Hidden Causes of Stress That Could Be Impacting Your Mental Health
Stress, particularly chronic stress, can impact mental and physical health in a variety of ways. Long-term stress is known to contribute to depression, anxiety, muscle tension, and other concerns. In some cases, stress can disturb sleep or even change the structure of the brain.
Some stress factors are easily identifiable. For example, you might experience stress related to your career, finances, or family complications. However, other sources of stress might be less recognizable on a day-to-day basis. Let’s examine lesser-known causes of stress that could be impacting your mental health.
Lack of Emotional Acknowledgement
Emotional validation occurs any time your thoughts, feelings, or emotions are accepted. The opposite — emotional invalidation — is the act of rejecting, ignoring, or judging another’s emotional responses.
Sometimes, you might experience emotional invalidation from individuals around you. In other cases, you may be ignoring the validity of your emotional responses. Either way, this lack of emotional acknowledgment can create issues with personal identity, emotional management, and overall mental health.
These challenges are often referred to collectively as alexithymia — difficulty in identifying and expressing emotions. Alexithymia is not a mental illness; it’s simply a challenge some face in diagnosing their own emotions. If you’re challenged by alexithymia, you might also experience poor coping skills or a difficulty in responding to others’ emotions.
Overuse of Devices
Electronic devices can also contribute to stress levels. Today’s overdependence on social media, digital communication, and other activities linked to personal devices — particularly mobile phones — can create both stress and addictive behaviors. Adults spend more than 3.5 hours per day, or more than 50 days per year, on their mobile phones alone. Between television, computer use, and game consoles, people dedicate nearly 12 hours each day to consuming media.
This overuse of devices leaves less time for healthy activities, including physical exercise and in-person communication. Instead, it creates more time for engagement with toxic online communities and participation in unhealthy behaviors.
Screen time can lead users to blink 66% less, which can lead to eye fatigue and dry eye syndrome. To mitigate some device overuse symptoms, consider taking regular screen breaks. Certain blinking exercises can help rest and rehydrate the eyes. You may also want to reposition computer monitors to reduce glare and eye strain.
Poor Quality Relationships
The quality of your relationships can also affect the quality of your mental health. In the same way that high-quality relationships can create life satisfaction, poor-quality relationships can quickly create stress and negatively impact mental health.
Proper relationships provide several health benefits. In many cases, good relationships improve both self-esteem and personal confidence, eliminating the self-doubt that often injures mental health. The same relationships can also improve the quality of your immune system.
By contrast, poor-quality relationships can slowly build stress. Even friends, couples, and family members who typically communicate well can see communications break down in the face of a stressful day or event.
Relationships partners with high-stress levels can also pass that stress on to others. Interactions with a partner in a poor-quality relationship can trigger an emotional contagion — when stress is passed between members of a relationship.
Lack of Routine
Your routine should provide an outline for the day. It might identify responsibilities to be completed, or identify the times when you might begin or complete a task. Without a routine, those same tasks might feel overwhelming, or too heavy to bear.
Implementing a routine can help enhance health, improve sleep, and limit stress. While not everyone requires a fully-planned routine, organizing your day can help you set appropriate expectations for yourself. The same routine can also contribute to a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, even if you don’t complete everything on your schedule.
Job insecurity — feelings of uncertainty about the future of your career — can also create impactful levels of stress. Studies indicate a close relationship between job insecurity and deteriorating mental health, including the development of longer-term mental health conditions.
Job insecurity can also increase anxiety around medical costs. For example, job insecurity might cause you to second-guess corrective vision surgery, because of the costs associated with LASIK or an alternative procedure such EVO ICL or PRK.
Discrimination or Harassment
No matter where it takes place, discrimination can quickly create stress that impacts mental health. Harassment, a form of discrimination, is any unwanted behavior that makes someone feel attacked, humiliated, or uncomfortable
Discrimination and harassment can sometimes arise in the workplace. This can take many forms, including derogatory humor, offensive pictures, and comments about an employee’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other characteristics. In all cases, discrimination and harassment can negatively impact mental health.
Over time, both discrimination and harassment create unwanted anxiety, particularly among younger adults. Even the anticipation of discrimination can begin to cause stress among some individuals. Anticipated and actual discrimination will sometimes cause mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Also known as intergenerational trauma or transgenerational trauma, generational trauma occurs when members of one generation inherit traumas experienced by members of a previous generation.
Many clinical psychologists theorize that generational trauma extends between generations, where trauma experienced by one generation can cause psychological distress in another. For example, the children of Holocaust survivors were known to experience heightened levels of trauma — likely as a direct result of the distress among their parents.
Generics might also play a role in causing generational trauma. Some studies indicate that trauma can be transferred epigenetically, meaning that ancestral trauma could affect how your genes operate.
Overexposure to Negative News
Today, overexposure to bad news can do more than dampen moods: it can also create anxiety, depression, and distress, which, in some cases, is long-lasting. While it’s nearly impossible to close yourself off to all news, there are ways to protect your brain from negative news cycles. Learn to turn off your devices, or at least your news sources, when you notice negative news manifesting negative emotions.
Make sure to reserve “newsless” time — periods of your day when you spend time away from the news, and instead, pursue a passion, spend time with loved ones, or participate in a favorite hobby. You might also want to consider which news sources you consult when looking for information.
Blurry or Impaired Eyesight
For the more than seven million Americans with reduced or impaired eyesight, vision challenges often create mental health challenges. Even slightly blurry eyesight can foster anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Many individuals turn to LASIK eye surgery as a viable option to correct their vision. This procedure reshapes your corneas to improve eyesight and adjust any refractions you might experience (farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism). If you’re not a suitable candidate for LASIK, you might also consider photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), refractive lens exchange (RLE), or other options.
Chronic illness has long been known to cause mental health issues, including stress. For example, cataracts — a condition where eye lenses become clouded — can heighten depression among elderly populations.
Many individuals affected by cataracts consider cataract surgery, to regain clear vision and improve their quality of life. One modern cataract solution involves using advanced intraocular lens implants (IOLs) that can improve vision and largely reduce the need for glasses or contacts.