Sunday, March 12, 2023

Don't Ignore The Small Stresses

Breathtaking sunset
Most of us can ignore the smaller things that irk us. Like a rude sales staff, a terse message from your manager, or even a full basket of laundry not done. We ignore the smaller micro-stresses and just focus on the big stuff since the small things do not evoke the fight or flight mechanism. Unlike getting hit with big, bad news like getting fired from your job or a serious illness.

The small things that require our attention can definitely add up. Even when we ignore them our bodies do not. Small stresses can trigger some of the same physical effects as big stresses including increasing blood pressure and lower quality sleep (Cross and Dillon, 2023).

This is often why we feel exhausted or even defeated at the end of the day, even if nothing big went wrong. They can eventually have an outsized impact on our mental and physical health.

A really interesting study by Kiecolt-Glasr et al (2015) found that even a relatively minor social stress experienced within 2 hours of a meal can affect your metabolism of that meal by adding 104 calories to that meal. If that occurs daily, it adds up to 11 pounds (or 5 kg) a year.

We can all take steps to be more aware and address the micro stresses in our lives. Communication helps. Speak to your boss if he/ she is routinely annoying you by not giving you enough time for datelines. Or call your child if he/ she does not respond to your messages. You will be surprised at how much eradicating a small but repeated stressor can boost your mood.

Cross and Dillon's research shows that people with robust personal lives, i.e. those having family, friends and hobbies that keep them occupied tend to be less affected by work related micro stresses.

Practicing meditation and mindfullness can clear your mind and clear away the big and small stresses.  Being both grateful and thankful for what you have helps too.
So I am doing just that, enjoying the rainbow and the breathtaking sunsets while on holiday with my family now. 


Cross R and Dillon K (2023). The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up And Create Big Problems - And What To Do About It. Harvard Review Press. 18 April 2023.

Kiecolt- Glaser JK, Habash DL, Fagundes CP et al (2015). Daily Stressors, Past Depression, And Metabolic Responses To  High-fat Meals: A Novel Path To Obesity. Biol Psychiatry. 77(7): 653-660. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018

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