We have become so accustomed to them, we often don’t recognize how these mini nuisances are irritating us to the point of suffering from multiple modern day ailments like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress.
Lots and lots of stress.
Some of the Worst Culprits
Some of the worst micro stressors include:
- Social media and/or email alerts on our phones
- Braking suddenly in heavy traffic
- Someone cutting us off in traffic
- Loud noises like car alarms going off and neighborhood dogs constantly barking
- Televisions blaring in public spaces like airport gate areas
Let’s look at our smartphones for a minute.
While it is possible to toggle the alert switch off within the phone’s settings, many people don’t.
A relatively new acronym to the 21st century scene known as FOMO, which stands for “fear of missing out,” is behind the lack of toggled off buttons on iPhones and Androids everywhere.
Somewhere along the road we were tricked into believing that if we don’t get an alert about the latest post from so-and-so or what’s-her-name, we will somehow be less.
In short, we will somehow be missing out on an experience that could have changed our lives if we’d only known about it in time!
I kid you not, this is a real thing and it’s only going to get worse.
FOMO as Mega Micro Stressor
FOMO is characterized by high anxiety, restlessness and even depression. According to a 2015 article in Psychology Today, FOMO is a root cause of missed appointments, under or over commitments and old fashioned standing others up.
It’s no wonder so many people are stressed all the time. I get stressed simply reading that description about FOMO.
So what’s the solution? If micro stressors aren’t going away anytime soon (they’re not) and FOMO is on the rise (it is), what can we do to start correcting this problem?
1. The most obvious one is to turn off the alerts on our phones. Unless your livelihood depends on being constantly notified about who is tweeting or posting what, you don’t need to be up to date on your best friend’s vacation to Mexico or what Lady GaGa wore at her latest fundraiser (as interesting as this may be).
2. Take 5 minutes at the start and end of each work day for some deep breathing. Deep breathing has been shown to have many health benefits. For example, research has shown that deep breathing reduces the acidity level of the body, making it more alkaline and reducing our risk of developing inflammation-based diseases. Deep breathing can also help us calm down in heated situations, reducing anger and allowing us to look at what’s happening from a new perspective.
3. Drink more water. Studies show again and again and again that we need to drink half our body weight in ounces of spring or filtered water every day. According to Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, “Water energizes our muscles and helps reduce fatigue.” Nothing wrong with taking a quick restorative nap, but perhaps drinking a glass of spring water would do us better for that mid-afternoon stress relief.
4. Revisit our what and our why. What we do every day needs to be clearly tied to why we do what we do. If you feel your blood pressure rising as a result of thinking about blogging or commuting an hour each way to work, perhaps it’s time to revisit these two key components of a life well-lived. Despite what some people might say, choices today are more abundant than ever. No need to keep peddling a bicycle that doesn’t take us a pleasant destination.
5. Another phone-related way to reduce micro stressors is to let 90% of our phone calls go to voice mail, then decide if we: 1) want to return it, 2) need to return it, or 3) must return it.
I started implementing this last strategy a couple of years ago and it works. If a number turns up on my phone I don’t recognize, I always allow it to go through to voice mail. 9 times out of 10 it’s a caller I don’t want or need to talk to.
Playing in a Blended Ecosystem
Given this choice, it’s ultimately up to us to make smart decisions about our phones, our use of time, and how we respond to the inevitable string of interruptions filling the pockets of our days.
Could we actually have more control than we might think?