13th June 2021, 9:00
Posted: 26th April 2021
This Stress Awareness Month, we want to spend some time to learn about and acknowledge 'Micro Stressors', their affect on our stress levels and how they impact on our day to day lives.
So what are Micro Stressors?
Micro Stressors are the little things that stress you out, annoy you or make you eye roll. You can feel your stress levels rising because something gets in your way!
Here's an example:
When you wake up in the morning you realise you woke up too late for your morning run/exercise routine, so you get out of bed and stand on your phone charger plug. You swear loudly. You realise that you didn't charge your phone and now your foot hurts. You also woke up your partner who is now grumpy with you because you woke them up with a start.
You head downstairs to make breakfast and remember that you didn't do the pots last night so there are no clean cups for you to have your morning drink. You look at your watch and wonder if you have time to clean one because you're already feeling rushed. You put some bread in the toaster which you don't really like because it's the quickest thing to eat and go and get dressed. On your way up the stairs you catch your hip on the bannister.
Once dressed you head down to finish making your toast and rush out of the door. You have to go back inside 3 times because you forgot your phone cos it was on charge, your mask and your keys.
Finally on your way to work you realise you managed to get butter down your top and there's no way of hiding that grease stain.
Sound familiar? All of these are micro stressors.
Why is important to recognise Micro Stressors?
By recognising Micro Stressors, we can learn more about how we react to stress and what we can do that is manageable.
In the example we gave, there are lots of little things that can be avoided by having a routine. That said, we know that routines can go out of the window when unexpected things happen like a poorly child or an injury.
In our example, we can see that everything feels harder because we feel rushed. We've injured ourselves twice, eaten a breakfast we don't like, forgotten things and are generally having a total FGS moment.
What can we do about Micro Stressors?
Here's a top 3 of how to deal with micro stressors.
1. Change our expectations
When things go wrong, it is unreasonable for us to expect the same level of performance from ourselves. To help ourselves deal with challenges and barriers, it is really helpful to shift what you expect from yourself. It'll alleviate some of the stress.
In our example, it is unreasonable for us to expect to get to work on time. We're probably going to bed late regardless of whether we stress about getting there on time or not. Where possible it could alleviate some of that stress to let your employer know that you'll be late and give yourself 30 minutes rather than 10. Then if you're earlier than you said, you've managed their expectations too!
2. Slow down
When we rush we go into Fight or Flight mode. Loads of Adrenaline and Cortisol floods our bodies. These are not good for noticing details and making logical decisions. When we slow down, we don't end up going back 3 times into the house when we're late because we've methodically gone through what we need for the day and can leave the house first time.
3. Find the humour
It's hard to be stressed when you're laughing. When we find a place to laugh at ourselves and our shortcomings, we invite people to connect with us and this helps our relationships. The grumpy partner? The one you probably felt grumpy with back and possibly all day - if we can laugh at these things we can grow together and they are more likely to help us too.