Stress Series: Identifying Your Stress Triggers

Identifying and isolating what triggers your stress and causes your affliction is a very important step towards better managing your stress levels. Often, we experience undue stress by factors out of our control such as school, work, our health or children.

Other times, we experience stress by perpetuating negative thoughts, worries, and scenarios over and over in our heads. These factors, however, we can control – though it can be very difficult. Understanding the difference and identifying these external and internal triggers can help us find more effective coping strategies to reduce the stress we feel in our daily lives.

External Stress Triggers

External stress triggers are events and situations that happen to you or around you. These triggers are out of your control. External stress triggers can include major life changes, the environment surrounding us, and issues in the workplace or our social groups and relationships.

Coping Strategies for External Stress Triggers

While we can’t prevent external triggers, we can help regulate how they affect us. By engaging in activities that keep us in a positive headspace, we are better able to manage disappointments or frustrations that occur in our daily lives. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and taking time for things that relax our minds can help us maintain a positive outlook.

If you feel overwhelmed, like you juggle too many things at once, consider how you use your time. Prioritize the items you absolutely need to do, but also ensure that you make time for things you really enjoy. Practice saying “no” to the rest!

Internal Stress Triggers

Internal stress triggers can be much more difficult to deal with and overcome. These triggers are self-induced feelings and thoughts, including fears, feelings of uncertainty and lack of control, and internal struggles around issues such as religious or philosophical belief systems.

Coping Strategies for Internal Stress Triggers

Though internal stress triggers stem from our own thoughts and feelings, they can feel harder to manage. Our way of thinking is deeply ingrained in us, impacted by all of the experiences we’ve had throughout our lifetime – good and bad. However, perpetuating and repeating negative or worried thoughts do absolutely nothing to improve the situation or change the past, it only makes us more anxious and more stressed.

Retraining our minds to think about things differently is not an easy task, but it can be done. Manage negative thoughts by actively practicing positive self-talk. Learn to respond to your thoughts instead of reacting to them. Create a list of positive mantras or affirmations that you can repeat to yourself when you are feeling stressed or anxious. This could be “I can do this; I will find a way to do this”, or “I can learn; I can do anything I set my mind to” – see what works for you. Also, practicing relaxation exercises, like yoga or meditation, or talking to a trusted friend or a therapist can help reduce the stress you feel from internal triggers.

Stress is a fact of life, and that’s okay. We cannot eliminate stress, but we can learn ways to better recognize our stressors so that they don’t keep us from enjoying daily life.