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Master the art of learning to live with your stressors

July 30, 2022 - 19 min read

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What are stressors?

5 common causes of stress

What are the physical effects of stress?

How to deal with stressors

7 stressors in the workplace

How can a coach help with stress?

The importance of relaxation

When to seek professional help

It’s coming. You can feel it. You felt it yesterday and the day before that, but this time it’s worse. Your body is tense and your hands are sweaty. Your body is feeling the effects of stress. 

But how and why does this happen? What are stressors, and most importantly, how can you deal with them?

The first thing you should know about stressors is that they impact everyone. You aren’t the only one who deals with stressful situations. But you — and everyone else — can do something about it.

Learning how to identify the sources of your stress and how they impact you is the first step to addressing and mitigating them. 

And, because daily work stress affects Americans and Canadians more than any other country, we’ll give you some tips on how to reduce stressors in the workplace. Plus, we’ll break down the importance of relaxation and who can help you with that. Here we go.

What are stressors?

A stressor is a situation or event that causes us to feel stressed. They can be internal or external factors, like our memories, environment, or the people around us. They’re also very personal; a significant source of stress for one person might cause no stress for another. 

To make this clearer, let’s talk about the different types of stressors and how stress forms in our bodies. 

Our stress response happens when our brains recognize a threat. This can be any stressful event, like a natural disaster or an important budget meeting.

Our amygdala, which processes our emotions, sends a signal to the hypothalamus to communicate with our nervous systems and release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. All of this happens within seconds of our brains recognizing a threat. 

The rush of adrenaline triggers our fight-or-flight response. And while cortisol is great for reducing inflammation, helping us act under pressure, helping to control our blood sugar levels, and more, high cortisol levels can contribute to Cushing syndrome and other issues like cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression

Acute or chronic stress still impact our bodies — especially if we experience acute stress disorder or longer psychological stress from traumatic events. To best combat our stressors, we need to learn about all types of stress and how to fight them.

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5 common causes of stress

What causes our stress is often out of our control, but our everyday life events can contribute to our stress. If we want to identify the causes of stress in our lives, we have to have enough self-awareness to be mindful and reflect.

If you need some help getting started, the American Psychological Association (APA) did a survey and found some of the most significant causes of stress for Americans in 2021:

1. Work

It’s no surprise that we can feel stressed at work. Project deadlines, conflict with other coworkers, micromanaging bosses, burnout, and our daily life can grow overwhelming.

Stress from work can be wanting perfection and pushing ourselves too hard to achieve it. You might want even feel yourself becoming a workaholic.

2. Money

Financial stress impacts people of all ages. Newly graduated college students might worry about their student loans, while others might stress about buying a house. Perhaps people who’ve been working for many years perhaps are stressed about their retirement savings.

Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial 2022 survey found that 29% of Gen Z and 36% of millennials found cost of living to be their greatest financial concern. And 47% of Gen Z and 43% of millennials cite their long-term financial future as the main reason they feel stressed most of the time. Money is also emotional, and economic volatility exacerbates this stress. 

While removing this stressor entirely isn’t always possible, you can empower yourself by learning more about your finances, setting financial goals, and learning budgeting techniques.

It also helps to increase your understanding of your feelings about money to understand when you feel this stressor most and how you could manage it. 

3. The economy

All sorts of economic factors are at play here. One survey found that 87% of surveyed Americans view inflation of everyday items like gas and groceries as a significant source of stress. Everything from wages, tax rates, and government activity can also contribute to economic stressors.

4. Family responsibilities

Everyone has a different relationship and set of responsibilities within their families. Single parents could feel more stress than people who have a partner there to support them. Or, people could stress about supporting their family members and loved ones and taking care of their health and well-being.

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5. Personal health concerns

Other health problems that we face can cause us to feel stressed. Perhaps we have surgery scheduled soon, or we’re concerned about our heart health. Chronic pain can cause stress, while stress can exacerbate chronic pain, creating a nasty cycle.

Our physical illnesses can weigh on our minds and cause long-term stress if left untreated.

If you need help identifying the cause of your stress, consider meeting with a BetterUp coach. They can break down what aspects of your life are filled with stressors and guide you toward managing them so that your well-being can thrive.

What are the physical effects of stress?

Alongside the potential mental health issues of stress, our physical health’s also at risk. Maybe our stress is causing us to have an existential crisis, and it’s impacting our heart health.

We can attribute some of these signs to other health problems, but it’s still good to be aware of them to identify extreme stress.

