Stressed? The un­ex­pected rea­sons

Lesotho Times - - Health -

YOU are prob­a­bly all too aware of the ma­jor sources of stress in your life — money, your ter­ri­ble com­mute, the con­struc­tion work­ers who start jack­ham­mer­ing at 5 a.m. But stress and anx­i­ety don’t have to just come from ob­vi­ous or even neg­a­tive sources. “there are plenty of chronic strains and low-grade chal­lenges that don’t nec­es­sar­ily over­whelm you in the mo­ment, but al­most take more of a toll in the long run,” says Scott Schie­man, PHD, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of toronto. th­ese are some of un­ex­pected rea­sons why you might feel anx­ious or ag­i­tated. By rec­og­niz­ing them for what they are, says Schie­man, you can bet­ter pre­pare to cope.

Your sig­nif­i­cant other Even if you have a bliss­fully happy re­la­tion­ship with your live-in part­ner or spouse, you’re both bound to do things that get on each other’s nerves. “Early in the re­la­tion­ship, it’s usu­ally about space and habits — like whether you squeeze the tooth­paste from the mid­dle or the bot­tom of the tube,” says Ken Yea­ger, PHD, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at the ohio State Uni­ver­sity Wexner Med­i­cal Cen­tre. “later on, you might clash over par­ent­ing style or fi­nan­cial is­sues, and find­ing a uni­fied front to face th­ese is­sues to­gether.” So what’s the key to sur­viv­ing and thriv­ing in your life to­gether? Find­ing bal­ance, says Yea­ger: spend­ing the right amount of time to­gether (not too much and not too lit­tle), mak­ing com­pro­mises, keep­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion open and hon­est, and re­mem­ber­ing to ac­knowl­edge what you love about each other on a daily ba­sis.

Ev­ery­day an­noy­ances We’re told not to sweat the small stuff, but some­times it’s the lit­tle things that have the big­gest im­pact on our mood: the never-end­ing phone calls with your in­sur­ance com­pany, the rude cashier at the gro­cery store, the 20 min­utes you lose look­ing for a park­ing space. “We let th­ese things bother us be­cause they trig­ger un­con­scious fears,” says Yea­ger—fears of be­ing seen as ir­re­spon­si­ble, of be­ing bul­lied or em­bar­rassed, or of be­ing late all the time, for ex­am­ple. “Some­times you need to take a step back and re­al­ize that you’re do­ing the best you can given the cir­cum­stances.”

Other peo­ple’s stress Stress is con­ta­gious, ac­cord­ing to a 2014 Ger­man study: in a se­ries of ex­per­i­ments, most par­tic­i­pants who sim­ply ob­served oth­ers com­pletinga stress­ful task ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease them­selves in pro­duc­tion of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol — a phe­nom­e­non known as em­pathic stress. You can also ex­pe­ri­ence stress when some­one you know is af­fected by a trau­matic event, like a car crash or a chronic ill­ness. “You start to worry, ‘oh my gosh, could that hap­pen to me?’,” says Yea­ger. “We tend not to think about th­ese things un­til they hit close to home.”

So­cial me­dia it may seem like Face­book is the only way you keep up with the friends you don’t see reg­u­larly — which, dur­ing par­tic­u­larly busy times, can be just about all of them. the so­cial net­work also has a down­side, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 study from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter: it can make you aware of stress­ful sit­u­a­tions in your friends’ lives, which in turn can add more stress to your life. the Pew re­port didn’t find that so­cial me­dia users, over­all, had higher lev­els of stress, but pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested that fre­quent so­cial-me­dia use can be as­so­ci­ated with neg­a­tive body im­age and pro­longed breakup pain.

Dis­trac­tion a dis­trac­tion can be a good thing then when it takes your mind off of a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion or dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, like when you take a break from work to meet a friend for lunch. But it works the other way, as well: When you’re so busy think­ing about some­thing else that you can’t en­joy what’s go­ing on around you, that kind of dis­trac­tion can be a recipe for stress. Prac­tic­ing mind­ful­ness gives you brain the re­fresh it needs, says Richard lenox, direc­tor of the Stu­dent Coun­sel­ing Cen­ter at texas tech Uni­ver­sity. Pay­ing full at­ten­tion to your sur­round­ings when you’re walk­ing and driv­ing can help, he adds. “Stress and anx­i­ety tend to melt away when our mind is fo­cused on the present.”

