If there’s ever a time to be stressed, it’s now. A global pandemic, a collapsing economy, sky-high unemployment, police brutality, unheard calls for justice – turning on the news is enough to leave us rocking back and forth in our living room. 2020 is, ironically, the type of year that sidestepped our vision. None of us ever saw it coming.
Though the above factors are enough, they aren’t the only things causing you stress. Angst and anxiety lurk in all corners of our beings, hidden in crevices and waiting to strike. In fact, there are several causes of stress that fly under the radar. And they include:
A lack of connection: The coronavirus has left many of us feeling disconnected and longing for human contact. We hope the UPS man lingers on our doorstep an extra minute or two, we talk to our neighbors in alleyways, we walk to the mailbox hoping someone will notice our new haircut (Oh thanks, I just cut my bangs with garden shears). We can FaceTime and hangout on Google all we want, but face-to-face allows us to better speak heart-to-heart. Of course, we also miss hugging.
Too much connection: Yep, we’re only partly down the list and we’re already contradicting ourselves! Yet constant connection can be a source of stress, proving the adage about too much of a good thing. Texts chiming, phones ringing, and emails loading easily overwhelm, causing us to want to unplug before we unhinge.
Not hitting the magic numbers: We know we should drink eight glasses a day (of water, not wine) and sleep eight hours a night. We’re aware, though we don’t always abide and that acts as an ally to stress. If you get too little sleep, too little exercise, or you’re on-the-go with too little H2O, you’ll feel it. Conversely, too much of the bad impacts you too – too much alcohol, too much sugar, too much junk food, and – tragically – too much coffee.
Living in a cluttered home: People have different preferences when it comes to organization – some make it a priority; others haven’t cleaned their garage since the summer of ‘99. Whatever works for you is what works for you and clutter may not always translate to stress. But for many people, it does. A desk filled with papers and coffee mugs or a kitchen full of dishes and pizza boxes can muck up your peaceful oasis. This isn’t to say you need to constantly wax the floors or wipe the counters; simply aim to remove the clutter. Doing so makes the load a little lighter.
Inflammation: Inflammation is both a good and a bad thing inside the body. When the inflammation is in reaction to a cut on your hand, it’s beneficial: it promotes healing. Chronic inflammation, inflammation that more than overstays its welcome, is problematic. Not only can it lead to physical disease, it puts your body on high alert too, invoking a stress response in the process. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce inflammation, including eating anti-inflammatory foods, engaging in meditation or yoga, spending time in nature, and getting plenty of aerobic exercise. Taking a daily aspirin helps as well. It not only reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, but it also decreases the odds of getting several kinds of cancer.
In many ways, to be stressed is to be human; it comes packaged with life. Still, reducing our levels makes us happier, healthier, and less likely to eat an entire box of chocolate in one sitting. At least try to make two.