When I have to remember to bring something somewhere in a day or two, I leave it in the way, like on the way to the door so that I have to step over it in order to not forget it when I leave. Sometimes, I get so used to stepping over it, I get so used to the inconvenience that I end up stepping over it on my way out the door, not thinking of it, and forgetting the object anyway!
Similarly, we get used to the feeling of stress and don’t think anything of it.
Some stress you experience is obvious - impatience or anger in a traffic jam, frustration with a problem or person - but then there is some stress that isn’t as obvious. It is “hidden”.
This “hidden” stress is not actually hidden. It is right out there in the open, but we have simply become accustomed to it, used to the feeling of it, numb and unaware. We adapt to the daily pressures, irritations and annoyances of life. We end up thinking it is “normal” or “not a big deal” (like the object I step over) and allow the stress to stick around, unnoticed.
Even if it isn’t obvious, and even if you don’t notice it or are unaware that you are experiencing it, stress is stress; it is physiological disharmony and it is draining your energy and decreasing your resilience.
Director of research for the HeartMath Institute, Dr. Rollin McCraty, says, “Ongoing low-grade stress can do more harm to the body, mind, and emotions than one large stressful event can.” Hidden stress is that ongoing, low-grade stress.
What does “hidden” stress look like? How can you spot it?
There’s 2 broad categories of hidden stress: subtle attitudes and drama.
Subtle attitudes include those such as pessimism, cynicism, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m worth nothing”, and “Life is hopeless”.
Drama also comes in a few different forms. Here are some examples:
Justifying - “I have every right to feel this way!” It’s probably the most “dangerous” one, the one we fall into quickly and sets the stage for some bigger energy drains because we convince ourselves that it’s better to feel negative. This is when we feel justified feeling the way we feel. While you might have the right to feel that way, do you want to? Is it worth it?
Blame - “Of course I’m angry, that guy is a jerk!” Making your emotions someone else’s fault.
Histories - “You ripped my head off yesterday and today you want to talk?!” Difficulty starting with a clean slate.
Rehashing - “How could he dare speak to me like he did?!”, “I should have said…” Making the issue bigger and bigger in your head after the fact.
Resignation - “Well, whatever.” Just not dealing with it, done with it.
Brooding - “It’s been days, but it feels like yesterday.” Keeping the issue “warm”.
Negative Projections - “It didn’t work out before so it won’t work now.” Assuming the worst of the future because of negative experiences of the past.
These are small stresses but they accumulate quickly and we may not realize how much they’re impairing our overall health and quality of life.
Where are there “hidden” stresses in your life?
What would it be like to not have them?
Here’s to conquering stress.
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