Stress is an innate response to stressors or threats in your environment. During early human history, humans were not necessarily the top of the food chain and had to fight to stay alive.
Looking at the stress response from an evolutionary perspective, the ability for the body to identify a threat and respond by increasing the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol was an advantageous trait. These hormones increase heart rate, alertness, and prepare the body to move quickly. Those early humans that had a good stress response were more likely to procreate, which was goal number one back in the prehistoric days.
Today you are most likely not warding off saber tooth tigers on your way to the grocery store, but the remnants of that adaptive stress response is still present within you and every other person.
Within the modern world you are less likely to face immediate dangers to your life, but rather small stressors. Sadly the stress response is not great at discerning the difference between the two, and small stresses can invoke feelings and sensations of stress.
Below is a description of underlying reasons for stress as well as ways to cope with feelings of stress. Hopefully this information can give you a starting point to figure out the underlying reasons behind your stress as well as healthy ways to cope with them.
Reasons for underlying stress
A common misconception people have is that stress can only be caused by an identifiable event or situation. In reality, stress can be invoked by many different things that you may not even be aware about. Even small events like a person cutting you off in traffic, running out of paper towels, and other slight inconveniences can impact your stress level.
Below are three different reasons for underlying stress. While there are many other reasons that could be the root cause of your stress, being aware of at least these three common stressors can help you to figure out the cause of your stress.
Not enough sleep
The American Psychological Association (APA) conducts yearly sleep surveys and found that when adults do not get enough sleep, 21% of them report feeling more stressed. Sleep is a necessary component of your health, and when it is foregone, it can have detrimental effects on your health, including making you feel more stressed.
This finding leads to a constant cycle where you are stressed and unable to fall asleep, and then stressed because you didn’t get enough sleep. Without taking action you can get stuck in this sleep stress cycle.
To break the cycle you should try to establish healthy sleep habits like waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day, creating a night time and morning routine, and avoiding screens and caffeine before bed.
Even if your specific stress is not caused by sleep, getting a good night’s sleep can help you reset and tackle the day with a fresh and unclouded mind. With such a large impact on your overall well being, sleep is well worth the time invested into ensuring you are getting the best quality sleep you can get.
Relationships are a common cause of stress, and oftentimes you may not even realize that your relationships are causing you stress.
When you have people that you are close to it can be difficult to navigate difficulties or even feelings that you have towards them. Rather than addressing them, many people simply internalize their feelings, which can lead to a build up of stress and feelings of anxiety.
A great way to help determine if relationship strain is causing your stress is to make a list of those you interact with and determine if you have any negative feelings toward them, even if it’s just a mild feeling of annoyance at something they do during the day. If you find that you do, figure out what is bothering you and try to address it with that person.
Harbouring emotions is a common reason behind unidentifiable stress. and by addressing them you could potentially alleviate at least some of that pent up stress.
Feeling good about yourself and feeling confident can have large impacts on your ability to manage stress. If you are confident in yourself and your abilities, you are better equipped to look at a possibly stressful situation and see it as something you deal with.
Diet has a tremendous effect on your ability to feel good. Nutrition is the underlying component that allows your cells and tissues to function at their best. Because of this, when you make poor diet choices you are inadvertently putting a damper on your body's ability to function at its absolute best. This leads to lethargy and ultimately a lessened stress management capability.
Poor food choices can also impact your body as a whole by resulting in a buildup of free radicals which can damage membranes and other cellular components like the mitochondria.
Consuming foods or supplements with antioxidants is a great way to help reduce oxidative stress and the possible deleterious side effects that free radicals and reactive oxygen species have within the body.
MitoQ is a specially formulated antioxidant that specifically targets its support toward the mitochondria. Through its specificity and ability to cross membranes, MitoQ is able to provide antioxidant benefits directly to the mitochondria, your energy powerhouses that need all the support they can get when it comes to doing their job. This allows your mitochondria to function at their best, and can help you in attaining a robust natural energy level, focus, and mental clarity.
Ways to deal with stress
Figuring out the underlying cause of your stress is important, but a more important aspect of stress is learning how to deal with stress in a positive way.
Stress management is a skill that you develop early on. Some common ways people cope with stress are nail biting, eating, and excessive sleeping. While these coping skills may provide some stress relief, they are not exactly healthy and constructive ways of dealing with stress.
Below are three healthy ways in which you can deal with stress.
Being stressed out is hard enough -when you start stressing out over the fact that you are stressed out, it becomes an even bigger problem.
Rather than sitting still and feeling stressed, you can actively try to bring yourself down by doing some self care. Running a warm bath, adopting a night time skin care routine, and cooking yourself a nutritious and delicious meal can help you to calm your body and mind.
When you are calmed down, you are better able to access your stresses and deal with them appropriately. When you get stressed, your body reacts in a physiological way by increasing cortisol. In most cases today, cortisol is not as helpful in reasoning yourself through a given stress and can even lead to you making poor judgement calls. By forcing your body to calm down through self care, you can revisit what is causing your stress and deal with it more appropriately.
Exercise is a great way to cope with stress because it gives you an outlet to utilize some of the excess adrenaline produced through the stress response. Increasing your heart rate and alertness while sedentary can lead to the negative sensations of stress.
Exercise gives your body the opportunity to use it while also improving your body's overall wellbeing by improving your cardiovascular health.
Exercise can even alleviate the negative feelings of stress by giving you a small dose of feel-good messengers known as endorphins. Exercise, much like self care, gives your body the time and outlet it needs to get into a better frame of mind.
Meditation is a practice of mindfulness and focusing on the present moment. Typical meditation practices include visualizations, focusing attention to different sensations, and focusing on the breath. Grounding yourself to the present moment is a great way to gain a new perspective on stress.
Many stresses emanate from things that have happened in the past that are in the future. Thoughts of financial hardship, a fight with a loved one, and other stressful thoughts are all examples of stresses that are not in the present moment. It is easy to let these stresses pile up and to get so caught up in them that you are not present in the current moment.
Meditating allows you to get into the present moment, unwrap yourself from your stress, and be in a better mindset to understand the things that you have control over vs the ones that you do not.
In summary, there is most likely a reason as to why you are stressed. Even small inconveniences and stresses can culminate in you feeling the effects of stress. Lack of sleep, unresolved conflicts, and poor dietary choices are just a few stressors that could be causing your unidentifiable stress.
If there you can find absolutely no reason to be stressed and you find that it is persistent no matter what you do, seek out medical advice to rule out any kind of stress related disorders.
While figuring out the root cause of your stress is important, learning how to deal with the sensation of stress and cope with it in a healthy way is equally as important. By practicing meditation, self care, and routine exercise, you can help diminish the sensation of stress while putting you in a better headspace to deal with your stress.
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.