to combat the two is by speaking your pain and triggers aloud. Who can you trust when it feels like your life is coming apart at the seams? A parent? Your partner? That mental health professional you’ve been meaning to re-schedule with for six months? Your best friend?

Brene’ Brown says, “Shame can’t survive being spoken.” She’s right. (Hint: she’s always right.)

So find the courage to tell the truth. Admit that you’re not okay. Tell someone you’re stressed out. And ask for help.

Think you can’t afford help? Think again. Check out lowcosthelp.com today. Low-Cost Help is a national directory of affordable and sliding scale counseling services. Access to affordable mental health care should never be limited by your ability to pay.


As of 2017, 18% of adults reported feeling stressed “often,” including nights and weekends. If that sounds like you, sign up for my FREE e-course: 11 Ways to Move from Chaos to Calm.

It's simple, practical, and the results will give you the ability to slow down and catch your breath.

Sign up today. IT'S FREE! Just click here.

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Meet Steve

Steve Austin was a pastor when he nearly died by suicide. A second chance, a grueling recovery, and years of honest conversation allowed Steve to find healing and purpose. It’s evident in his writing, speaking, podcasting, and coaching: he helps overwhelmed people get their lives back.


Steve is also the author of two Amazon bestsellers: From Pastor to a Psych Ward and Catching your Breath. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Lindsey, and their two children.