What Are Your Stress Triggers?

Today we live in a very hectic society that thrives on instant gratification, and practically everyone is starting to feel the burn - enough that it can no longer be swept under the rug. 
Stress levels are on full blast, as everything must be done fast and achieved faster.
It’s akin to living in a pressure cooker!  Either you learn to let off steam, or you’ll explode… metaphorically.  And literally speaking, stress has been linked to at least 6 of the major causes of death.

Types of Stress

To some degree and in small amounts, certain types of stress and tension are good for us.  They stimulate the hormone cortisol, which then influences the fight-or-flight response; without these responses, we wouldn't be alert to danger. 
Healthy stress is called 'Eustress' ... which means relatively minor stress on an occasional basis.  This type of stress kicks in when you’re about to give a speech or any other public display, and can actually help you to perform better.

However 'Distress' or chronic / acute stress, can have really damaging effects on your health.  Being a recognized gateway into depression, inflammation and other ailments, chronic stress is also known to increase blood pressure.

Chronic stress can come from unlimited sources, and our own response to it can become a habit that makes it or breaks it.  Although it can take time to learn new responses; identifying your own stress triggers is one of the first steps you can take towards a lighter heart and a happier mind. 

Keep a Journal / Notebook Specifically for Stress Triggers

Try to start writing down everything that stresses you throughout the day...
For example traffic, crowds, your boss’s voice, someone's critical comment, the lady who cuts in line when you’re already running late, an empty promise from a friend, bills to pay, car repairs, etc, etc!  It doesn’t have to be rational – you just have to make note of it. 
If it triggers you, it's important!
You may also want to rate 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, it’s likely that you will realize just how much and how soon you need some management techniques.

Look for Patterns

After you’ve diligently noted everything for a few weeks, identify patterns with as much detail as possible...  
What has stressed you out the most and why? 
Was it the lady who cut you off?
If so, why?
Is it because you were running late?
Or was it her inconsiderate attitude that annoyed you specifically?

If you were running late, try starting out 10 minutes earlier next time.  Try it a few times and see if you feel better getting your coffee.  If it's because you were annoyed with the person, then consider working on your assertive communication for the next time someone cuts you off or doesn't consider you.

There are many ways to address each trigger, but the general idea is to examine what sets you off on a daily basis.  You'll also find that if you start your day stressed, there’s a much smaller chance of it improving.

Perspective Shift

Thoughts come to be feelings very easily, and what follows negative feelings is usually stress and anger.  For example, a colleague might have made a remark that was very hurtful to you.  You didn't address it in the moment, and now it remains festering in your mind.

You're mad, you really feel let down, and you can't believe that you must deal with another rude person every single day.  And due to the fact that it's the middle of the night, you're possibly at home losing sleep over this and unable to do anything.
This would be the exact moment to address your thoughts and perspective... 

For example, when the thought of “vicious colleague” comes to mind, cut it off immediately.  It will try and come back, so be alert to silence it again.  Try to look at the situation from a few possible angles, and ask yourself if they are the sort of person who’s in the habit of making critical remarks.

If the answer is definitely "no", then the comment was probably worded badly and not meant to offend you.

If you're not completely sure, be willing to approach this person when the time is right.  Prepare a script before you go.  The last thing you need is for the situation to blow up and cause even more stress!

You may want to simply ask and clarify what was meant by the comment, before making any more assumptions.  You could say something like “Hey, you made a questionable comment this morning, and it sounded like you were taking a dig at me.  Did I read that wrong?”

This way, you’ll find out for sure if your intuition was correct.
If it was, you have every right to stand up for yourself and tell them you won’t tolerate anymore B.S.  If they know you’ll confront them after certain types of displays, chances are high that they won’t try it again.

Deep-Rooted Triggers From The Past

Let's presume you have a manager that talks to you in a certain arrogant tone of voice, as if she is talking down to you.  Others seem to manage it just fine but try as you might, you just cannot tolerate it, and it majorly stresses you out on a daily basis ... but you're not exactly sure why.

In cases like these, it may be useful to work through some of your triggers with a counselor.  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 boss’s voice reminds you of that.  It could be that the tone brings back a forgotten incident that made you feel small and unworthy.

Your manager may not actually be attempting to affect you in that way, but the tone brings back emotions that puzzle and hurt you.  Once you’ve identified the trigger, you can completely separate her from things that happened in the past, and you'll be able to hear her voice without feeling scared or mad.

It’s very important to work through these issues with a qualified practitioner.  No app is a substitute for past trauma repair and in this instance, it could end up doing more harm than good.

Stress is a gnarly fact of life.  There’s no way to avoid it, so the best thing to do is become aware of your own response patterns in order to navigate it with a little less pain.  Becoming more aware will help you avoid unnecessary overload, and also become more vigilant about the things that cause the most stress. 
Stress can be managed and prevented if you know what to do.  You can learn to strengthen this muscle and exercise your choices wisely.
"The greatest weapon against stress is your ability to choose one thought over another." ~William James
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