4 Surefire Ways to Identify Your Personal Stress Triggers
In small amounts, stress is good for us. The hormone cortisol invokes the fight-or-flight response, keeping us alert to what we perceive as danger. This is acute stress, which simply means relatively minor stress on a sporadic basis.
This type of stress kicks in when youre about to give a speech or make toast in public. The thought of embarrassment makes you all the more determined to stay sharp and clear-minded.
However, chronic stress (prolonged periods of worry) often over nothing major can have very harmful effects on your health. Besides being a known gateway into depression, chronic stress raises your blood pressure and can cause you to have a stroke or a heart attack.
Chronic stress is habitual, so it will take some time to get rid of. Identifying what sets you off is one of the first steps you can take towards a lighter heart and a happier mind.
1. Keep a diary
Yes, this old chestnut again. Jot down everything that stresses you out in the day: traffic, your bosss voice, the painfully slow barista, the lady who cuts queue when youre already running late. It doesnt have to be rational you just have to note it down. You may also want to score each situation on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most stressful.
The idea is to get a look at the amount of stress you handle on any given day. Once you do, its likely that you will realize just how much and how soon you need some management techniques.
2. Look for patterns
After youve diligently noted everything for two weeks, look for patterns. What has stressed you out the most? Was it the snails-pace barista? If so, why? Is it because you were running late? Or was it his general laidback attitude that annoyed you intensely?
If you were running late for an appointment, just start out 10 minutes earlier. Try it a few times and see if you feel better getting your coffee. If this doesnt work, simply switch coffee places.
The idea is to look at what sets you off on a daily basis. Start your day stressed and theres virtually zero chance of it getting better.
3. Thought control
Thoughts become feelings very fast, and what follows negative feelings is usually stress and anger. For example: a colleague may have made a remark that sounded nasty and hurtful to you. You didnt deal with it in the moment but now its in your mind festering.
Youre angry, you feel let down, you cant believe that you have to work with such a person every single day. Youre probably at home losing sleep over this and unable to do anything because its the middle of the night.
This is as familiar a scenario as it gets.
So, when the thought of vicious colleague comes to mind, cut it off immediately. It will try and come back, so you need to be alert and cut it off again. Choose one of two ways to deal with it. Ask yourself if this colleague is the sort of person whos in the habit of making such remarks.
If its a definitive no, then the remark was probably worded badly and not aimed at diminishing you.
If you cant say for sure, tell yourself that youll approach this colleague as soon as you can. Prepare a script before you go. The last thing you need is for the situation to blow up and cause you more stress.
Say something like Hey, you said something about my assignment this morning. It sounded like you were taking a dig at me. Did I get this wrong?
This way, youll find out if you did indeed get it wrong. If you didnt, you can tell this person that you wont take any snarky attitude lying down. If they know theyll be confronted after a certain type of behavior, chances are high that they wont repeat it.
4. Deep-rooted triggers
Lets assume that you have a boss who speaks to you in a certain tone of voice. Others seem to be able to deal with it easily but try as you may, you just cant tolerate it and it aggravates you on a daily basis and you dont know why.
In instances such as these, it may be useful to go through some of your stress issues with a counsellor. Another option is to do guided meditation with a certified practitioner who can help you figure out why you are particularly sensitive to that tone.
It may be that you were bullied as a kid and something about your bosss voice reminds you of that. It could be that the tone brings back an incident that made you feel small and unworthy.
Your boss may not actually be trying to do any of those things, but that sound brings back emotions that puzzle and hurt you. Once youve identified the trigger, you can separate your boss from incidents of your past, and you will be able to listen to that voice without feeling fearful or upset.
Its important that you work through these issues with a qualified practitioner. An app is no substitute and in this instance, could end up doing more harm.
Stress is a fact of life. Theres no way to avoid it so the only thing you can do is prevent it from hurting you. You gotten through life this far and you will continue. Better days lie ahead.