what causes stress?

10 Common Causes of Stress: Understanding the Psychology and Personal Factors Behind Stress

Stress, as we all know, is an inevitable part of life. It's that natural response our bodies produce when faced with change, demanding our attention and action.

However, this seemingly harmless response can wreak havoc on our well-being. The release of adrenaline and cortisol during moments of stress can unleash a slew of physical, emotional, and psychological strain.

While a certain level of stress is normal, it is when stress becomes chronic or overwhelming that it starts to negatively impact our health.

In this article, we'll explore the 10 common causes of stress. By understanding what lies at the root of our stress, we can take steps to manage it better and preserve our health and well-being.

Causes of Stress

Understanding Stress: Common Triggers

Acute stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including daily hassles, major life changes, and traumatic events. Personal life events can be a major source of stress. Some of the most common personal stress factors include:

  1. Work: Work-related stress can be caused by a heavy workload, long hours, difficult coworkers, or a lack of control over your job.
  2. Finances: Financial stress can be caused by debt, unemployment, or a lack of savings.
  3. Relationships: Relationship stress can be caused by conflicts with family members, friends, or romantic partners. It can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and sadness.
  4. Health: Health-related stress can be caused by chronic illness, injury, or disability. It can lead to physical and emotional pain, as well as financial strain.
  5. Major life changes: Life changes such as divorce, moving, or the death of a loved one can be incredibly stressful. These changes can disrupt your daily routine and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
  6. Uncertainty about the future: Not knowing what the future holds can be stressful.
  7. Perfectionism: Striving for perfection in every aspect of your life can be stressful.
  8. Trauma: Experiencing a traumatic event, such as an accident, a natural disaster, or a violent crime, can cause stress.

Stress can trigger the body's stress response, which releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause symptoms like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension. They can also affect your mood and behavior, causing irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.

Understanding the Two Sides of Stress: Eustress and Distress

When it comes to stress, not all types are created equal. Eustress and distress are two different types of stress that can have varying effects on your body and mind.

Eustress, also known as positive stress, is the type of stress that can motivate you to take action and achieve your goals. It can be caused by events such as getting a promotion, starting a new job, or even planning a wedding. Eustress can help you feel energized and excited, and can even improve your performance in certain situations.

On the other hand, distress, also known as negative stress, can have a harmful impact on your physical and mental health. It can be caused by events such as losing a job, going through a breakup, or experiencing a traumatic event. Distress can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even symptoms such as headaches and stomach problems.

It's important to note that while eustress and distress are different types of stress, they can still have similar physical symptoms. For example, both types of stress can cause an increased heart rate and sweating.

The key difference between eustress and distress is how you perceive the stressor. If you view the stressor as a challenge or an opportunity for growth, it is more likely to be eustress. If you view the stressor as a threat or a danger, it is more likely to be distress.

While eustress can be beneficial, it's important to remember that too much of any type of stress can be harmful.

Too much pressure can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and the flu. In this section, we'll explore how stress can make you sick.

Heart Disease

Stress can cause your heart to work harder, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Stress can also cause your blood vessels to narrow, which can lead to high blood pressure.

Digestive Problems

Stress can cause problems like stomach aches, diarrhea, and constipation. Stress can also make existing problems in the digestive system worse.


Experiencing stress can make it challenging to both initially fall asleep and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Depression and Anxiety

Stress can cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety. If you are already prone to mental health disorders, stress can make them worse.

Weakened Immune System

Stress can weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off infections and illnesses.

Chest pain

Stress can cause chest pain, which can be a sign of a more serious health problem like a heart attack. If you experience pain in your chest, it's important to seek medical attention right away.

It's important to manage stress to prevent these health problems.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Chronic stress is a prolonged feeling of stress that can negatively impact your health if left untreated. Here are some common signs and symptoms of chronic stress:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle straining or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mood swings

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Worrying excessively
  • Negative thinking
  • Poor judgment
  • Inability to make decisions

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Procrastination
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to take steps to manage your emotional health.

10 Common Causes of Stress: nail biting

Coping with Life's Curveballs: Top 10 Stressful Life Events

Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes things happen that can cause a significant amount of stress. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a tool used to measure the impact of life events on our mental health. Here are the top 10 most stressful life events according to this scale:

  1. Death of a spouse: Losing a spouse can be one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences a person can go through.
  2. Divorce: The end of a marriage can be stressful for everyone involved. It can lead to financial difficulties, custody battles, and emotional turmoil.
  3. Marital separation: Even if a couple is not getting a divorce, a separation can still be a significant source of stress. It can be especially difficult if children are involved.
  4. Imprisonment: Being incarcerated can be a highly stressful experience, both for the person being imprisoned and their loved ones.
  5. Death of a close family member: Losing a family member, such as a parent or sibling, can be devastating.
  6. Personal injury or illness: Dealing with a serious illness or injury can be stressful, both physically and emotionally. It can lead to financial difficulties, as well as feelings of helplessness and anxiety.
  7. Marriage: While getting married is often a happy occasion, it can also be a source of stress. Planning a wedding, adjusting to married life, and dealing with family dynamics can all be challenging.
  8. Dismissal from work: Losing a job can be a major source of stress, especially if it was unexpected. It can lead to financial difficulties, as well as feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
  9. Marital reconciliation: While reconciling with a spouse can be a positive thing, it can also be a source of stress. It can lead to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about the future of the relationship.
  10. Retirement: While retirement can be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, it can also be a source of stress. It can be difficult to adjust to a new routine and a new way of life, as well as dealing with financial concerns.

These are just some of the most common stressful life events that people may experience. It's important to remember that everyone responds to stress differently, and what may be stressful for one person may not be for another. If you are experiencing stress, it's important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.

The Threshold For Excessive Stress

Stress is a natural response to challenges and demands in life. However, too much stress can be harmful. So, how much stress is too much?

In general, stress becomes too much when it starts to interfere with your daily life. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or irritable most of the time, it may be a sign that you are experiencing too much stress.

Here are some common signs that you may be experiencing too much stress:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to take a break and focus on reducing your stress levels.

Stress Management: Effective Techniques for a Happier Life

If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress, there are steps you can take to help manage your psychological health. Here are some tips to help you improve your ability to handle stress:

  1. Identify your triggers: To start managing stress, you need to identify the things that cause it. Keep a journal to help you identify patterns in your mental balance and what situations or events tend to trigger stress.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help you relieve stress and improve your ability to handle stressful situations.
  3. Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can increase stress levels and make it harder to handle stressful situations.
  4. Exercise: Daily exercise can help you reduce stress levels and improve your mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  5. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help lower stress and improve your overall health. Avoid foods high in sugar, caffeine, and processed foods, which can increase stress levels.
  6. Set realistic goals: Setting realistic goals can help you feel more in control of your life and lower stress. Break larger goals into smaller goals that are easier to do.
  7. Learn to say no: Saying no to requests that you can't handle can help lower stress levels and prevent burnout.

Remember, managing stress is a process, and it takes time and practice. By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can improve your ability to handle stress and lead a healthier, happier life.