Your child­hood trau­matic events that hap­pened when you were a kid can con­tinue to af­fect your stress lev­els and over­all health into adult­hood. a 2014 Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin-madi­son study found that th­ese child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences may ac­tu­ally change parts of the brain re­spon­si­ble for pro­cess­ing stress and emo­tion. the way you were raised can also have a last­ing im­pact on your ev­ery­day angst, sug­gests a 2014 Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity study. Re­searchers found that chil­dren of par­ents with so­cial anx­i­ety dis­or­ders are more likely to de­velop “trickle-down anx­i­ety” — not sim­ply be­cause of their genes, but be­cause of their par­ents’ be­hav­iors to­ward them such as a lack of warmth and emo­tion, or high lev­els of crit­i­cism and doubt.

Tea and choco­late You prob­a­bly know to take it easy on the cof­fee when you’re al­ready feel­ing on edge. “Caf­feine is al­ways go­ing to make stress worse,” says Yea­ger. But you may not think as much about drink­ing sev­eral cups of tea at once, or chow­ing down on a bar of dark choco­late — both of which can con­tain nearly as much caf­feine as a cup of joe. “Choco­late is a huge caf­feine source,” says Yea­ger. “i know peo­ple who don’t drink cof­fee but they’ll eat six lit­tle candy bars in a two-hour pe­riod be­cause they want the same kind of jolt.” too much caf­feine, in any form, can cause prob­lems with sleep, di­ges­tion, and ir­ri­tabil­ity.

Your ex­pec­ta­tions When things don’t go the way you’ve planned, do you tend to get up­set and act de­fen­sively, or do you roll with the punches and set off on a new plan? if it’s the for­mer, you could be con­tribut­ing to a mind­set of pes­simism and vic­tim­iza­tion that will slowly wear you down, even when things may not be as bad as they seem. “Your level of seren­ity is in­versely pro­por­tion­ate to your ex­pec­ta­tions,” says Yea­ger. that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set am­bi­tious goals for your­self or set­tle for less than what you want, of course, but be­ing re­al­is­tic about what’s truly pos­si­ble is im­por­tant, as well.

Your re­ac­tion to stress if you tend to deal with stress­ful sit­u­a­tions by work­ing long hours, skip­ping your work­outs, and binge­ing on junk food, we’ve got some bad news: You’re only mak­ing it worse. “We know that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and healthy foods will help your body bet­ter deal with stress, and yet we of­ten avoid them when we need them the most,” says Yea­ger. “Peo­ple re­ally need to think about this down­ward spi­ral we get into and work harder to coun­ter­act it.”

Mul­ti­task­ing Think you’re be­ing su­per-ef­fi­cient by tack­ling four tasks at once? Chances are you’re not —and it’s only de­creas­ing your pro­duc­tiv­ity while in­creas­ing your stress. a 2012 Uni­ver­sity of irvine study, for ex­am­ple, found that peo­ple who re­sponded to emails all day long while also try­ing to get their work done ex­pe­ri­enced more heart-rate vari­abil­ity (an in­di­ca­tor of men­tal stress) than those who waited to re­spond to all of their emails at one time. Fo­cus­ing on one task at a time can en- sure that you’re do­ing that job to the best of your abil­i­ties and get­ting the most out of it, so you won’t have to worry about or go back and fix it later, says Schie­man. And don’t worry: You’ll have enough time to do it all. in fact, you may dis­cover you have more time than you thought.

Your fa­vorite sport Watch­ing a tight game of col­lege hoops can stress you out — even if your alma mater wins. “the body doesn’t dis­tin­guish be­tween ‘bad’ stress from life or work and ‘good’ stress caused by game-day ex­cite­ment,” says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse prac­ti­tioner at the Uni­ver­sity of alabama at Birm­ing­ham’s Heart and Vas­cu­lar Clinic. Watch­ing sports can even trig­ger the body’s sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, re­leas­ing adren­a­line and re­duc­ing blood flow to the heart. Those tem­po­rary con­se­quences aren’t usu­ally any­thing to be con­cerned about, but over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pres­sure and in­creased dis­ease risk. and, of course, it doesn’t help if you’re adding al­co­hol and binge-eat­ing to a sit­u­a­tion that’s al­ready stress­ful on your body. You may not be able to con­trol the out­come of the game, says Gilchrist, but you can limit its ef­fects on your own body.

