Published on February 4th, 2014


Surprising causes of stress

Did you know that the things that make you happy can also give you stress? Read on to know more.
by Sharad Panjwani

‘Stress’ is, in the simplest terms, a short-term elevation or depression in our mood caused by a change in our environment. These changes can be good or bad. However, prolonged stress gives rise to depression or behavioural changes.

Normally, we associate stress with negative situations and people. A bad appraisal, an unfriendly group of co-workers, an argumentative spouse, your child’s continued bad grades – all of these are causes of stress, and we associate the term ‘stress’ only with negative or unpleasant events in our lives. However, even seemingly ‘good’ factors in our lives can cause stress! We’re just not aware of them.

Says psychologist Dr Charul Shahani, “Anything that causes a change in our environment can give us stress. Even something as innocuous as a close relative visiting us can cause enormous amounts of stress – however, in this case, our feelings of happiness override any panic or fear we may experience. The stress in seemingly ‘happy’ situations spurs us on to work better or faster. However, in some cases, people might experience a breakdown – like when they are organising a party for friends, or going on a blind date.”

These are some hidden sources of stress:

Families: Though this is largely dependent on a particular situation, our families do cause us stress without us realising it. A simple argument over who gets to watch which TV programme, or if the family should take an outing to a certain restaurant, can cause varying amounts of stress. Apart from these, some irritating habits of our family members cause stress on a daily level.

Pets: Our pets largely give us huge amounts of joy, but dealing with them can also be stressful. Says vet Varun Chugh, “We learn to identify our pets’ behaviours, their personalities and what they prefer to eat, how they like to play, what annoys them, and so on. Keeping a track of all of these can be stressful, especially if the pet suddenly changes some behaviours. Your dog barking at night or your cat mewing as if in pain – these can cause stress. People who have young children in their homes as well as pets experience double the amounts of stress because they are handling different personalities at the same time. This stress can translate into fatigue, irritation and lack of sleep.”

Food: Science has established that different foods can have varying effects on our moods. Apart from taste, the temperature, smell and fragrance of food and drink that we consume have a huge bearing on our mood. People who skip their breakfasts are obvious contenders for stress in this category, but so are people who are non-finicky in their food choices! While we assume that people who ‘eat whatever is put on their plates’ are easy-going , no-fuss individuals, these same people can feel stress if their habitual eating discipline prompts them to consume stuff they don’t like. An example of this would be finishing off food at a party despite bad cooking, so that the hostess is not upset.

Messy room or workspace: Some of us are naturally messy – we dump our stuff all over the place but we know where to find it. However, studies show that the bigger the mess, messy roomthe bigger the stress in remembering and finding our things later. This happens even if we know exactly where we’ve put them. So when our elders ask us to tidy up, it is for this reason alone – to minimise our own stress.

Gossipy neighbours or co-workers: Though all of us enjoy listening to or sharing gossip with our neighbours and colleagues at work, there is an unspoken fear all of us face – are people talking about me, too? Besides this, we also experience stress when we hear really bad news about somebody else, or some shocking fact about an acquaintance.

Working after office hours: It’s true that the ‘9 to 5’ concept of a working day doesn’t hold true for most of us, with many offices working well past 10 hours on most days. However, we are conditioned to treat our time out of the office (after work hours or on weekends) as ‘me-time’, and admit or not, all of us do have some tasks that we put off for ‘when we are free after work’. Naturally, the idea of having to work when we should be stocking up the fridge or going on a movie date as planned or even catching up on sleep causes stress.

The colours of our walls: Studies have shown that the colours we surround ourselves with have a direct bearing on our emotional well-being. People who work in spotless white workplaces or offices that have zero tolerance for eating at the desktop, report experiencing slight panic or pressure to be on their best behaviour, without having been told to do so. Similarly, homes or offices with walls painted in warm colours cause negative feelings. On the other end of the scale, dull colours such as grey or navy blue cause lethargy. It is a good idea to have a pop of colour in the surroundings with the walls painted in pastel shades. Offices with windows overlooking trees and activity are best.

Routine health checkups: Says Dr Shahani, “We go for checkups to rule out any abnormality, but a visit to the doctor, however routine, is always a cause for stress. Every human being has the fear of a hidden illness being detected. The friendliest doctor can, unintentionally, cause a lot of stress. However, this stress is released the moment we get a clean bill of health.”

(Pictures courtesy nicholasferguson.org, www.thismamacooks.com, www.deviantart.com) 

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