Stress – everybody has it. Even the ones who think they are not stressed, have stress. Maybe they manage stress better than you. Maybe they define stress differently. Maybe they are in denial.
One study on stress done by Everyday Health found 57 percent of respondents felt paralyzed by stress. Others reported feeling energized by stress. Causes of stress stemmed mostly from finances and career demands.
The Stress in America survey revealed 75% of Americans reported high levels of stress in the past month. In addition, 1 in 75 people deal with panic attacks and the levels of stress have increased over the past few years. Even more stressed out Americans are reporting mental health disorders that could be related to stress.
The survey also noted stress in adolescents, teens and young adults is on the rise. This makes learning how to recognize and manage stress triggers even more important. Before you do this, you must first understand what stress is and why it is dangerous.
Stress makes you uncomfortable emotionally, followed by changes in your behavior and physiology. Stress happens when you perceive something as threatening and you feel like you don’t have the power or resources to fight off the threat.
Your perception of a threat triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into your system. Too much of any hormone can increase your heart rate, give you warm flushes, and gets your muscles prepped for action.
Not all stress is bad. It can help you get out of dangerous situations, like an internal warning signal. But other stress can be damaging to your body.
Types of Stress
There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is temporary and will disappear in a short time.
Chronic stress, however, lasts for long periods or shows up on a recurring basis. Both can be harmful if you don’t know how to recognize and manage your stress triggers.
A trigger refers to a sight, smell, touch, taste or something you hear that reminds you of a scary or traumatic event in your life. For example, a combat veteran may return home feeling fine. He or she attends a fourth of July picnic and when the fireworks are set off, they sound like gunshots.
The veteran is reminded of that time and starts to feel like they did when they were in war.
This trigger is related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Other triggers can be simpler in nature. You may see a former co-worker that reminds you of the stressful job you had. You may smell apple pie and that reminds you of baking with your grandmother who has since passed away, triggering your feelings of grief.
Examples of possible triggers include major life changes, natural disasters, unpredictable events like a car wreck or accident, abuse in a relationship, meeting new people, or workplace demands. Knowing how to recognize these triggers will lead to being able to manage stress.
How to Recognize Stress Triggers
Learning more about yourself is the best way to recognize your stress triggers. Below are a few tips on getting to know yourself better.
- Listen to your body. When you start to pay attention to your body during stressful times, you will notice the changes in your body. These are stress triggers sending messages to your brain that something is not right. Messages like rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, digestive changes, and your breaths increase and become shallower are just a few examples.
- Listen to your thoughts. When something is wrong with our body, we often think about what could be wrong. If your head hurts, you may say, “My head is killing me.” When you notice yourself thinking and speaking this way, you are being triggered by stress.
- Look at your life. What changes are going on in your life? Even when change seems exciting, like quitting your job and moving to the beach, stress can appear.
- How often you forget or lose concentration. If you find yourself walking into a room but forgetting why you went there, struggling to stay focused at work, or feeling like you have a memory problem, it could just be stress.
- Behavioral changes. Have you been eating junk food more than usual, or having a lack of appetite? Maybe you are sleeping too much, or not enough. Maybe you have picked up that smoking or drinking habit again. These are all signs you are dealing with stress.
- Take an online assessment. If you aren’t quite sure what your triggers are, take an online assessment to learn more about yourself and stress.
The sooner you recognize your stress triggers, the sooner you can start managing stress properly.
Manage Stress Triggers
Prevention is always the best way to fight stress. Change your lifestyle and environment so you are better able to cope. If you are in a stressful job, think about changing jobs. If you are in a bad relationship, seek help from a counselor to determine if you should stay. Declutter your home, forgiveness, staying organized and having fun are other stress busters. Below are some of the most notable methods of combating stress.
- Breathing exercises, because stress can lead to short, fast breaths that do not get the oxygen you need to your body, it’s important to practice deep breathing. Learn to slow your breaths and lower your heart rate and eventually calm down.
- Practicing meditation helps you become more mindful of your body’s needs so you can fix any issues your body is having. Injuries, aches, and pains can all lead to stress.
- The practice of yoga combines meditation and breathing so you can better cope with stress. Your entire body is involved in learning to manage your stress.
Just because everybody has stress, it doesn’t mean everybody has to suffer from the impact of stress. You can start taking steps today to learn to recognize and manage your stress triggers.