Life

The Silent Drain: How Micro-Stress Saps Your Joy and Energy (and What You Can Do About It)

Have you ever had this experience in your life :

Although I have nothing to worry about, I feel exhausted every day. When I get home, I just want to lie down and do nothing;
I haven’t encountered anything special, but my mood has become extremely irritable, and I can easily get carried away. Talking to my family and friends can get very explosive;
Sometimes a good mood suddenly becomes low, and I feel that I have lost the enthusiasm and motivation to live and work well;
Occasionally, I lose interest in many things, no longer have expectations for the future, and go to get off work numbly.

Unexplained fatigue, irritability, depression, and numbness. These negative feelings are actually related to a series of “micro-stresses” that diffuse around us. It often exists in a background atmosphere, which is not easy to detect but affects people subtly, and through continuous accumulation, it puts people into a very bad state.

So what are the micro-stresses in reality? How are they made? How did they attack us? What are the consequences of chronic micro-stress? And how to effectively deal with micro-stress?

Let’s take a look at today’s article.

Micro pressure that is not easy to detect, could be us Sources of fatigue, unhappiness, and depression

Scholar Rob Cross and his partner Karen Dillon believe that there is a force that is difficult to detect in people’s daily life and work-micro-stress.

It is different from those major events that cause us severe anxiety, great pressure, and have clear goals (such as the upcoming college entrance examination, promotion, or becoming a new parent). Rather, it consists of small things that seem inconspicuous and can be solved quickly. For example, the “housework assignment” mentioned by a friend before going out in the morning; “There is a document I want you to take a look at” sent by a colleague in the evening, etc.

Individual micro-stresses always seem controllable in the moment, but in fact, these micro-stresses gradually accumulate, creating a ripple effect of secondary or tertiary consequences that lasts for hours or days and even affects others around you. .

Following the example mentioned above, if we hear in the morning that we may have to assign housework in the future, we will easily be distracted in the next day thinking about “how to assign it”, so you may be absent-minded during the meeting and unable to collaborate with colleagues. Frequent distractions will eventually cause everyone’s work progress to be slowed down, which will also cause micro-stress in other people’s lives.

In other words, micro-stress does affect our daily lives in a weak but continuous way.

In addition, according to the research of Ross and Dillon , micro-stress is usually caused by “people close to us” , such as unpleasant interpersonal interactions, criticism or accusations from others , etc. It can be divided into the following three categories:

Category 1: Micro-stress that will drain your personal capacity (Drain your personal capacity)

Poor communication with partners and slow progress on tasks. For example: By default, both parties were familiar with the information in advance, but when they connected, they discovered that the other party had not read anything at all (heartbroken.jpg). In the end, the two of them had to start from scratch together.
Collaboration needs are complex, diverse, and numerous. For example: I received a large-scale, core, and long-term work project that required coordinating manpower from multiple departments of the company, soliciting external sponsorship, and finalizing the venue (I won’t say who it was).
Unpredictable behavior of authority figures. For example: I have worked hard to prepare meeting materials for several weeks, but my superior informed me that the meeting was canceled on the same day. I finally got the expert’s number, and when I was about to see a doctor, I heard that the expert had stopped treating me.
A friend, partner or family member who is filled with uncertainty. For example: After working all day, I just wanted to go home and rest, but my partner felt unwell and had to accompany him to the hospital. I suddenly received a call from my parents on the weekend when I was lying in bed, saying that I would come over and give you a surprise.
There is a surge in tasks and responsibilities at work or at home. For example: Although you get a promotion and a salary increase, you need to memorize more KPIs. As well as new parents, they have to shoulder a series of major parenting responsibilities with the arrival of a new life.

Category 2: Micro-stress that will deplete your emotional reserves (Deplete your emotional reserves)

Need to take responsibility for the success and happiness of others . For example: As a department leader, you should not only lead everyone in the team to make progress together, but also fight for everyone’s interests and cover for work mistakes at critical moments.
Confrontational, aggressive dialogue. For example: after watching a drama, I casually posted a Weibo message complaining about the star’s poor acting skills. A bunch of people came to comment on it, “You can do it if you have the ability? It’s a pity that capital won’t invest in ugly people” and “You’ve cooked X.”
Spreading stress and anxiety to others. For example: all kinds of people who often tell you, “If you don’t have XXX by the age of 30, your life will be over.”
Political manipulation. For example: Someone is forming a clique in the company, and you have to take sides. In the three years since the epidemic, I have received a lot of investigation calls and close contact risk warning text messages (attacks of some dead memories).
Untrustworthy interpersonal environment. For example: I worry about missing some friends when posting on Moments; I always worry about saying the wrong thing when I go back to meet my partner’s parents.

Category 3: Micro-pressure that will challenge your identity or values ​​(Challenge your identity or values)

The goals pursued do not match personal values. For example: I am taking the civil service examination, but I actually hate the bureaucrats in the system. Or they have invested a lot of time and energy in challenging for a higher position, but they hope to achieve a balance between family and career.
Attack your self-confidence, values, and question your abilities. For example, if you failed in the postgraduate entrance examination, it is thought that you should have found an easier job long ago, and quickly went on a blind date, got married, and had children.
Not being understood by family or friends, negative interaction patterns. For example: I gave up a high-paying job and changed cities for my partner, and was called “love brain” by my friends. After that, not only did I rarely share my love life with each other, but I also communicated less and less in other aspects.
Disruption of interpersonal social networks. For example, if you immigrate or study abroad, your relatives and friends are basically at home, and there is no one to talk to or ask for help when you encounter bad things.

