We’re all pretty aware of what can cause stress—death, divorce, job change or loss, over-commitment, and financial woes. But there are a multitude of other things that can not only cause stress themselves but can also make you less able to handle the stressors thrown your way. Ready to dive in? Here are 8 hidden stressors that might be messing with your health.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a cup of coffee. It’s the 3+ cups that many consume that causes problems. (The national average is 2.1 cups per day. And a cup is six ounces not a 16-ounce latte from your favorite coffee shop.) When you exceed the daily limit of 300-milligrams, you’re setting yourself up for anxiety, elevated blood pressure and cortisol levels (a key stress hormone). You’re also most likely interfering with your sleep, which is your body’s natural way of replenishing itself.
Well, we didn’t promise this was going to be a fun list, did we? First caffeine, now alcohol? Alcohol can also interfere with your body’s ability to manage stress by releasing cortisol. In addition, it effects your sleep by limiting your ability to dive into the deeper REM stages. And as you age, this only becomes magnified. Although the current recommended maximums are 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men, most of us would do better with less. Try taking a week off without drinking and take note of your energy levels, your sleep, and how you feel you can manage stress.
Whether you’re being insincere or actually lying, both can contribute to stress in the body. There’s a reason why the cartoons show characters sweating buckets when telling a lie, it creates stress.
I just spoke with a girlfriend about this the other day. She said the act of opening her in-box has created so much stress that she’s stopped doing it. Which unfortunately has left her with 10,000+ emails, only causing even more stress. So what’s the answer? Setting times of day to check your email. Instead of checking whenever you think of it, decide to check at certain intervals at work and at home. Emails, like cell phones, have made us feel “available” at all hours of the day. So decide when you want to be available and stick to it. Your stress levels will thank you.
Poor Sleep Habits.
Do you take a device with you to bed? Or go to bed at irregular intervals? Both can sabotage your sleep cycles. Try to create a sleep ritual that remains the same every night. Parents understand the importance of sleep rituals for their kids, so why not apply them to yourself? Turn down the devices, take a bath or shower, read. And do it at approximately the same time each night. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your sleep becomes more regular.
If it comes in a package its processed. Yes, some processed foods are less processed than others. Start by looking at labels and make sure that you can identify the ingredients. Then keep in mind fat content, sugar, and additives. All of these things can create stress in the body, which can lead to immune system suppression, weight gain, digestive woes, and more.
The Wrong Exercise.
This is a tough one. We’re told to exercise on a regular basis, but then its easy to overdo it while still thinking we’re within the healthy normal. Overexercising or overtraining can create additional stress in the body, which can negate the beneficial effects of exercise. The key is making sure you’re listening to your body. If you feel fatigued or worn-down, taking a few days off or switching to something like yoga (not power yoga, mind you) can be helpful. Also be mindful of moderation. Try to incorporate high-intensity days with lower-intensity. Mix in endurance, strength, flexibility, and be sure to rest!
This one might be an obvious to you, but for many we’re so used to the push reminders that we fail to see that being face-to-face with the news 24 hours a day can sabotage our health. For starters, most headlines trigger some kind of emotional response, often a negative one, that can lead you into a downward spiral. Seeing constant news also disrupts our focus, making it harder to tackle tasks at hand and ultimately leading us to feel stressed about the work we didn’t get accomplished. Turn off the push notifications and choose when you want to read your news. This article in the New York Times highlights what it would have felt like in 1968 if Americans had constant news alerts…. Sound similar?
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.