The Stress That Hasn’t Been Talked About

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The sheer volume, diversity, and velocity of the events or conditions that we are privy to are immense. Intuitively, we are led to believe that the larger the volume of a stressor, the more prominent an impact it has on our well-being. Truth does not escape this statement. Major life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, a serious injury, and etc. most definitively have a significant impact on one’s mental and physical health. Even perceivably inconsequential stressors, however, which may be minute in volume, do indeed have latent ramifications which may become evident over time. 

Micro-stressors refer to those stimuli or experiences which arise as momentary inconveniences over one’s day. Missing the bus, forgetting one’s wallet, or even being unable to find a dress that one fancy is considered to be ordinary occurrences having trivial outcomes. Although, growing evidence suggests that the effect of such sustained ‘inconveniences’ could amplify and become detrimental to one’s health; so much so that Harvard Business Review referred to them as “tiny little assaults”.

It is almost unsettlingly instinctive how we dismiss the impact of micro-stressors. Not only is their impact being dismissed by us, but we are holding ourselves accountable for their mere existence. For example, we may attribute our clumsiness and forgetfulness to losing our wallet. The further we associate personal pitfalls or flaws to micro-stressors in a regularised manner, the greater the adversity we have to face. Additionally, their impact may reduce our stress threshold and make us more susceptible to anxiety, aggression, and depression. 

The Mainz Inventory of Micro-stressors (MIMIS) is the inventory using which the participants of a study report if and when a given hassle occurred, as well as the extent of the strain it caused. To diminish the limitations involving the use of MIMIS, studies on the impact of micro-stressors solicit a differentiation being made between objective or observable stressors and stressful cognitions such as the perceived severity of the stimulus. Such differentiation is distinctly made in the Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) which is a tool used to conduct such research. It allows for sampling of current behaviours and experiences in real-time and in the natural habitat, thereby maximising the accuracy of the generalisation of the findings and minimising recall bias. 

Causes and Effects of Micro-Stressors:

  • Unvoiced Concerns in the Workplace Causing a Drain in One’s Productive Capacity:

Miscommunication, unaccountability, unreliability, and misalignment of responsibilities are all concerns that the modern working individual confronts. Battling these concerns can harm one’s productive capacity whether it is along the lines of motivation, focus, time-management, etc.  

  • Social Interactions and Maintaining Relationships Causing Depletion in One’s Emotional Reserves:

Confrontational conversations, mistrust, uncertainty, or simply an uncomfortable social situation may lead to a feeling of emotional lethargy or mental exhaustion in due course of time. 

  • Interactions which challenge one’s identity or values:

The pressure to pursue goals unaligned with one’s vision or questioning one’s own identity and principles may create unwelcome friction and stress. Such constant antagonism within oneself may result in burnout; a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. 

How Micro-Stressors Be Avoided or Their Impact Diminished:

The impact of micro-stressors aggravates rapidly and may even be exponential in its growth, especially since its impact can linger on for days or even weeks. Conventional approaches to tackle stress may prove to be futile as micro-stressors are deeply and invisibly embedded in our lives. To mitigate the effects of the stressors, the following techniques can be incorporated into one’s routine-

  • Recognising the Stressors

It is worrisome that a majority of us have conceded to the fact that micro-stressors are customary aspects of one’s daily life when in reality; they are cumulatively wearing us down. Identifying and being conscious of these stressors without classifying them as ‘routine’ can facilitate stress regulation.

  • Decompress:

Involve yourself in activities that are self-affirming to combat the ‘noise’ of anxiety and defensiveness. Be conscious of the environment that you inhabit and devote effort into surrounding yourself with optimism. 

  • Conversations with Trusted People:

Such conversations can provide perspective and allow one to deconstruct elements of distress. Invest in relationships and people who aid you in having greater dimensionality and a broader perspective. 

  • Avoid Stress-Inducing Relationships:

Some individuals in your life may enable unproductive behaviour or may be untrustworthy. Recognise their effect on your mental and physical well-being and allow yourself to create boundaries.

  • Stay in Routine:

Establishing a daily or weekly routine can conserve your emotional energy while reducing anxiety and uncertainty. This considerably reduces the possibility of the micro-stressors to even emerge. 

For more awareness on micro stressors

Spreading awareness about the effects of micro-stressors is vital since tempering its effects is within our control. The necessity of such knowledge especially in a modern era of constant, unrestrained chaos where everyone seems to be in constant pursuit of mental and physical well-being is undeniable.

Written by - Saumya Seth

Edited by - Sravanthi Cheerladinne


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