The trials and tribulations that cause tension in our lives are personal problems, yet they often fall into larger categories of common anxiety triggers. These universal stress points -- money, relationships, work, time constraints -- are often painfully obvious to everyone involved. Other times, however, they can hide behind our own excuses and denials, while we blame others for our problems and overlook the true causes.
Keeping a stress journal for a period of one or two weeks can help you better identify the specific sources of turbulence in your life, while these common stressors may highlight areas that need special attention.
1. Money Issues
Financial stress is nothing new, but in recent years it's skyrocketed to the top of our worry list: In the American Psychological Association's 2009 Stress in America report, it was the No. 1 issue reported, with 71 percent of those surveyed saying that money was a significant or very significant source of stress in their lives. The economy was mentioned by 63 percent of respondents, and housing costs by 47 percent.
2. A Job That Never Ends
In today's world of smartphones, laptops, and telecommuting, work and play have become strange bedfellows -- and not only because you occasionally fall asleep next to your laptop. The boundaries separating labor from leisure have all but dissolved: You might be at dinner or even on a beach somewhere, but if you're responding to an email from your boss, are you really there?
Plus: Prevent Burning Out at Work
3. Your Relationship
In close relationships, there are fights -- and then there are fights. Some spring from watershed issues: how to save or spend money, how to raise the kids, how to honor religious beliefs. But this isn't what couples fight about most of the time. Instead, we argue over loading the dishwasher properly, cutting toenails on the coffee table, and cleaning the cat box when it's your turn. While the offenses may seem minor enough, these garden-variety arguments can cause tremendous stress and contribute to general wear and tear on a relationship. But when you stop reacting and start responding with compassion, you can defuse silly squabbles and help strengthen your bond.
4. Taking On Too Much
There are lots of reasons we struggle with telling other people "no," even if we're already overloaded or it's against our best interests to give them a hand. Some people feel bound by obligation, or by fear of hurting someone's feelings. Others believe they really can do it all -- and hate to pass up the opportunity to try. But think about it: Almost every misplaced "yes" is really a "no" to yourself -- and may be putting you on the fast track to a meltdown.
Plus: Stretch Out Your Stress
5. Striving To Be Perfect
Your meticulous nature and Type A personality may be the source of much of your success -- but if the thought of making even a tiny mistake paralyzes you with fear, your perfectionism could be doing more harm than good. Instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong, free yourself from the unrealistic expectations you've set for yourself (or those you've let others set for you) and move your life forward -- one healthy achievement at a time.
6. Disorganized Clutter
Clutter can prevent us from letting anything new into our lives, says life coach Cheryl Richardson. Think about a disorganized home, messy desk, or overflowing inbox: Not only is excess baggage physically in the way, but it can slow down your productivity and keep you focused on things in the past. In time, our lives get so filled with the debris of the past -- from dried-up tubes of Krazy Glue to old grudges -- that it's a wonder we can get up in the morning, never mind go to work, or even just put one foot in front of the other. Gail Blanke, author of "Throw Out Fifty Things," suggests a room-by-room clean-out of your house … and your life.
Plus: See More Stress Triggers