It’s the Small Things Most Likely to Cause “Snowball Stress”

You thought your day couldn’t get any worse - but then you find out your friends are doing something fun without you, you lose your keys, or the scales say you have stuck on some weight.

These are among the seemingly insignificant things , which are highly likely to tip us over the edge, causing “snowball stress” according to psychologists.

A nationwide study has revealed the small things in life which have the power to change your entire day, for the worse, with running as fast as you can for the bus, but just missing it emerging as a trigger.

Coming home to a messy house, seeing that someone has posted an unflattering picture of you on social media – and noticing your partner checking someone out in the street, also have the power to cause instant spikes in our stress levels, according to the survey.

But stepping in dog poo was the number one incident likely to tip us over the edge, chosen by nearly half of Brits (49%), followed by having a row with your partner before work (32%) and finding out you have a less cash in the bank than you thought (31%).

The study of 2,000 adults, by Poppy’s Picnic, found the ripple effect of these apparently small events can make the whole day feel like a write off. This is known as “Snowball Stress” according to psychologist Dr Becky Spelman who worked on the research.

Said Dr Spelman:The simple fact is that stress breeds stress, sometimes there is not just one major source of stress, but rather a million tiny ones.

“If you feel tense about something small, this will have both a psychological and a physiological impact on you. Think about building a snowman by rolling a snowball up a hill.

“You start out with a tiny ball of snow that fits in the palm of your hand, but by the time you reach the top of the hill, your ball has picked up enough snow to start building your snowman.”

A third of those polled (33%) admitted that if something happens to knock them off their daily path, they will pick holes in what other people say, a quarter (25%) said they resort to fighting with their other half and 20% are likely to snap at their kids.

Spelman continues: “Sometimes your day starts out OK, but then you drop your toast and jam (jam side down, of course) on your freshly washed floor, and it all seems to go downhill from there.

“Because human beings are naturally made to engage in symbolic thinking, it’s very easy to develop the feeling that nothing is going to go right today, so there’s no point in even trying.

“We all have to deal with little setbacks in our everyday lives, but they don’t actually have to cause a ripple effect that destroys the whole day.

“Taking control over the things we can change, and practicing techniques like mindfulness, can help us to get back on the right track.” 

It’s no surprise that stepping in dog mess was our top bugbear, as researchers from Poppy’s Picnic discovered that a massive 44% of Brits done so in the last 12 months.

Dylan Watkins, Founder of Poppy’s Picnic, which commissioned the study said: “The nation is suffering a dog poo epidemic, however dogs that are fed fresh, raw diets produce smaller, odourless, more ‘pickupable’ poos.”

On average, Brits have 60 bad days every year, and the effects of the bad day run deep, with 70% of people saying they are unable to hide it if they’re in the midst of a doomed day.

On the upside, 36% of Brits say that their partner is the one person who can make them snap out of a bad mood, 31% said their pet does the trick, and slightly more than the 29% say their kids help most.

And it appears that some human contact can make us feel better, with 44% saying that a cuddle is most likely to cheer them up, followed by someone making them laugh (40%), watching TV (33%) and playing with their pet (30%).

Also, Brits are willing to be philosophical about bad days, with 77% of us saying that we need the bad days to appreciate the good ones more.

Things which are likely to trigger snowball stress:

  1. Stepping in dog poo 49%
  2. The car breaking down 36%
  3. Having a row with your partner 33%
  4. Checking your bank balance to see you’ve spent more than you thought 32%
  5. Losing your keys 30%
  6. Coming home to a messy house 26%
  7. Running as fast as you can for the bus and JUST missing it 26%
  8. A work colleague being mean 25%
  9. Catching your partner checking someone out 24%
  10. Getting caught in the rain without an umbrella 21%
  11. Leaving your packed lunch at home in the fridge 19%
  12. Someone posting a terrible picture of you on social media 19%
  13. Finding out your friends are doing something fun without you 18%
  14. Having a bad skin day 18%
  15. The scales saying you’ve put on a few pounds 18%

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