Recognizing Your Triggers for Stress

Recognizing Your Triggers for Stress

No One is Exempt

Stress. It’s prevalent at all stages of life, and among everyone. It’s insidious and serious. We know that stress may even exacerbate disease.

Most of us know about stress relieving techniques and have seen, and used, them but many people don’t keep up with them consistently. Myself included! Do we think it’s not worth the work to stop and evaluate the sources of our stress? I’m here to tell you it’s worth it, because you’re worth it. When stress is managed appropriately, we can give others a better us.

Know your Personal Triggers

Let’s get ahead of our stress. The way to do that is to know your personal triggers for stress. Often times these situations do not simply disappear. But we can combat it by knowing ourselves, knowing our triggers. I call this “collecting intel.” I’m in the business of personal wellness, which means the actions that keep us well, as individuals, may differ. By knowing your triggers for stress, you can have a plan of attack, and become what I’d like to call a stress combatting ninja!

What is Stress?

The website defines a stressor as: any factor that disturbs homeostasis, producing stress. They define stress as: an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures. I would expand that definition to include internal pressures. Have you ever put extra pressure on yourself than was necessary? That’s internal stress. As a recovering perfectionist, I know this feeling all too well. Can you relate? Did it help you to put pressure on yourself or did it cause what we’re talking about here? Perhaps, you can look back and recognize, with hindsight twenty/twenty, that if the pressure is excessive it will not help.

It’s important to clarify here that there is a level of stress and pressure that can be motivating and can produce positive action. Positive stressors can include things like receiving a promotion at your job. It’s important to realize that not all stressors are negative. Sometimes a stressor can produce some positive action but when it gets out of control, and begins to effect how you show up in the world, we have a problem.

When I picture someone that is stressed, they look tired, maybe their hair is messy (from them trying to pull it out? Ha!), and of course their forehead is crinkled. Perhaps they are yelling or crying. The way that one handles stress can be determined by genetics and also life experiences. Some have a higher tolerance for stress than others and we ourselves can have different tolerances on different days. Have you had the experience of handling a stressful situation with ease only to find another time that you “lost it” over something seemingly insignificant? We’re humans and we’re dynamic.

There are a host of factors that affect stress levels: sleep, how you eat, how often you work out your body, what kind of medicines you are taking, the type of job and family life you have. Overall lifestyle effects stress.


Consider the following questions: How do you feel when you’re stressed? Likely tense, uneasy, overwhelmed or perhaps angry. How do you feel when you’re not stressed? Likely comfortable, at ease and expansive. Which would you choose? I’d imagine the answer is obvious.

Reflect on yourself as an individual. How do the two states of calm v. stressed differ for you? What would make you less stressed? What are your beliefs about stress and what are the stories you’re telling yourself that may be interfering with the way that you manage (or don’t) your stress?

Stress can come in many flavors. Identifying which flavor your stress trigger comes in is identifying the source. The list below is not exhaustive, but are the most common types of stressors to get your thought juices flowing. Consider for yourself which areas of the following list apply most to you:

  1. Societal: Pressures to act, look or behavior in a specific way.

  2. Family/Relational: The state of your relationships. This can include romantic partnerships, familial relationships, friendships and any other roles you play in relation to another person.

  3. Work Life: These can overlap with relational, for example the relationships and roles you have at work, your workload and whether or not you enjoy what you do for a living.

  4. Health: Having good health is often times taken for granted. Having a medical concern, whether it be chronic or acute can cause stress.

  5. Monetary: Money can be a huge source of stress. Whether you do not have enough to sustain the life you want, are struggling to survive or have more than enough can cause stress. We tend to think the grass is greener on the other side, however poor people have poor people problems. Middle class people have middle class problems and rich people have rich people problems. No one is exempt.

  6. Environmental: These stressors are in your surrounding environment. Maybe someone cuts you off in traffic, or there’s a lot of pollution in the air.

Take Action

I encourage you to rank the above in order from most stressful to least in your own life. Then consider which items are in your control and which are out of your control. Out of your control will stand for the factors you cannot change. For example, getting into a car accident. Items within your control can be how you react to your partner during an argument. In this way, you can see which items you may need to work on letting go of (because they are out of your control and you cannot change them) and which items you need to address. I recommend starting with what you have the most control over: the category of “in your control.” This is the category where you can identify an action item.

For stressful situations that are not within your control, breathing techniques, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, exercise, eating well are just a few ways you can minimize your discomfort. These are all easy things we can do regularly to keep our stress low. We just need to first convince ourselves that we’re worth that time and effort.

I’m curious, please comment below on what your triggers are, how you work with them and what you are doing/can do to minimize your stress levels!

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