What is Microstress?
We all recognize stress. It’s the big things in our lives… financial problems, relationship problems, grief, loss, overwhelm, and all the big issues people face. We all feel that stress and can identify it easily. But there’s also a different kind of stress, and one that can often go unnoticed or unmanaged.
You get up in the morning, and your spouse left the toothpaste cover off. You walk into the kitchen and throw out the milk your teenager left on the counter all night. The lawn service shows up and is noisy. You leave the house, and someone cuts you off in traffic. When you arrive at the bank, the teller is chit chatty with the patron in front of you, which feels like they’re wasting your time. Your phone rings on the way home and it’s someone doing their job and trying to sell you something, and it’s infuriating.
None of these isolated issues is a real stressor. They are moderately inconvenient microstressors, and they can absolutely add up to having the same impact as a major problem in your life. When they accumulate, they can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being.
Here’s how to tell if you’re being impacted by microstressors:
- You’re reacting to things instead of being proactive.
- You’re running from one thing to another without a chance to process what’s just happened.
- You’re frequently overreacting to small setbacks and snapping at loved ones.
- You’ve slowly dropped the activities and relationships which previously brought joy.
- Your day starts to feel off track as soon as you sit down and look at your inbox.
The first step to managing these little stressors is to acknowledge they exist, they are cumulative, and everyone experiences them. Just having a name for it has helped me to address the microstressors in my life.
The next solution, backed by significant research, is to increase the amount of “authentic connections” in your life. These are friends, family members and work associates, but it’s more than that. Ideally, we’d each have 2-3 groups of friends or activities outside of work and home.
Here are some suggestions:
- Join a book club from your local library or bookstore or start one yourself.
- Consistently take the same exercise program at your health club
- Take an in-person class on a topic you enjoy at a local college.
- Pick a cause you support and volunteer your time.
- Find a networking meeting or meetup in your area.
- Join a community theater or improve group (the improve will also benefit your work)
- Join a recreational sports league in something you enjoy or want to learn.
- Participate in a community service project.
The best way to overcome microstressors is through human connection. Do you have enough meaningful human connections in your life?
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