“The Hidden Thief: How Low-Level Stress Robs You of Years”

Low-level chronic stress, often referred to as “daily hassles” or “background stress,” is a pervasive issue that can have significant impacts on our overall well-being and even our life expectancy. This type of stress is caused by the constant barrage of minor stressors that we encounter in our daily lives, such as traffic jams, work deadlines, family obligations, and financial concerns.

Here are some causes of low-level stress:

1. Work-related stress: Long hours, demanding workloads, job insecurity, and conflicts with co-workers or superiors can contribute to chronic stress.

2. Financial stress: Concerns about paying bills, managing debt, or maintaining a stable income can create a constant state of worry and anxiety.

3. Family and relationship stress: Conflicts with partners, children, or other family members, as well as caregiving responsibilities, can be emotionally and mentally taxing.

4. Social media and technology overload: The constant influx of information and the pressure to stay connected can lead to feelings of overwhelm and stress.

5. Environmental stressors: Noise pollution, crowded living conditions, and lack of access to green spaces can contribute to chronic stress.

The downside of these stressors is that they can have a profound iImpact on our Well-being.  Here are some of the key ways we can be negatively impacted.  

1. Physical health: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and digestive issues, and contribute to the development of chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes.

2. Mental health: Low-level stress can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, impacting overall mental well-being.

3. Sleep quality: Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or poor sleep quality, which can further exacerbate stress levels.

4. Cognitive function: Chronic stress can impair memory, decision-making abilities, and overall cognitive performance.

Scarily low level stress is know to have an unhelpful impact on life Expectancy:

Research has shown that chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on life expectancy. Long-term exposure to stress hormones, such as cortisol, can accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of developing age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

Additionally, the negative effects of chronic stress on mental health, sleep, and overall well-being can contribute to a lower quality of life and potentially shorten life expectancy.

The link between chronic low-level stress and reduced life expectancy has been well-documented in numerous academic studies. According to a 2012 study published in the journal BMJ Open, individuals who experience high levels of chronic stress have a 29% increased risk of developing heart disease, which is a leading cause of premature death worldwide (Russ et al., 2012).

A large-scale study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of London found that individuals with high levels of stress had a 43% increased risk of premature death (Stringhini et al., 2017). The study, which followed over 200,000 participants for an average of 8.5 years, estimated that individuals with high levels of stress could potentially have their life expectancy reduced by 2.8 years.

Furthermore, a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychological Bulletin analysed data from over 300,000 participants across 33 studies. The researchers concluded that high levels of stress were associated with a 37% increased risk of premature mortality (Rozanski et al., 2019). They estimated that the life expectancy reduction associated with chronic stress could range from 1 to 3 years, depending on the severity and duration of the stress.

It’s important to note that these estimates are based on population-level data and can vary depending on individual factors, such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and the presence of other health conditions. However, the consistent findings across multiple studies highlight the significant impact that chronic stress can have on overall health and longevity.

By taking proactive steps to manage low-level stress through techniques like mindfulness, self-care, and lifestyle modifications, individuals may be able to mitigate these negative effects and potentially increase their life expectancy.

Addressing Low-Level Stress:

To mitigate the impact of low-level stress, it is crucial to adopt healthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle changes. These may include regular exercise, mindfulness practices (e.g., meditation, deep breathing), time management strategies, seeking social support, and engaging in hobbies or leisure activities that promote relaxation and stress relief.

It is important to recognise the cumulative effects of daily stressors and take proactive steps to manage stress levels, as chronic stress can have far-reaching consequences on both physical and mental health, ultimately impacting our overall well-being and potentially shortening our life expectancy.

A simple but significant approach that can make a major difference in managing low-level stressors is the practice of self-care through intentional breaks and leisure activities. In our fast-paced lives, we often neglect to prioritise time for rest, relaxation, and activities that bring us joy and fulfilment. However, these intentional breaks can serve as powerful stress-relieving mechanisms and help us recharge our mental and emotional batteries.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to incorporate self-care through intentional breaks and leisure activities into your daily routine:

1. Identify activities that bring you joy and relaxation: Make a list of activities that you find genuinely enjoyable and restorative. These could include hobbies like reading, gardening, playing a musical instrument, painting, or engaging in sports or physical activities you love.

2. Schedule dedicated time: Once you have your list of preferred activities, intentionally block off time in your calendar for these self-care breaks. Treat these appointments with the same level of importance as you would a work meeting or any other commitment.

3. Start small and build up: If you’re new to this practice, begin with short breaks of 15-30 minutes per day. As you get more comfortable with taking these intentional breaks, gradually increase the duration to an hour or more, depending on your schedule and needs.

4. Disconnect from work and distractions: During your self-care break, make a conscious effort to disconnect from work-related tasks, emails, and other distractions. This dedicated time is solely for your own enjoyment and relaxation.

5. Engage in your chosen activity mindfully: When you begin your self-care activity, fully immerse yourself in the present moment. If you’re reading a book, saver the words and the story. If you’re gardening, pay attention to the feel of the soil and the scents of the plants around you. This mindful engagement can help you truly disengage from stressful thoughts and enter a state of relaxation.

6. Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques: If you find your mind wandering back to stressful thoughts or concerns during your self-care break, take a few deep breaths and consciously relax your body. You can also incorporate simple relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation exercises.

7. Reflect on the experience: After your self-care break, take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Notice any changes in your physical, emotional, or mental state. This awareness can reinforce the importance and benefits of intentional self-care.

By consistently incorporating self-care through intentional breaks and leisure activities into your daily routine, you’ll be better equipped to manage low-level stressors. These dedicated moments of relaxation and enjoyment can help you recharge and approach stressful situations with a clearer mind and a more positive outlook.

Remember, self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for overall well-being and stress management. By prioritising time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, you’ll be better able to navigate the challenges of daily life with greater resilience and balance.


Russ, T. C., Stamatakis, E., Hamer, M., Starr, J. M., Kivimäki, M., & Batty, G. D. (2012). Association between psychological distress and mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 194 373 adults aged 16-82 years. BMJ Open, 2(2), e001141.

Stringhini, S., Carmeli, C., Jokela, M., Avendaño, M., Muennig, P., Guida, F., … & Chadeau-Hyam, M. (2017). Socioeconomic status and the 25× 25 risk factors as determinants of premature mortality: a multicohort study and meta-analysis of 1· 7 million men and women. The Lancet, 389(10075), 1229-1237.

Rozanski, A., Bairey Merz, C. N., Rozanski, A., & Bairey Merz, C. N. (2019). The impact of psychosocial factors on cardiovascular disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. In Stress and Cardiovascular Disease (pp. 21-38). Springer, Cham.