Little Things That Cause Stress

Many people don’t acknowledge the impact that day-to-day, relatively minor events can have on their stress levels. Obviously, major events will be more memorable, however the grinding, repeated, seemingly unavoidable events of the day are usually those that cause the mind and body to remain in a state of heightened anxiety. Many people live out their whole work day in this state without being mindfully aware of it. A person in this scenario is building into a condition of chronic stress, if they are not there already.

We are told not to ‘sweat the small stuff’, and while this is excellent advice, it can be very hard to achieve. For example, having an unreliable friend is regarded by many as something low-level compared to preparing for a major confrontation with their spouse or boss, however the repeated and ongoing actions of the former may have more damaging impacts to long-term stress levels.

Studies confirm that these “trivial things” which are constantly in the background, aggregate and accumulate and can become major causes of stress for many people. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of stressors that many are exposed to on a daily basis.

Here are some possibly unrecognized or unacknowledged causes of stress that you may experience in your daily routine. While you may not be able to totally avoid them, you can prepare for them or learn to be smarter in dealing with them. The goal is to be able to deal with these types of events without feeling agitation that lasts well after the event has concluded.

Automated customer service

Dialing with a customer service hotline can often make your blood pressure rise, making it reason enough to be on our list of causes of stress.  You may likely say “Been there, done that”.  Waiting on the line for an hour, listening to inanimate robots and unhelpful humans – this scenario is just so common to almost all of us.  Which button can you press for less stress? Prepare in advance, take deep breaths before and during the call. Even if your anger or distress is justified, its results only harm you. Treat it as something that has to done, do it calmly and do not become too emotionally attached to the outcome.

Encounters with sales people

Sometimes sales assistants and checkout operators can be less than helpful or even adversarial. You may go into a store to buy some clothes only to realize that the sales lady is just not in the mood to give the service you fell you are entitled to as a customer. These are the times, depending on our own personality or current mood, when we either tend to fight back or feel attacked and hurt. Either way, our stress hormones are triggered and we carry the emotional burden with us for a long time after the confrontation.

If you happen to encounter the same situation again, try to be more assertive without being aggressive. Don’t take things personally. Remind yourself that the salesperson may have dealt with some difficult customers prior to you, have unbearable workmates, or may have some horrible issues in their life. Yes, ideally they should be able to rise above it and not blame you for that, but people are only human.

If you can be the one to rise above the pettiness, with good grace, you are less likely to be impacted by feelings of powerlessness and stressfulness. If, in doing so, you can lift the spirits of the other person, you will then have affected two people’s lives for the better.

People Who Are Not Sincere About Commitments

There are probably times when you have invited your friends to go out for a meal or a movie and they said yes.  However, when the time came they didn’t even bother to show up or give you a call saying they cannot make it! These are the same people you consider trusted friends. Research shows that having friends who are unreliable sometimes can cause more stress than those people who you dislike from the very beginning. Your inability to trust if they will really show up on your agreed date, or whether they really meant their “yes” can be a major cause of stress.

Clutter Here, There and Everywhere

Women’s brains are usually more sensitive to clutter than men who rarely see clutter even when they are already surrounded by it! This is because men’s brains are designed to take in fewer sensory details which make them less vulnerable to the effects of clutter.

If you are the kind of person who can never tolerate a mess, then clutter can indeed be a major cause of stress. If you feel continual resentment because of this, evaluate the situation. It may be time to talk to your other family members and suggest some personal responsibility from them, where everybody is required to pick up their own mess.  You may even need to suggest the same thing be done in your workplace.

Make Changes

Before you dismiss those things that you tag as minor or trivial stressors, take a look at them closely and find ways to be able to eliminate or deal with them so you can get on with your day with a calm mind and body. Remember that the effects of chronic stress are cumulative and every individual stressor is another straw for the camel’s back.

© Triangle Mental Health Foundation 2019