We often identify stress with big, life-changing events. We think that stress comes in the form of job losses, relationships beginning or ending, or losing someone close to us. However, for many people it’s the smaller, day-to-day stressors—ones we may not even notice—which can do the most harm in the long run.
Constant exposure to these ‘minor’ stressors messes up our hormones, increases inflammation, and may eventually lead to psychological and physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression. These problems are only worsened by poor lifestyle habits triggered by stress, such as oversleeping and under-eating.
Fortunately, identifying these hidden stressors allows us to address or eliminate them when possible. Here are 5 surprising ‘minor’ stressors to look out for!
If you live in the city, it’s car horns, screeches, sirens, and the TV next door. In the country it’s the crickets and frogs. Wherever you live, sometimes it feels like your coworkers and family will not be QUIET!
Constant noise can prevent thinking and focusing clearly, and makes relaxing and going to sleep difficult. It also makes you feel like you have no control over your space.
If you live in the city, try making your space quieter by adding thick curtains, carpets, and rugs that can absorb sound. If your family is noisy, try to separate yourself for 15-20 minutes to practice yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Use earplugs or put on some relaxing sounds.
2. A messy house
This one is especially true for women. Because men tend to be less sensitive to sensory information, women are often left feeling highly stressed by something that doesn’t seem to bother anyone else—and then cleaning alone!
Whether you’re male or female, if having a messy house irritates you, it’s time to rally the family, set a schedule and make sure everyone chips in to keep the place orderly.
3. The Internet
Email and Facebook certainly make our lives easier in some ways. It’s easier to find information and keep in touch with friends. But on the other hand, with these new technologies comes the pressure to always be available or accessible, and people become addicted to the constant stimulation of news and entertainment.
It’s important to take some time every day away from the screens. Try waiting a half hour after you wake up, and turning everything off at least an hour before you go to bed.
Another strategy is to cut in half the amount of times you check your email and social media accounts per day, and stick to that number. It may be difficult at first, but your sleep and stress levels will thank you!
You try to cut down on calories because you want to lose weight or stay healthy, but if you do it in the wrong way it can have a harmful effect on your mind and body. If you find yourself obsessing or constantly stressed over what you eat, it’s time to reconsider the way you think about food.
Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods is important, but the occasional piece of junk food will not kill you. So if you indulge or cave to cravings—just let it go and move on rather than beating yourself up about it.
And when you’re hungry, eat! If your body thinks it’s starving, that is also STRESS.
5. Unpredictable relationships
Surprisingly, it may not be the people we actively dislike that cause the most stress in our lives. According to Elizabeth Scott, stress management guide for About.com:
“Research shows that ambiguous relationships— where you can’t predict whether an encounter will be positive or negative from one day to the next—can take a greater toll on you than a relationship with someone you consciously dislike.”
If you find yourself being constantly disappointed or surprised—in a bad way—by one of your friends or relatives, it may be time to either lower your expectations or put some distance between the two of you.
Unfortunately, some stressors can’t be controlled or eliminated. That’s why relaxation practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing are so important. They allow us to handle and accept the things we can’t control. They can also give us the mental space to think of solutions to situations that we CAN control.
What do you do to manage your stress levels?
-The Alternative Daily