We live in such a fast-paced world that it’s hard to get through each day without feeling stress. We have deadlines to meet, emails to reply to, events to attend, and calendars to manage—and it all needs to happen NOW. Daily causes of stress can build up and cause you to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Since you can’t take a year long vacation every year, you have to manage stress in other ways.
What Causes Stress
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Stress it categorized into three different groups based on the frequency of the situations.
There are two origins of stress: Internal and external. There are ways to combat each type of stress as you feel it encroaching on your mental well-being.
There are different external causes of stress. Work stress is big and can bleed into every aspect of your life. We often spend more time with the people we work with than we do our own families. Work stress can look like:
- Feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in your job
- Having too heavy a workload or excess responsibility
- Not having work/life balance
- Difficult relationship with your boss
- Job loss
- Feel unsure about the stability of your position
- Facing a fear of public speaking
- Harassment or discrimination
Just like work stress can interfere at home, personal stress can get in the way at work too. There are big life events that can cause crippling stress:
- The death of a close family member or friend
- Divorce and relationship issues
- Financial burdens
- Birth of a child
- Chronic illness or pain
- Moving to a new house or location
- Unforeseen traumatic event
Many of the causes of stress result from our reaction to outside stressors. When we worry, we start a stress chain reaction that can spiral us into an unhealthy thought cycle. The most common internal causes of stress can plague our lives if not properly handled.
The news, social media posts and world events can inundate us with images of things to be afraid of. These outlets sensationalize scary events and, when we internalize them, we can be fearful of the outside world.
People fear things that “might” happen. We cycle through all the “what ifs” and try to head them off at the pass. While, logically, we know the future will happen no matter how much we worry, it doesn’t stop the concern.
The lens through which we view the world has a lot to do with our stress level. If you’re in a minor fender bender, you can react in one of two ways: you can calmly let your insurance company know. Being confident in their ability to quickly and effectively handle your claim, life goes on as normal.
Or you can stress over the damage to your car, the time it will take to get the repairs done and fret over your perceived bad luck. These causes of stress are difficult to recognize because they triggered from within us.
Nobody is perfect but we certainly do try to achieve unattainable perfection. Fretting about wrinkles, weight, hair and comparing ourselves to people we see on tv and in magazines is exhausting. Trying to keep up with what your neighbors and friends are doing or otherwise holding yourself to an unrealistic standard is a stressful recipe for disaster.
Change is scary. A new job, a new place or even a new relationship can be huge causes of stress. Not knowing what will happen or how something will turn out can make us feel out of control. When we feel out of control, we can feel like we’re jumping without a parachute.
The Consequences of Excess Stress
Stress can have both short- and long-term consequences on our bodies. When you feel stress, your brain signals the adrenal gland you’re in danger. This causes adrenaline to pump through your body as it prepares for “fight or flight”. Your heartbeat increases, your muscles tense and your breathing gets faster.
This is helpful if you’re actually in danger but can cause chronic illness and physical issues if constantly repeated. You may notice some more minor physical signs of stress in the short term:
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- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea and digestive issues
Longer exposure to stress can lead to more serious conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart disease including heart attack
- Weight fluctuations
- Severe digestive issues like ulcers and IBS
- Fertility issues
Effectively managing your stress can greatly reduce your risk of serious stress related illness. When you have symptoms of any serious condition, always consult your doctor. In the meantime, let’s reduce the causes of stress in your life.
How to Reduce Your Stressors
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Once causes of stress are introduced and you’re buried under a pile of anxiety, it's hard to find a way out. Don’t get overwhelmed. One small step is better than nothing at all. Once you feel a lot of stress, ask yourself these questions to find the cause of the stress:
- When did I start feeling this way?
- Is this a real or perceived stressful situation?
- Am I safe?
- Is there anything I need to do right at this moment?
- What am I dreading right now?
Once you’ve answered these questions and figured out what you're reacting to, you can better tackle the cause of the stress.
Manage Your Time
Stress comes from being pulled in a million different directions and feeling stretched so thin that you’re unable to give anything 100%. This leaves you feeling inadequate, guilty, or nervous about results.
When looking at your day, take 5 minutes to jot down a to-do list. Label three categories: priority, later today, another time. Tackle your day in that order. Get the most uncomfortable or difficult issue tackled first. When you do this, the rest of your day is less stressful because you’re not thinking of that task all day.
Scratch things off your list. This is cathartic. It gives you a definitive signal that a task is accomplished. Whatever you don’t get to, just carry over to the “another time” section of the next day and don’t feel guilty about it. You’ll get to it or maybe it doesn’t belong on a list at all. Delegate where you can.
The Power of No
It’s ok to say no. It doesn’t mean you’re lacking or incapable of more—it means you’re giving the things you’ve said yes to your full attention. If there’s a work function that will leave you all kinds of stressed because of the family commitment you’ll miss, say no to the work function. Don’t skip out on every function but it’s fine to say no to those optional events.
A friend wants you to come over three hours early to help decorate for her kid’s party but it’s your only day to sleep in? Say no. It’s ok; she’ll still love you. When you’re declining invites or projects, be honest. There are tactful ways to say no:
- My calendar is booked, I can’t make it. It sounds like fun so maybe next time!
- I’d love to, but I already have plans in the morning—with my bed.
- I wouldn’t be able to give this project the attention it deserves so I have to ask you to give it to someone else.
- That night is family night. I don’t let my kids get out of it, so they don’t let me get out of it either.
There’s no arguing with a solid no that is polite and honest. Nobody wants to come in between you and your family or give you a project you can’t give your attention to.
Small, Healthy Changes
Making small healthy lifestyle changes can reduce the effect causes of stress will have on your body.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine
- Establish a stable, doable exercise routine
- Limit alcohol and quit smoking
- Practice mindfulness and meditation
- Breathe—three deep, steady breaths in and out work miracles
- End your day with a laugh out loud funny show or video
All these ideas will go a long way to reducing causes of stress and will lessen your reaction to causes of stress.
Causes of Stress - Conclusion
Stress is inevitable in certain amounts and can even push you to a finish line or higher result than you thought possible. But it shouldn’t be your standard feeling.
Take Time for You
Do something nice for yourself every day. Yes, every day. It can be as simple as driving by that house you think is so beautiful or grabbing oranges at the store because you love an orange slice with your evening tea.
Be sure to take vacations. Americans are overworked and by global standards don’t take vacations as often as they should. If you’re low on funds, make it a "staycation"—sleep in, try new recipes, take walks in new neighborhoods, or give yourself mani-pedis at home. Remind yourself that you’re worth taking a breather.
If you find you’re having a very difficult time with debilitating stress and anxiety, reach out to a professional. Talking to a therapist can give you even more effective tools to offload that harmful stress. Ohm…
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