It should be noted that these micro-pressures rarely appear one by one. In most cases, they occur at the same time or one after another. They are like a dark cloud hanging over our heads. At first, the sky becomes dark, and we feel gloomy and tired; slowly it starts to rain lightly and then heavily, making us feel unhappy and depressed; and when it develops, it develops into lightning and thunder. By now, we have built up a lot of stress and anger, ready to explode at any time.

So, how are these micro-pressures created?

First of all, most micro-stress at work is caused by ineffective communication, repeated labor costs, etc. Ross writes in his book, “If managers can alleviate ineffective and stressful communication habits in the organization, then the micro-stress of team members will be greatly weakened. ” Typical examples include: issuing some ambiguous instructions, doing Not giving clear answers when making decisions, etc.

Secondly, the emotional baggage that is difficult to let go will invisibly restrict us from relaxing. Common situations in life: Because we don’t want to disappoint our family, friends or close colleagues, we rarely refuse their requests; sometimes we take the initiative to take on some of their affairs and responsibilities.

Finally, emotional contagion is also an important source of micro-stress. During the course of evolution, our brains have learned the sensitive response function of accepting and understanding the emotional states and stress of those around us. The advantage is that by sensing the pressure of the group, we can respond to crises faster.

The downside is that this sensitivity also makes people easily infected by other people’s emotions. When the interpersonal environment we live in is filled with negative emotions and high pressure, our state will also deteriorate.

Seemingly insignificant, Slight pressure but better than expected More “lethal”

Behavioral neuroscientist Joel Salinas mentioned that micro-stress can escape the detection of the body’s fight-or-flight vigilance systems and will not trigger the higher-order protective mechanisms that may occur in the brain in the face of more obvious stress. .

In other words, micro-pressure is as cunning as COVID-19, and its “immune evasion ability” is very strong. At the same time, it can also cause a rapid heart rate, increase blood pressure, and disrupt the body’s hormones and metabolism. And in the process of gradual accumulation, it has caused us the following significant “sequelae” –

Forcing the cognitive bandwidth to narrow, weakening people’s mental functions

Human cognitive resources are limited. When the brain is gradually eroded or occupied by micro-stress, the cognitive bandwidth we have to focus on an activity or problem narrows.

Correspondingly, the ability to participate in problem solving and use the brain’s reserve resources will also be weakened, resulting in slow response and limited thinking. This is why work that used to take an hour or two to complete may now take you most of a day.

Gradually exhausting emotional reserves, turning people into powder keg full of anger

Generally speaking, it is normal for people to have ups and downs in their moods. As long as you accumulate enough “positive emotions”, even if you occasionally fall into a trough, you will rarely fall into deep self-doubt or incompetence and rage.

However, this is the most critical harm of micro-stress. As it continues to accumulate, it gradually destroys our inner peace, wears away our mental toughness, and drains our emotional reserves. It makes it difficult for people to maintain a clear self in interpersonal interactions, and they become sharp and aggressive when conflicts arise.

Body breakdown, from obesity to immune system disorders

Research has found that people who were stressed the day before converted nearly 104 kcal less during food digestion than people who were not stressed. This difference corresponded to an increase in weight of about 5 kilograms per year (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2015).

The reason is: high stress leads to lower fat oxidation and higher insulin secretion. Low fat oxidation means it is easier to gain weight by storing fat (Westerterp, 2009); while higher levels of insulin produce fat, further enhancing fat storage (Dallman, 2010).

In addition, the accumulation of a large amount of micro-stress will also promote the secretion of cortisol, thereby suppressing the body’s immune function and increasing people’s susceptibility to diseases. This explains why some people who never get hives suddenly start to have frequent rashes and become allergic. It may be caused by micro-stress.

How to effectively deal with micro-stress?
Three Strategies to Remember

According to Cross and Dillon’s new book, The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems—and What to Do About It, there are three strategies that can significantly improve microstress levels:

Strategy 1: Counter micro-pressure with direct, concrete actions.

Specifically include but are not limited to: Say no to small requests made by others; add a no-disturb time period for electronic devices/software; readjust interpersonal relationships and end those “toxic” friendships or friendships that continue to increase micro-stress for you. Love (sometimes it may be family affection) and so on.

(Reply “Toxic” on the official account homepage to see how to identify toxic relationships and learn to effectively untie them.)

To a certain extent, this is also a kind of “isolation and protection” measure against stressors, putting a “mask” on your emotions.

Strategy 2: Improve the three-dimensionality and richness of your life, and learn to look at the micro-pressures in daily life with a “permission” perspective.

In your daily life, add some diverse activities, such as going to see exhibitions, hiking, and visiting parks every weekend. In particular, you can try to join some “self-interest-oriented” groups.

The biggest advantage of doing this is that it helps us have a clearer understanding of the main issues in our lives, and recognize what is important to us and what is just a detail.

Strategy three: Try to avoid causing micro-stress to those close to you.

An easily overlooked but very important one. We need to realize that when we create micro-stress on others, the ripple effect will eventually flow back to ourselves.

For example: Micro-stress causes you to lose your temper at your partner when you go home. When they feel wronged and resentful, it will lead to more quarrels and unhappiness between you, which is equivalent to bringing more micro-stress to you. .

The same is true at work. When you ask a colleague to handle work after get off work, it is equivalent to implying that the other party can break through time boundaries and find you at any time, disrupting your personal time and routine, a whole vicious cycle.

When you feel that you are in a state of micro-stress and cannot find the source of the problem and the solution, in addition to the self-help coping strategies mentioned above, it is also recommended that you find a professional to “have a chat.”

Like COVID-19, micro-stress may not be eradicated, and there is no real “magic cure.” Why not practice together how to better coexist with it, and reduce or avoid its critical strikes by improving your “emotional immunity”!

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