How To Spot Your Stress Triggers

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How To Spot Your Stress Triggers

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Stress is that wily, insidious visitor that sneaks into our lives and surreptitiously ingrains itself permanently in its hosts. Everyone is a host.

There is a renewed dialogue around stress and stress management, especially against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the unprecedented changes and adjustments it has demanded from humanity as a whole. Thus, it is more essential to understand its multifarious nature – short or long term, internal or external, and to recognize individual stressors in order to address it effectively.


Stress & Its Types

The dictionary defines ‘Stress” as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstancesThat which causes a stress response is called a ‘Stressor.’ Stressors, and stress responses are different for each individual. Stress can be broadly classified as:

  • Acute Stress – It is the body’s instant response/reaction to a situation perceived as a challenge or threat. It could be any stress you experience for a short period of time. Examples: arguments with spouse/children, criticism from boss or colleagues, traffic jams, job interviews, etc. Sporadic episodes of acute stress aren’t harmful. In fact, some stress may actually be beneficial or energizing – known as Eustress. However, if unaddressed severe acute stress can cause mental and physical health problems.
  • Chronic Stress – This is more persistent in nature, with stressors growing over time in volume and/or intensity. This type of stress lies at the root of many mental and physical ailments and conditions, including psychosomatic.


Understanding Stressors

While there are different categorizations, in essence, stressors broadly align with external and internal sources.

External stressors emanate from domains outside us – workplace, sudden/unpredictable events/life changes. These can also be environmental or social.

Internal stressors are tethered in our thoughts, emotions, and interpretations of the world around us. These are self-induced. Our fears, doubts, beliefs, and perceptions of being (or not) in control are examples of internal stressors.

Stressors can also be concomitantly classified as physiological (physical – injuries, pain, extreme temperatures, etc.) and psychological (interpretive – perceiving something as being disruptive, threatening, negatively impacting, etc.).


How Do We Spot Our Stressors?

The starting point for stress management is being able to spot personal stressors. Some of the following physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral responses can help in identifying what is potentially a source of stress:

  • Rapid heartbeat, rapid/shallow breathing, chest pain
  • Frequent stomach (Gastrointestinal) upsets (diarrhoea/constipation/acidity/nausea etc.)
  • Acute and/or Chronic muscular aches and pains (esp. headaches/ migraine/ neck/ shoulder/ clenched jaw or tension in jaw/ tension in muscles).
  • Disturbed sleeping/Insomnia
  • Frequent colds/cough/infections/skin rashes and conditions
  • Lowered libido/lack of sexual desire or ability
  • Disturbed menstrual cycles
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating more than normal/sweaty hands and feet
  • Low energy/lingering lethargy
  • Inability to complete thoughts/racing or incoherent thoughts
  • Inability to focus/express
  • Displaying forgetfulness/poor judgement/disorganization/repetitiveness
  • Procrastination/poor quality work outputs/avoiding responsibility/missing deadlines
  • Feeling edgy/angry/frustrated/mood swings/negativity
  • The feeling of being out-of-control/overwhelmed
  • Avoiding people (including family, friends)
  • Feeling depressed/low self-esteem/lonely/worthless
  • Change in appetite (eating more or less than usual)
  • Nervous Behaviour (nail-biting/frequent fidgeting/pacing/shaking/clenching)
  • Increased consumption of alcohol/smoking/drugs (including frequent pain killers)

External sources of stress can often be eliminated by distancing oneself from them to the extent possible. Internal stressors need working upon self. These take time, effort, patience, and embracing and practicing interventions to help initiate and sustain positive modifications in thoughts and responses.

Given our multiple stressors, it’s not always about eliminating stress; rather, about learning to manage it.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” – Bruce Lee

About Vani Pahwa

Vani B. Pahwa is Health & Wellness Evangelist, and Founder, Body In Motion, who specializes in Functional-Fitness, and Cancer Exercise & Rehabilitation. With almost 2 decades of experience, and certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally-recognized fitness institutions, Vani is the leading Wellness Expert for Multinational Corporations and is a recognized Speaker and Coach. An Indian Classical Dancer, Vani encompasses her learnings from dance to everyday movement making “exercise and training for life, not just events.” To know more about Vani and her premium wellness services, visit


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