During the end of last year around the holidays and election I noticed so many people with terrible stress.

I was starting to feel like there are a lot of miserable people surrounding us. I’m talking about co-workers, friends, drivers, pedestrians, shoppers, and even family!

Why is that?

No matter what happened politically or who died during the year, 2016 rocked for us. We continued our plan for financial independence, started walking daily before work, practiced stress-relieving yoga, and even took up salsa dancing!

I know I’m being quick to judge since you can’t know everyone’s internal struggle and what they’re dealing with in their life, but looking from the outside-in, I can see all these unhappy people are dealing with one thing that they all have in common:

STRESS – The Bad Kind

What would be causing all this stress to where you can’t enjoy your life? After analyzing these unhappy folks, I think it comes down to these 3 things that are the main culprit:

  • Money Problems
  • Health Problems
  • Priority Problems

Stress can be good and bad. It can motivate you to do well on projects or presentations at work, it can give you the courage doing well on job interviews or change your career like Mrs. Saturday just talked about, or it can give you the push to get up the courage to ask that hot guy or girl for a date. Doing anything meaningful in your life is probably going to be stressful, otherwise you wouldn’t be worried about it.

Life would be an easy road.

But, on the other side, the bad kind of stress can bring down the happiness in your life and even your health. Let’s look at these 3 main causes of stress.

Stressor #1 – Money Problems

Most people feel they could use more money no matter what income level they have achieved, but that’s not the whole story.

There are happy people right now living at the poverty level. There are also people making six-figure incomes that are miserable. So what gives?

Money problems are as varied as people are but it really comes down to this simple explanation:

“Spend less than you earn.”

That’s it. End of story.

An iguana standing in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

This iguana gets it –> just spend less than you earn.

The excuses, details, and complexity don’t matter. It’s the same whether the kids are demanding the same expensive Christmas gadgets the Jones kids are getting, whether your car broke down, or if you can’t pay your rent.

People complicate their understanding of finance by adding complexity, but the rule is always the same.

You can move money around to 100 different buckets of assets and income, have payments on credit cards, mortgages, school, cars, vacations, or spoiling your significant other with expensive gifts, but it all boils down to spending less than you’re bringing in and being organized.

Money causes so much stress which could easily be avoided by following these simple strategies:

  • Increase your income – if you’re scraping by with only the essentials (food, water, shelter, energy, & transportation), it’s time to build more skills, take on more responsibility, and get more pay to work with
  • Spend less than you earn – this should be a given, but being frugal might be the most important skill that you can put into practice
  • Save money & invest – turn your dollars into little workers that go out and make more money for you, doubling your efforts
  • Have an emergency fund – boring yes, but it gives so much peace of mind! Build up a buffer to cushion financial blows like your car going out
  • Organize & simplify – juggling too many things causes missed payments and costs you more money in late fees
  • Automate – put every payment you can on autopay and audit occasionally (we use Personal Capital’s dashboard – Sign Up for Free)

You can can make excuses about your money problems or you can take control and feel good about your finances.

Stressor #2 – Health Problems

The waters of health and wellness have been clouded by authors selling diet books and corporations that want you to buy their products, but don’t believe their marketing. This one boils down to three key ideas:

Eat more whole foods, do a bit of exercise, and remove things that are hurting you.

Same thing here. That’s it.

The lower you eat on the food chain, the more you include whole foods, and the more harmful things you either lessen or remove, the bigger positive impact you’ll see on your health.

A large bowl of Colorful grape tomatoes found at a farmers market in Delray Beach, FL

Pleasant yes? More colorful, whole foods will rock your world!

Food ideas we love from many different cuisines:

  • Mixed brown rice bowls (in so many ways)
  • Homemade tortilla veggie bean burritos w/fresh salsa
  • Vegetable & bean soups from scratch
  • Vegetable lasagna
  • Indian masala with rice
  • Baked roots with herbs (potatoes, beets, carrots, rutabaga)
  • Baked potato wedges with sauce
  • Toasted veggie sandwiches
  • Sweet & spicy veggie bean chili
  • Mashed potatoes & gravy
  • Sauteed greens w/sea salt & garlic (kale, mustard greens, spinach, green beans)
  • Vegetable sushi
  • Wild caught sardines packed in olive oil

There are so many other types of food we absolutely love, but these are just a few.

Along with healthy food is including basic exercise in your life. It’s not rocket science. Move around, take a walk, stretch it out, and enjoy the stress-relieving benefits.

To keep it short on things that might be hurting you that you should lessen or remove:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Drugs
  • Fried foods
  • Animal products higher on the food chain (due to bioaccumulation)

Basically, common sense things. Duh. Everyone knows this.

Having this three-fold approach is so powerful and so simple, most people can’t believe it’s the truth. They think they’re doomed to the genes they’ve been born.

That type of thinking is exactly what the big corporations want you to think. That road leads to buying into the ridiculousness of counting calories, points, carbs, and when you’re far enough down that road – counting the number of pills you need to take.

NO THANKS!

With those two stressors out of the way, the next one is a bonus.

Stressor #3 – Priority Problems

What do you actually value and focus your time and energy on?

People focus on things that have no direct relevance to their lives at all or are things that they can do absolutely nothing about*. This is highly inefficient and wastes your precious life energy.

Some of the most popular things lately to worry about on this list are:

  • National political elections
  • Sports
  • Zombies rising up Walking Dead style – (okay, not for real but just as ridiculous to worry about as the last two)

Seriously – STOP IT!

Dogs playing on the beach in St Maarten, Caribbean

Do you think these two let politics or sports get in the way of their priorities?

On a related note, worrying too much about what people think about you (keeping up with the Jones) leads to overspending on things like houses, cars, and the latest tech gadgets.

Circle of Concern & Influence

If you have a problem that’s affecting your life and stressing you out, consult the Circle of Concern & Influence below. This flowchart explains it perfectly and should be kept in the back of your mind when something is seriously bothering you!

Circle of Concern or Influence Flowchart & Diagram for Making a Decision

Diagram: Circle of Concern & Influence Decision Flowchart – 10X your happiness level by embracing this!

 

Wrapping Up

If you can get through all of these ideas and incorporate the above diagram into your life when things get rough, it will change your life quite a bit.

Second, the more time and energy you spend worrying about what others think of you diverts your efforts away from the positive things you could actually be doing in your life.

Are you seriously worried about Donald Trump getting voted into office? Here’s how most people who were upset about this reacted to it – You could:

  • spend all of your waking hours worried to death about it
  • write all over Facebook how it makes you feel
  • picketing or protesting
  • arguing with family members about why it’s so terrible
  • or all of the above and more

What if instead you used all of that energy to build a business for yourself? Or what if you planted a garden? Or maybe spent time helping someone who needed and valued you?

What matters most to us are the things that touch our lives directly and what we actually have influence over.

The takeaway from all of this is – if you can take care of these 3 major things that cause stress, you can finally be free to focus on the things that make you happy in life and create value for you and others.

How about you? Do you have these 3 stressors under control?

*There are caveats to this of course that can cause major stress like the death of a loved one or an accident that couldn’t be avoided, but today I’m focusing on things you have direct control over.