6 Sneaky Stress Triggers and What to Do About Them
Layoffs at work: stressful. An illness in the family: brutal. You know the big stuff that can weigh on you. But there are a host of subtler stressors that can wear you down little by little. “Research shows it’s the daily hassles that actually contribute more to the negative impact of stress,” says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of Better Than Perfect. “They can have a cumulative effect over the long haul.” Read on to learn about six surprising everyday triggers and how to manage them better—so you can enter the New Year feeling a whole lot calmer.
You’re an introvert trying to act like an extrovert
Popular belief has it that to be successful, you need to be always on—networking at events, pitching ideas, and tirelessly building your personal brand. But for an introvert, that expectation can be overwhelming: “This is a big and constant source of stress, and not one we’re warned about,” says Morra Aarons Mele, an entrepreneur and author of Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home) ($26; amazon.com).
BE YOURSELF: Introverts have their own special powers. They tend to be careful listeners, creative thinkers, and empathetic bosses, among other things, says Aarons Mele. As you navigate your career, play to your strengths, and find strategies that work for you. Rather than forcing yourself to attend every conference, pick the ones that are most valuable. Instead of trying to compete with extroverts in brainstorm sessions, set an agenda that gives everyone a chance to contribute.
You’re in charge of all the checklists
As the default manager of the household, you keep the living room tidy, update the calendar, and make sure there’s milk in the fridge. All of that organizing and problem-solving can be exhausting, says psychologist Melanie Greenberg, PhD, author of The Stress-Proof Brain: “Having to remember too many details at once can overload your working memory, where you store short- term info.” As a result, the parts of your brain charged with handling stress don’t function as well—and you feel totally frazzled.
DELEGATE: On top of everything else, you shouldn’t have to assign chores, too. But divvying up duties with your partner can help immensely, says Greenberg. Maybe one person takes on yard maintenance, for example, and the other is responsible for the car’s upkeep. Then, on Sundays, have a quick check-in. These weekly meetings will help keep the system intact.
Your idea of relaxing is scrolling Facebook
A 2015 study found that social media users tend to be more aware of stressful events in acquaintances’ lives (such as loss or divorce), which can have a negative impact on their own stress. Add the never-ending cycle of bad news we’re exposed to on Facebook, and it’s no wonder you feel drained.
UNPLUG: Of course it’s important to keep up with your friends, and Instagram can certainly be entertaining. But social media shouldn’t be your only self-care tool, says Lombardo. When you want to wind down, try taking a bath or reading a book.
You’re juggling multiple dating apps
The more dates you go on, the more likely you are to find “the one,” right? Well, maybe not, says Julie Spira, author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: “You can end up on a hamster wheel.” You may not be giving anyone enough time to determine if it’s a good fit.
TAKE A BREAK: Use a hiatus to do things for you. Go for hikes, get a facial, or take cooking classes. “Time off changes your mind-set from negative to positive. You’ll log back on with a refreshed attitude,” says Spira.
You’re suffering BoPo guilt
The fact is, you love and appreciate your body for all it can do. But sometimes, a glance in the mirror triggers a critical thought about your cellulite or some other perceived flaw—followed by a wave of regret for nitpicking your appearance when you believe so strongly in body positivity.
REALITY CHECK: You’re human. “Don’t expect to think your body is amazing all day, every day,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness. “That’s just another way to expect perfection.” Rather than scolding yourself, call a truce: “I don’t like my thighs, but I will be kind to my body in whatever way it needs today.”
You read your partner’s texts
The phone’s just sitting there, and it’s so easy to peek at the message that just came in. Before you know it, you’re scanning texts from two weeks ago. Maybe you’re looking for evidence of cheating, or you’re worried he’s unhappy. Whatever the reason, spying can become compulsive, warns Lombardo.
TALK IT OUT: Ask yourself, “Why am I spying, really?” Then address the problem directly. Focus on what you want (to be closer) rather than accusations. “Let him know, ‘I feel disconnected from you lately, and miss the intimacy we used to have,’ ” Lombardo suggests.