Identifying Your Invisible Stressors

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

The last week or so has been incredibly draining for me. Somehow I can’t seem to get anywhere, constantly feel like falling asleep and have zero resilience. I feel like I’m about to topple over at the slightest breeze, and I can’t seem to figure out why. It’s not like I have that much on my plate, right? My diary seems relatively empty and the to-do list has many things but none of them are incredibly urgent. I’ve given up on cleaning the house this week and decided exercise and cooking can wait, and still…

It was not until those around me point out that there have been other stressors with a huge impact, that I start to see them as well. My son has been having a hard time, resulting in me spending about double the amount of one-on-one time with him than usual. It has an impact on my daughter as well, who voices her needs more strongly and vents her frustration. At the same time, I’m on my period and in need of extra peace and quiet, and extra rest, none of which I am getting. Due to the time spent recovering from angry outbursts and emotional breakdowns of the little ones (and, increasingly, myself), I don’t get to cleaning and the house slowly starts to revert to chaos, adding to the stress.

So why do I not recognize any of these things as causes for stress? Well, mostly because they are not new and different, but rather gradations of issues I already deal with most days, and that usually don’t cause the same amount of stress because they are either more manageable or because I’m more resilient and energetic. It’s as if the sounds around me didn’t change, but got twice as loud, making it seem as if the situation is still the same.

Another aspect that makes it difficult to spot certain stressors is when we have the belief that these things shouldn’t be stressful. Doing a job you enjoy, spending time with people you love or going on a trip are all things that can give us energy and fun. But they are also things that can stress us out, under certain circumstances or at certain times in our lives. You’re not wrong for feeling that way. You just feel how you feel.

Often, the people around us are better at spotting our stressors than we are. They have a much more objective image of how our behaviour changes than we do, not muddled by the ‘reasons’ our mind makes up for all these behaviours. This is not to say they are always right, but if they point out factors in your life that they think might contribute to your overall malaise, those are probably worthy of your consideration.

If you have no one to point these things out to you but still find yourself overwhelmed without knowing why, try to review your day(s) to see where your time and attention are going. Are you worrying about an assignment you thought would be easy? Were there some unexpected events in your week (fun or not)? Did you deal with some emotional issues? Were you feeling under the weather due to a cold or just at a low spot in your cycle (or your partner’s cycle)?
What would you change about this week to give yourself more energy and calm? What does that say about what you’re missing?

Now, what can you do about it when you’ve managed to identify the hidden stressors in your life? Well, it depends, right? You can ask yourself some of these questions:
– Are they temporary or long-term stressors?
– Can you do anything about them?
– Are there other stressors you can (temporarily) eliminate or reduce (yay for take-away!)?
– Can you ask someone for the help?

And if all of these fail, or even if they work, and you’re still feeling overwhelmed. Maybe, the least you can do is recognize for yourself that it’s only normal that you’re feeling overwhelmed. And that it’s okay. Not fun, obviously, but okay.

It can be frustrating to run into our own limits. There’s so much I want to do, create, write, plan,… But my limits also teach me something (I’m sure).

I’ll let you know what might be when I’m feeling less frustrated.

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