Your Voice

Your Voice: Combatting the impact of microstresses

Though it may seem harmless and just part of the day, it’s important to limit their impact on your health and productivity.

Your Voice: Combatting the impact of microstresses

Stress and microstress might sound the same, but they are completely two different concepts. Here’s how: Stress is visible and obvious, almost everyone can identify, sympathize for, categorize and recognize it. An example of stress can be a long-distance commute, a parent’s illness or passing away, waives of layoffs at your company, or global pandemics such as COVID-19.


While microstress is hard to recognize and categorize. Rob Cross, who is a coauthor of The Microstress Effect book, defines microstress as: “Microstress is far less obvious. It’s caused by difficult moments that we register as just another bump in the road — if we register them at all. Microstresses come at us so quickly, and we’re so conditioned to just working through them, that we barely recognize anything has happened.”


Some examples of microstress could be having to put in extra time to finish teamwork when teammates are falling short, constantly sending follow-up and reminder emails where the recipient is not responding, missing a meeting and have to go through meeting minutes, or missing practice day and feeling that your skills are declining.


Microstress appears harmless and just part of the day. As a coping mechanism, we tend to place a false positive label on them like, “just another day at the office,” “that’s life” or “multitasking,” but we forget to recognize the fact that microstresses may be hard to spot individually, but cumulatively they have a big impact.


So, what can we do about microstress? Cross has suggested three techniques: 

1. Push back in a practical way, for example, learning to say no for small asks, re-adjust relationships, and better manage interruptions from technology like notifications. 

2. Watch for microstresses you cause to others. Some microstress you cause to others bounce back, for example, snapping at your partner or children will cause stress and anger to increase. 

3. Rise above microstress, meaning try to find ways to explore life outside your normal routine, explore more and learn more. This usually helps microstress to roll off your shoulder. 


(Your Voice reflects the thoughts and opinions of the writer, and not necessarily those of the publication.)

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