Dig­i­tal de­vices Whether you’re us­ing it for work or play, tech­nol­ogy may play a large role in your men­tal health, says Yea­ger. Us­ing com­put­ers or e-read­ers too close to bed­time could lead to sleep prob­lems, he says, and spend­ing too much time vir­tu­ally so­cial­iz­ing can make real-life in­ter­ac­tions seem ex­tra stress­ful. (Plus, tex­ting doesn’t trig­ger the same feel­good hor­mones as face-to-face talk does.) then there’s the dreaded “work creep,” says Schie­man, when smartphones al­low em­ploy­ees to be teth­ered to their jobs, even dur­ing off-hours. “Peo­ple say they’re only go­ing to check email for an hour while they’re on va­ca­tion, but the prob­lem with email is that they’re filled with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, new tasks, and dilem­mas that are go­ing to be hard to com­part­men­tal­ize and put out of your head once that hour is up.”

Your (good) health While it may not be as stress­ful as hav­ing a chronic ill­ness or get­ting bad news at the doc­tor’s of­fice, even peo­ple in the best shape of their lives worry about their bod­ies, their di­ets, and their fit­ness lev­els. In fact, peo­ple who take healthy living to an ex­treme may ex­pe­ri­ence some rather un­healthy side ef­fects. Peo­ple who fol­low low-carb di­ets, for ex­am­ple, are more likely to re­port be­ing sad or stressed out, while those on any kind of re­stric­tive meal plan may feel more tired than usual. and it’s not un­heard of for some­one to be­come ob­sessed with healthy eat­ing (known as or­thorexia) or work­ing out (gy­morexia). like any form of per­fec­tion­ism, th­ese prob- lems can be stress­ful at best, and ex­tremely danger­ous at worst.

House­work Does fold­ing laun­dry help you feel calm, or does it make your blood boil? if you’re in a living sit­u­a­tion where you feel you’re re­spon­si­ble for an un­fair share of work, even chores you once en­joyed may start to feel like tor­ture. “Di­vid­ing up house­work and par­ent­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties can be tricky, es­pe­cially if both part­ners work out­side the home,” says Schie­man. “And whether you de­fine that di­vi­sion of la­bor as equal or un­equal can re­ally change your at­ti­tude to­ward it.”

Un­cer­tainty Stress can be de­fined as any per­ceived or ac­tual threat, says Yea­ger, so any type of doubt that’s loom­ing over you can con­trib­ute to your anx­i­ety lev­els on a daily ba­sis. “When you know some­thing could change at any minute, you al­ways have your guard up and it’s hard to just re­lax and en­joy any­thing.” Fi­nan­cial un­cer­tainty may be the most ob­vi­ous stres­sor — not be­ing sure if you’ll keep your job dur­ing a round of lay­offs, or not know­ing how you’ll pay your credit card bill. in­se­cu­ri­ties in other ar­eas of life, like your re­la­tion­ship or your hous­ing sta­tus, can eat away at you too.

Your pet No mat­ter how much you love your furry friends, there’s no ques­tion that they add ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity to your al­ready full plate. Even healthy an­i­mals need to be fed, ex­er­cised, cleaned up af­ter, and given plenty of at­ten­tion on a regular ba­sis — and un­healthy ones can be a whole other story. “Pets can be the most pos­i­tive source of un­con­di­tional love, but at the same time they re­quire an ex­treme amount of en­ergy,” says Yea­ger. Peo­ple also tend to un­der­es­ti­mate the stress they’ll ex­pe­ri­ence when they lose a pet. “I’ve had peo­ple in my of­fice tell me they cried more when their dog died than when their par­ent died. it’s a very emo­tional con­nec­tion.”

Your ed­u­ca­tion Hav­ing a col­lege de­gree boosts your odds of land­ing a well-pay­ing job, so although you’re less likely to suf­fer from money-re­lated anx­i­ety, your ed­u­ca­tion can bring on other types of stress, ac­cord­ing to a 2014 study by Schie­man and his Uni­ver­sity of toronto col­leagues. His re­search found that highly ed­u­cated peo­ple were more likely to be stressed out thanks to job pres­sures, be­ing over­worked, and con­flicts be­tween work and fam­ily. “Higher lev­els of author­ity come with a lot more in­ter­per­sonal bag­gage, such as su­per­vis­ing peo­ple or de­cid­ing whether they get pro­mo­tions,” says Schie­man. “With that type of re­spon­si­bil­ity, you start to take things like in­com­pe­tency and peo­ple not do­ing their jobs more per­son­ally, and it both­ers you more.” —

EVEN if you have a bliss­fully happy re­la­tion­ship with your live-in part­ner or spouse, you’re both bound to do things that get on each other’s nerves.

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