While most stress triggers like money or work are easily identifiable, many minor daily activities are unknowingly contributing to more stress in your life. Alas the daily grind of annoyances and mild anxieties will have a long term effect. The key to combating these sorts of stressors is recognizing them and not letting them bother you. Here are 10 things you can try to avoid.
1. Other stressed people
While you might actively be avoiding your own stress triggers, other people around you might unknowingly be increasing your stress levels. A 2014 German study found that participants observing others being stressed by tasks had rising levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Stress can also be triggered by traumas of those around us, such as people experiencing illness. You’re reminded that these things can happen close to home and you fall into a thinking pattern filled with anxiety and negativity, which stresses you out unnecessarily.
It may seem like you’re being efficient but this buzz word actually decreases productivity and increases stress. In 2012 a study at the University of Irvine looked at people who dealt with emails while working, as well as people who dealt with emails at a separate time. The former were less productive in their other daily skills. Physically their heart rate also showed more variability, which indicates mental stress. Doing one thing at a time is more fruitful, and better for your health. You can do a good job, and you might be surprised to find you’ll have more time.
3. Your significant other
Even if you’re happy and are in a healthy relationship, living with someone inevitably leads to annoyances. Stress can be caused by simple things, like leaving the toilet seat up, or heavier issues like money or co-parenting. So how do you avoid this kind of stress? The answer is striving for balance, in spending the right amount of time together, open and honest communication, compromise, and remembering why you love your partner and then acknowledging this daily. Let your partner be a stress-release factor in your life, and not the cause of it.
4. Taking a break
While taking a break from a stressful situation to watch a movie, or meet a friend can be helpful, sometimes you’re so anxious that you’re unable to truly let go and enjoy the present. It creeps back into your mind, making you bad company, and applying further stress to your mind and body. During such moments, it is important to work on being mindful and focusing on the present. Stress and anxiety do, temporarily, go away when you’re truly absorbed in your surroundings.
5. Everyday annoyances
Small daily encounters, like rude customer service or waiting in long lines, have bigger affects on your mood than you realize. You want to present yourself as composed and on top of things. Your reaction, whether you adapt and conjure a new plan, or throw a pity party and get upset, makes the difference. If you are more like the latter, this can contribute to a mindset steeped in pessimism and victimization, which will eventually eat you away. You have to be realistic, acknowledging that some things are beyond your control and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.
6. Easy fixes
A lot of our coping methods to combat stress are counterproductive. You work longer hours, stop exercising, or eat more junk food. These seem like easy fixes, but the truth is foregoing healthy eating and physical activity actually stresses your body out, because these actions strengthen our bodies’ ability to fight stress effectively.
7. Tea and chocolate
There are many reports mentioning how bad coffee is, but equally guilt culprits are chocolate and tea. This two treats are often relied on for relieving stress. However, what’s not often discussed is that they have as much caffeine as our friend coffee. Caffeine is known to make stress worse by irritating digestion, causing irritability and disturbing sleep patterns.
8. Digital devices
Whether for business or pleasure, technology can wreck your sleep patterns if you use your smartphone, tablet or computer too close to bedtime. Similarly, smartphones and laptops mean we are always in touch, contributing to the work creep phenomenon. By checking email outside office hours, your work stress enters your leisure time. Emails remind you of your responsibilities and it’s really hard to put those ideas to rest, especially if they are bombarding you at all hours of the day.
9. Too much good health and exercise
While not as severe as ill health, too much focus on maintaining your health through diet and exercise can have an adverse affect on your stress levels. Diets with carb restrictions have been shown to increase sadness and stress, while other restrictive meal plans lead to tiredness. This focus on perfectionism can have dangerous side effects, such as orthorexia and gymorexia, modern conditions where extreme obsession for health food and working out respectively, affect your ability to function adequately.
10. Watching your favorite sport
All sports fans know watching your favorite team play is not a passive activity. There’s a mix of tension, excitement, frustration and elation, whether your team wins or loses. The trouble is your body can’t distinguish between good or bad stress, and watching sports can set off your sympathetic nervous system. This means adrenaline is released, and the blood flow to your heart can be reduced. In the short term this has few consequences, but repeated exposure can lead to high blood pressure and increase heart disease risk.