4 Common Stressors That Hide In Plain Sight

If you're like most folks, you can probably pinpoint the most prominent stressors in your life. This likely involves some combination of work, finances and family—just to name a few. There's also the generous sprinkling of daily stressors, like traffic jams or losing your keys.

But some sources of stress go unnoticed. These hidden stressors lurk in the background, secretly fueling the fire behind your mental strain. They can even hinder your efforts to manage other stressful triggers, adding to the stubbornness of an inextinguishable flame.

"Even though [these stressors] might seem small, they can play big role in negatively impacting your health," says Meridith Alexander, a motivational speaker, mindset expert and author based in Florida. So, let yourself pause and take a moment to notice the not-so-obvious sources of stress. By identifying and acknowledging these secret stressors, you can make moves to minimize their effect.

1. Addiction to smart electronic devices.

While electronics can add value to our daily lives, they can also cause unnecessary stress. For example, while smartphone notifications are brief, their attentional cost is associated with reduced task performance. These mini distractions can make it difficult to focus on work or school, which, by extension, contributes to stress and anxiety.

The content on smart devices could spark stress, too. "A disruptive text, an emotionally charged article or a controversial post can quickly make you lose positive momentum," shares Alexander. Or, you might feel obligated to check your work email long after you've clocked out.

If you suspect technology is behind your stress, find ways to live beyond the glowing screen. Turn off your notifications, use "airplane mode" more often, give your phone a "bedtime" and focus on activities that don't require electronics.

2. Undiagnosed health issues.

It's easy to ignore undiagnosed symptoms, from heart palpitations to recurring aches. Overlooking them, however, will simply feed your underlying stress in the long run. Plus, when you downplay your symptoms to other people, you're forced to keep up with the lie and hide your discomfort. This adds even more stress, says Dr. Holly Sawyer, Ph.D., M.S., L.P.C., N.C.C., a licensed therapist in Philadelphia.

But remember, an early diagnosis could make all the difference. Sawyer compares it to driving a car with the "check engine" light on. "Once you get it checked out, you're knowledgeable on exactly what your car needs. The body is the same way," she notes.

3. Lack of meaningful relationships.

In today's fast-paced society, it's common to fly through life without nurturing social relationships. But without enough quality connections, you're more likely to feel socially isolated. This could lead to prolonged stress, along with physical effects like high blood pressure and inflammation.

Besides, humans are social creatures. Social relationships offer support and emotional safety, which are essential for coping with daily stressors. 

To cultivate more quality relationships, be mindful of your smartphone habits, as mentioned earlier. Enlist a "no phone" rule when spending time with loved ones. "Try doing more interactive things with others," adds Alexander. For instance, instead of vegging out in front of the TV, play a board game or go on a hike.

4. Cluttered home or desk.

According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California, some folks find comfort in clutter. But if you're in tune with your visual environment, a cluttered space might be causing unnecessary stress. In fact, a 2017 study found that older adults with more clutter experienced less satisfaction with life. A 2019 study also determined a cyclic relationship between stress and clutter in the workplace. 

When you're surrounded by clutter, not only is it harder to find things, but it's also common to feel suffocated by the lack of space. Start by getting rid of the excess. From there, Manly suggests briefly tidying up every day to help manage stress. "Simply carve out 10 to 15 minutes each evening or morning," she recommends. That's all it takes.

Amid work deadlines and family obligations, hidden stressors often hide and slip through the cracks. But by taking time to look into those subtle spaces, you can discover small yet impactful ways to better handle stress.
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Member Comments

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#4 is a BIGGIE for me! Now that I'm home all the time, I have started to declutter and reorganize. It makes such a huge difference in my sleep quality and peace of mind overall! I plan to continue. (I also plan to "downsize" in case I need to move. I have two bedrooms now, but there is no way I would be able to afford two bedrooms if I have to move. I encourage anyone who is also having difficulty to clear at least one special space per day (if they can) and to focus on that one space whenever they are feeling overwhelmed, taking deep, calming breaths. It may help! Blessings and well wishes to ALL! Report
Great points to work with. Thank you for sharing. Report
I’m a clutterer by nature. With being home all the time now it’s starting to make me crazy. I can’t keep track of anything because of it while before this lockdown I could locate anything anytime. I came up with a solution that’s working for me. I took a big box & cleared everything off all my cluttered surfaces. Now each day I spend some time sorting thru what’s there, shredding, filing, organizing my spaces & I find this is helping me feel more in control. It’s working very well for me & maybe this idea will help my fellow clutters out there find some peace in doing it also. Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
i've been cleaning a lot these last couple of weeks. I have always been a hand washer. Report
Oh my! Bull's eye! I need to declutter my tiny bedroom. I started yesterday and keep at it slowly...

Thanks for this article Spark Team! Report
Working on the desk/room/house! Report
thanks Report
We are using the extra time at home during Covid-19 to declutter some of our “stuff” and to catch up on photo albums and scrapbooks. It’s fun to look back at pictures of our trips and remember happy times. Report
It is important for us to manage our stress during this COVID-19 time. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks for the insights.
Thanks Report


About The Author

Kirsten Nunez
Kirsten Nunez
Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle writer, editor and author. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition and is currently based in New York. Kirsten spends her days writing articles and dreaming up healthy recipes.