4 Common Stress Triggers — And How to Avoid Them

Stress is every­where, but there are ways to lim­it how much it impacts your life and health. Learn about stress trig­gers and how to steer clear of them.

Stress is com­mon, and it often feels like there’s no avoid­ing it. Some ver­sions of stress can be good, like the pres­sure to win a race or com­plete a chal­leng­ing but reward­ing project at work. Oth­er ver­sions of stress are less ben­e­fi­cial, and they can be harm­ful to your phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

It might feel like being stressed is a giv­en. But by being aware of stress trig­gers, you can reduce stress and pro­tect your well-being. Here are 4 com­mon caus­es of stress and how to lim­it their impact on your health

1. Work 

Excelling in your career is one thing. Being so stressed at work that it impacts your well-being is anoth­er thing alto­geth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, among adults in the US, work is often one of the pri­ma­ry caus­es of stress. 

Work­place stres­sors include: 

  • Unman­age­able workloads 
  • Low finan­cial compensation 
  • Lit­tle room for growth or fur­ther­ing your career 
  • Lack of support 
  • Work that is not engag­ing or interesting 

For many peo­ple, stress doesn’t go away when they head home each day. Instead, it can con­tin­ue to impact you after the work­day, poten­tial­ly dam­ag­ing your men­tal and phys­i­cal health. 

Com­bat­ing Work Stress 

To reduce stress caused by work: 

  • Deter­mine what’s caus­ing the most stress, such as cer­tain peo­ple or situations. 
  • Focus on healthy respons­es to work stres­sors, such as deep breath­ing and meditation. 
  • Solve issues by iden­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem, brain­storm­ing solu­tions, cre­at­ing an action plan, and mon­i­tor­ing your results. 
  • Set clear bound­aries, such as not check­ing your work email at home and not tak­ing work calls dur­ing fam­i­ly time. 
  • Make time for your­self by reg­u­lar­ly engag­ing in activ­i­ties you enjoy. 
  • Use your vaca­tion days — and be firm about steer­ing clear of any work-relat­ed respon­si­bil­i­ties dur­ing that time. 

If nec­es­sary, talk to your super­vi­sor to come up with a plan for how to reduce your stress and per­form your best in your role. 

2. Social Media and the News

Stay­ing con­nect­ed to the out­side world is eas­i­er than ever with social media and news out­lets. While this can be help­ful, it can also be a dai­ly cause of stress. When used exces­sive­ly or pri­or­i­tized over in-per­son inter­ac­tions, social media may be asso­ci­at­ed with an increased risk of depres­sion, anx­i­ety, lone­li­ness, and self-harm due to: 

  • Con­stant com­par­isons and feel­ing unhap­py with your own life 
  • Feel­ings of being left out or miss­ing out on life 
  • A lack of in-per­son con­nec­tions with peo­ple you trust 
  • Cyber­bul­ly­ing, includ­ing rumors, abuse, and lies 
  • Being self-absorbed from con­stant­ly shar­ing pic­tures and thoughts 

The news — which can also show up on social media — can lead to emo­tion­al dis­tress due to the onslaught of neg­a­tive events around the world. Because many news out­lets and social media chan­nels pri­or­i­tize neg­a­tive news, it can be over­whelm­ing and lead to anger, anx­i­ety, and unhealthy cop­ing habits (such as increased alco­hol consumption). 

Are you strug­gling to man­age stress on your own? Talk to a Duly Behav­ioral and Men­tal Health Provider, who can pro­vide healthy cop­ing mech­a­nisms and sup­port you as you man­age stress. 

Com­bat­ing Social Media and News Stress

To reduce stress caused by social media or the news: 

  • Lim­it how much time you spend online or con­sum­ing the news. 
  • Turn off noti­fi­ca­tions for news or social media apps — or remove the apps altogether. 
  • Put away your phone for cer­tain parts of the day, such as dur­ing din­ner, while spend­ing time with fam­i­ly, and in bed. 
  • Pri­or­i­tize offline activ­i­ties, such as spend­ing time with friends and engag­ing in a hobby. 

3. A Lack of Sleep 

Sleep is a way for your body and mind to reset, recharge, and pre­pare for the next day. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, 1 in 3 adults in the US say they don’t get enough sleep. With­out enough qual­i­ty sleep, your body and mind can be more prone to stress. Over 20% of adults say they feel extra stressed when they don’t get a good night’s sleep. Among those who are already more stressed, near­ly half of them feel increas­ing­ly stressed with­out enough sleep. 

A lack of sleep can also lead to feeling: 

  • Angry 
  • Irri­ta­ble
  • Over­whelmed
  • Impa­tient
  • Unmo­ti­vat­ed

Com­bat­ing Sleep-Relat­ed Stress

Reduc­ing sleep-relat­ed stress starts with get­ting enough sleep. Adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It’s also impor­tant to ensure you’re get­ting qual­i­ty sleep by: 

  • Going to bed and get­ting up around the same time each day 
  • Mak­ing your envi­ron­ment con­ducive to sleep by ensur­ing it’s dark, qui­et, and a com­fort­able temperature 
  • Keep­ing elec­tron­ic devices, includ­ing smart­phones and TVs, out of the bedroom 
  • Lim­it­ing alco­hol, large meals, and caf­feine close to bedtime 
  • Exer­cis­ing regularly 

4. An Unhealthy Diet 

Food is fuel for your body. If you give it low-qual­i­ty fuel, it won’t per­form at its best. That’s why a healthy diet is key to avoid­ing a num­ber of prob­lems, includ­ing stress. A diet that focus­es on whole foods like fruits, veg­gies, fish, and nuts — as opposed to processed foods — has been con­nect­ed with low­er rates of anx­i­ety, depres­sion, and stress. The con­nec­tion between stress and nutri­tion is a two-way street. While poor nutri­tion can cause stress, stress can also lead to nutri­tion-relat­ed prob­lems, such as: 

  • Unhealthy crav­ings, such as for high­ly processed snacks and sweets 
  • Lim­it­ed time to pre­pare healthy meals 
  • High lev­els of cor­ti­sol, which caus­es bel­ly fat, poten­tial­ly lead­ing to insulin resis­tance and oth­er seri­ous health problems 

Com­bat­ing Diet-Relat­ed Stress

To reduce stress relat­ed to your diet: 

  • Pri­or­i­tize a healthy diet, espe­cial­ly veg­eta­bles and foods with omega‑3 fats, like seafood and nuts. 
  • Meal plan to avoid turn­ing to processed foods or eat­ing out. 
  • Prac­tice mind­ful eat­ing, which involves pay­ing close atten­tion to what you’re eat­ing and chew­ing food slowly. 
  • Empha­size oth­er areas of your health, includ­ing get­ting enough sleep and exer­cis­ing regularly. 

Lim­it­ing and Man­ag­ing Stress for Long-Term Health 

Stress is a part of life, and it’s impos­si­ble to avoid it com­plete­ly. By tak­ing steps to lim­it com­mon trig­gers, you can reduce how much stress impacts your well-being. When stress does occur, man­age it pro­duc­tive­ly by exer­cis­ing, engag­ing in an activ­i­ty you love, or talk­ing to oth­ers. If your con­cerns per­sist, talk to a men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al who can sup­port you in lim­it­ing and man­ag­ing stress both now and down the road. 

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