Here are some of the physical effects of stress:

  • Cardiovascular issues like heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system and increased risk of other illnesses
  • Headaches and prolonged migraines

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  • Upset stomach and gastrointestinal issues
  • Tension in muscles and jaw
  • Exhaustion or not getting enough sleep

How to deal with stressors

We’d love to learn how to avoid stressors altogether, but that’s impossible. Stress is inevitable. What we can do is learn how to reduce stressors, manage the ones we face, and keep a resilient mindset.

We have to understand that stress can and will pop up in our lives, there’s no question about it. But how we deal with it can make a huge difference in how it impacts us physically and mentally.

Here are eight coping strategies for dealing with stress:

1. Practice self-care. The term self-care is thrown around a lot. But you should do whatever benefits your mental health and helps you rest, whether it’s a face mask or a long hike.

2. Learn to set boundaries. Being able to say “no” to people and set boundaries is a way to prioritize your well-being. If something makes you uncomfortable, make sure to speak up. This will help you avoid potential stressors, too.

3. Ask for help. Even if your job is independent, it’s never bad to ask for help. Recognizing that we’re overwhelmed and working too much tells us that we should lean on others for social support. Having someone double-check your work or take half of a task is an easy way to lighten your workload.

4. Change your outlook. Is this stressor going to benefit you in some way once you overcome it? Some stress is positive and opens up growth opportunities. Focus on what you can learn from this challenge or the life changes causing you stress.

5. Practice mindfulness. Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, and spiritual-based practices can help release tension in our bodies. Take a moment to be mindful of how your body feels to recognize your needs.

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6. Develop critical thinking skills. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and think the worst about threats. But critical thinking can help you unpack these apparent threats to decide if they’re threatening.

7. Turn off your screens. Have you ever heard of doomscrolling? Spending too much time on social media or watching movies doesn’t always help when we feel stressed. Instead, set time limits on certain apps or make a habit of turning off screens a few hours before going to bed.

8. Break down your work. If you have goals, try not to set them all simultaneously. Your to-do list should be challenging but manageable to avoid stressing yourself out while expecting the impossible.

7 stressors in the workplace

Workplace stressors are a common reason for leaving a job. A workplace should have integrity, and you should also have work values of your own. You may reach the point where it’s not worth all the stress you’re experiencing. 

If you feel like your job might be a source of stress, review these six stressors you may find in the workplace:

  1. Your boss or other coworkers gaslight you at work
  2. You have a super heavy workload to accomplish
  3. The leaders don’t prioritize the rest of the team
  4. The new business model doesn’t match your values
  5. Your boss sets standards that are too high
  6. You don’t feel supported enough as you work
  7. Your job demands are unclear and constantly changing

If these sound familiar, you might be dealing with a toxic work environment. Being unable to set boundaries to avoid overworking and burnout means it’s time for a change.

How can a coach help with stress?

Our stress can impede our other goals and dreams in life. If we’re too stressed, we can’t dedicate time to our career aspirations or life goals. We’ve already touched on the importance of asking for help, but there’s someone in particular who can do that for us: A life coach.

Coaching offers many benefits. Our life coach can help us go on a journey of self-discovery to find our values, what goals we want to set, and how we want to achieve them.

We can talk about turning off our screens early or learning how to set boundaries, but are we actually going to do it? Our life coach will check-in and hold us accountable. 

Family members and friends can be nice to talk to, but they don’t always have the expert advice we need for stress management. Think of a life coach as a trusting, guiding person who wants to see us put in the work to deal with our stress.

The importance of relaxation

We need to give extra attention to self-care when dealing with stress. It’s unrealistic to learn how to eliminate stressors from ever bothering us again, but paying attention to how we can relax our bodies with self-care will help.

We need to be proactive and experiment with different types of rest to manage our stress levels before stressors appear. Work and rest are partners, and we must devote time to both.

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Relaxation helps us center ourselves and be more present. It can be a great way of reminding ourselves that we can dismantle the threats we encounter. But what relaxes some might not do the trick for others. That’s why we need to explore all sorts of relaxation techniques. 

It’s hard to let yourself relax. At BetterUp, we believe that taking a step back to prioritize your peace and well-being is important when it comes to managing stress. It can take a lot of effort to learn how, but our coaches are here to empower you to do your best.

When to seek professional help

When we figure out what our stressors are, it might show us how stress has negatively impacted our health. Even though talking to a family member, friend, or even coach can help us create change, it doesn’t replace what a mental health professional can do.

Extreme stress disorders can pose a serious threat to our health that we can’t resolve ourselves. The APA found that 56% of Americans could have benefited from more emotional support than they received since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Seeking professional help can make people feel more supported, less alone, and able to manage stress.

However we experience our stress, and however it changes us, we need to remember: that we aren’t alone.

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Published July 30, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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