When we talk about stress, most of us jump straight to talking about the big things.
To start, there’s our income, a difficult project, client or an under performing employee.
There’s also marital problems, raising kids and difficult friendships.
To top it all off, we have to keep ourselves happy and healthy.
However, the smaller things that go unnoticed are actually what could ruin your day and weigh you down.
Like losing your keys, running late for work, or neighbor’s kids being noisy while you’re trying to work from home.
These are called micro-stressors, according to Dr Rangan Chatterjee.
A micro-stressor might be a bad night’s sleep, a traffic jam on the way to work or an argument at home.
When we experience micro-stresses, we are likely to judge ourselves harshly.
This is because micro-stresses suggest we are either doing something wrong in our daily lives, or we are unable to cope.
Most times, we end up feeling like failures and become depressed.
By some estimates, 60-80% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Stress is so harmful to employees that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a hazard of the workplace.
Stress takes a big bite out of productivity, as stressed-out people tend to make lower-quality decisions and are often less motivated, innovative, and productive in their work. Until you recognise these sources of stress, you cannot begin to address them.
What is Driving Your Stress?
Micro-stresses infiltrate our lives in ways we often do not realise. Some micro stresses cause us harm through negative feelings that drain our emotional reserves.
The common micro-stressors include:
- worry for people we care about
- uncertainty over the impact of our actions
- fear of repercussions
- or simply feeling de-energised by certain types of interactions.
The point is that, these micro-stresses are all routinely part of our day and we hardly stop to consider how they are affecting us, but they add up.
They may arise as momentary challenges, but the impact of dealing with them can linger for hours, days and even months.
Dealing with Micro-Stresses
- For the unavoidable micro-stresses, the approach is about learning how to deal with these without letting the stress build up. Take a look at how you are responding to these stresses. If you are becoming self-critical, remind yourself that these stresses are not your fault–they are just something you have to get through. Then try to balance out those unavoidable hassles with equal moments of relaxation, joy, and self-care.
- For the micro-stresses you can avoid, adjust your routine to prevent them from coming up. Get into the habit of putting your keys in your bag before you go to sleep. If you are always running late, give yourself more time to get ready in the morning. If your clients are causing you constant low-level stress day in, day out, it is time to ask for adjustments to make things easier.
- Also, conversations with trusted people in our network can help to unpack what is really bothering us and why. We can then act and know that we are taking direct aim at the source of our stressor. For example, having an awkward-but-crucial conversation that can transform a relationship, pushing back on unreasonable demands or dysfunctional behaviours, or by strengthening the network of people who can help buffer us from negative interactions.
- Distance or disconnect from stress-creating people or activities. Over time, it is not always easy to detect when a friend or colleague is routinely causing you stress, rather than lifting you up. We can become intertwined, both personally and professionally, with people who routinely leave us feeling emotionally depleted. Take a step back and evaluate the relationships in your life over which you have control — and make an effort to create some distance in the ones that create more stress than joy.
To be clear, stress-creating relationships are not just negative or toxic ones. They can be people that we enjoy spending time with, but enable unproductive behaviours.
They can also be those who routinely leave us stranded because they have not come through on what they promised.
You do not have to disconnect from the people you enjoy being around, but you do have to recognize their effect on your mental and physical well-being and try to put some boundaries around those relationships.
First, we need to appreciate the significance of micro-stresses, and consider them as important factors in our mental health.
It helps to keep track of the micro-stresses you encounter throughout the day to see the scale of the problem, making a note every time you find yourself irritated, worried, or panicked.
Once you have worked out which daily hassles are causing you moments of stress, dedicate some time to figuring out which ones are avoidable, and which ones are causing you genuine stress.
If you learn to recognise the patterns of micro-stressors in your own life, you will be able to put the proper conditions in place to mitigate them.
We hope this helps you live a happier and healthier life.