Stress is a part of the human experience.
Stress is something everyone experiences from time to time. Sitting in traffic when you’re already late for work, rushing to meet a deadline for your boss, and finding out a loved one has been diagnosed with a severe illness are all common examples of life events that can elicit stress. Unless you’re a monk meditating in the mountains and inching toward enlightenment, stress is a part of the human experience.
However, while financial problems, challenging work environments, and personal relationships are some of the leading causes of stress, other less obvious factors in your life also contribute to your stress level. This blog will explore five things you didn’t know affect stress and offer some helpful tools you can implement to create more peace and well-being in your everyday life.
Things You Didn’t Know Contribute To Stress
Being a woman.
Yes, you read that right. Women are twice as likely to suffer from severe stress and anxiety than men, according to a 2016 study published by The Journal of Brain & Behavior. While times have certainly changed, women still do more unpaid domestic work than their male partners. However, many people overlook housework as taking on extra work hours (aka overtime) because of the widespread belief that it is a woman’s role to fill.
In addition, there is also the aspect of emotional labor that many women experience. For example, many female managers display “surface acting,” where they essentially express positivity, empathy, and calmness toward their team even when those emotions are not their natural state. Women commonly experience emotional labor: performing duties expected of them that often go unnoticed.
If you have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you may experience ongoing stress for months, years, or even decades after the traumatic experience occurred. PTSD develops in about 1 to 3 people who experience severe trauma. Trauma can result from a severe accident, physical or sexual assault, emotional abuse, exposure to traumatic events at work, serious health problems, unexpected loss of a loved one, childbirth experiences, or war and conflict, to name a few.
Those who experience PTSD may have flashbacks of the traumatic experience and have high adrenaline levels in the body. These symptoms may help guard against future dangerous situations, but living in this state also produces unneeded stress hormones throughout the body, causing unease and, often, discomfort.
Your personality and resources.
Believe it or not, your personality can significantly affect how stressed you feel. Extroverts, for example, tend to experience less stress because they have social resources available to them for support which can help combat stress. However, if you are a perfectionist, you may experience more stress because of your high standards and your very specific expectations for yourself. Type A personalities can stress themselves and those around them as they want to control many factors of their lives, even ones completely out of reach.
This one may not surprise you, but the busier you are in your everyday life, the more likely you will experience stress. Misplacing keys, running late, and forgetting to pack something you need to be successful during the day are common experiences that busy people have and are likely to cause stress. The more frequent these experiences happen, the more likely you will feel the effects on your psychological health and emotional well-being.
People who define their self-worth by how much they are doing and accomplishing may see busyness as a badge of honor. While some may be busy working a second job to pay bills, others are busying themselves to prove something to themselves or others. No matter the reason, busyness undoubtedly causes stress as we race from one task to another.
Generational trauma isn’t just experienced by one person but passes on from one generation to another. In 1966, Canadian Psychiatrist Vivian M. Rakoff, MD and her team recorded high rates of psychological distress among children of Holocaust survivors, and the concept of generational trauma was born. Studies now show that extreme stress can elicit adverse psychological effects on children and even grandchildren and result in clinical anxiety, depression, and PTSD. These findings suggest that even though the children and grandchildren didn’t experience the trauma directly, they still are affected by it in similar ways if they had directly experienced it.
Racial injustices, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other hate crimes can also result in generational trauma. Symptoms of generational trauma can include hypervigilance, mistrust, aloofness, high anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, a sensitive fight or flight response, and issues with self-esteem and self-confidence, says Dr. DeSilva, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. In addition, growing up in a household with a parent or guardian who has overactive responses to stress can also lead to a child mirroring similar stress responses.
Helpful Tools to Restore Your Well-Being and Find Peace
While we can’t always control or prevent factors that lead to stress, we can practice awareness and begin noticing when stress arises. Then we can turn to a self-care toolbox to help us navigate our difficult emotions. Here are a few tools to fill your self-care toolbox with:
Establish a morning and evening routine.
Getting up and going to sleep at the same time is a great way to ensure that you’re getting enough rest. In addition, having a routine of washing your face, using essential oils, or laying out your outfit the night before are simple but proven ways to eradicate unneeded stress in the mornings. Create goals within reach when starting out. That way, you are more likely to stick with it.
If you feel like you are taking on more roles in the household than you should be, having an honest conversation with your partner is crucial to restoring your well-being. If you don’t stand up for your needs, no one will. It’s simple as that. This recommendation applies to any relationship that leaves you feeling stressed.
Setting boundaries with things that cause stress.
If scrolling through social media before bed or packing your day with endless to-dos is causing stress, take a step back and ask yourself what needs to go. It’s so important to pause and take inventory of your daily activities and ask yourself what purpose they are serving for you.
What activities help you feel calm? Journaling? Taking a walk? Reading a good book? These activities should not be things you do only once or twice a month. They should be added to your weekly calendar, right up there with grocery shopping. You matter, and so does your well-being. Prioritize it because no one is coming to force you to do it. That “one day” you think will arrive won’t unless you make it happen. Take the reigns of your life.
Ask for help.
As always, reaching out to a therapist or life coach can help you manage stress. You don’t need to navigate stress alone. Lean into resources available to you. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you.