If you’re a living, breathing human alive in the 21st century, there’s a good chance you know what it feels like to be stressed.
A 2021 survey found that 8 out of 10 people feel stressed at least once a week. Of those people, 15% of them said they felt stressed every day (1).
Whether the stress in your life comes from your job, your partner, or the fact that the world is still in the midst of a global pandemic, too much of it can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health (2). Because of that, bringing your stress down to manageable levels should always be a priority.
The easiest way to do that is by recognizing the environmental stressors present in your life. Once you do that, you can then get to work eliminating them.
An overview of stress
While you may be well-acquainted with it, it’s important to discuss what stress is.
Stress is a feeling we develop when a stimulus or event forces us to change in a way we’re not used to. It’s an imbalance between what we need to do (or what we perceive we need to do) and what we’re capable of doing.
It’s when your brain tells you, “I know I need to change, but I’m going to make the process as painful as possible.”
While most stress is temporary, there are instances when it can be long-lasting. For example, many careers like sales come with high levels of stress. In those situations, eliminating stress altogether is impossible, so your focus should be managing it.
Most of the stress we deal with comes from external sources. These can range from small stressors, like your alarm clock forcing you out of bed on a Monday morning, to life-altering stressors, like war forcing you out of your home country and into another.
Here are some other common types of environmental stressors:
- Noise: Harsh noises like alarm clocks, traffic, or sirens
- Air pollution: Fossil fuel emissions from factories, cars, and other sources
- Light: Excess amounts of light from artificial sources, like cities
- Crowding: Large amounts of people confined to a small area
- Natural disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters
- War: Devastation and displacement caused by human conflicts
While not everyone deals with stressors like war and natural disasters every day, many people do. The effect that they have on stress levels and mental health, in general, is huge (3).
Prioritize stress management
Stress is an unfortunate side-effect of life on 21st century Earth, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it.
Stress management experts recommend practicing a system known as the Four A’s. These are:
- Avoid: Identity which environmental stressors in your life you can avoid
- Alter: If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try your best to alter how it plays out
- Adapt: If you can’t change or eliminate a stressor, try changing yourself
- Accept: Recognize that stress is natural and that sometimes, you can’t do anything about it
The Four A’s can help you take control of stressors that would otherwise hold you back.
Control what you can
Life is stressful, and sometimes it seems like people want to do all they can to make it even more so. While you might not be able to keep your ex from texting you in the middle of the night or a blizzard from rolling through your town, all of those stressors form a part of life.
Control what you can, accept everything else, and live your best and healthiest life.