Stressors in my life
Common Causes of Stress & Their Effect on Your Health
Written by Stephanie Watson
In this Article
- Causes of Stress
- Effects of Stress on Your Health
The kids won't stop screaming, your boss has been hounding you because you turned a report in late, and you owe the IRS thousands of dollars you don't have. You're seriously stressed out.
Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work, or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don't get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it.
Read on to learn why you get stressed out, and how that stress might be affecting your health.
Causes of Stress
Everyone has different stress triggers. Work stress tops the list, according to surveys. Forty percent of U.S. workers admit to experiencing office stress, and one-quarter say work is the biggest source of stress in their lives.
Causes of work stress include:
- Being unhappy in your job
- Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility
- Working long hours
- Having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process
- Working under dangerous conditions
- Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination
- Having to give speeches in front of colleagues
- Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn't supportive
Life stresses can also have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are:
- The death of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Increase in financial obligations
- Getting married
- Moving to a new home
- Chronic illness or injury
- Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem)
- Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
- Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one
Sometimes the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:
- Fear and uncertainty. When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks, global warming, and toxic chemicals on the news, it can cause you to feel stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events. And even though disasters are typically very rare events, their vivid coverage in the media may make them seem as if they are more likely to occur than they really are. Fears can also hit closer to home, such as being worried that you won't finish a project at work or won't have enough money to pay your bills this month.
- Attitudes and perceptions. How you view the world or a particular situation can determine whether it causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the attitude, "It's OK, my insurance company will pay for a new one," you'll be far less stressed than if you think, "My TV is gone and I'll never get it back! What if the thieves come back to my house to steal again?" Similarly, people who feel like they're doing a good job at work will be less stressed out by a big upcoming project than those who worry that they are incompetent.
- Unrealistic expectations. No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you're destined to feel stressed when things don't go as expected.
- Change. Any major life change can be stressful -- even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.
Your stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations. Some people let everything roll off their back. To them, work stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally worry themselves sick.
Effects of Stress on Your Health
When you are in a stressful situation, your body launches a physical response. Your nervous system springs into action, releasing hormones that prepare you to either fight or take off. It's called the "fight or flight" response, and it's why, when you're in a stressful situation, you may notice that your heartbeat speeds up, your breathing gets faster, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This kind of stress is short-term and temporary (acute stress), and your body usually recovers quickly from it.
But if your stress system stays activated over a long period of time (chronic stress), it can lead to or aggravate more serious health problems. The constant rush of stress hormones can put a lot of wear and tear on your body, causing it to age more quickly and making it more prone to illness.
If you've been stressed out for a short period of time, you may start to notice some of these physical signs:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Upset stomach
When stress becomes long-term and is not properly addressed, it can lead to a number of more serious health conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heartburn, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome
- Upset stomach -- cramps, constipation, and diarrhea
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in sex drive
- Fertility problems
- Flare-ups of asthma or arthritis
- Skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Managing your stress can make a real difference to your health. One study showed that women with heart disease lived longer if they underwent a stress management program.
Health & Balance Guide
- A Balanced Life
- Take It Easy
- CAM Treatments
Top 10 Stressors In Life And Why
Stress is an inevitable part of life, and it’s not always bad.
Stress is your body’s natural response to challenging or difficult experiences. It can be triggered by positive things, such as a tricky puzzle, or negative things, such as financial difficulty.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight mode” — a state where your body and mind are alert. When managed in a healthy way, stress can help you perform better.
A life stressor is any event or experience that causes stress. Some stressors can be small and relatively easy to manage, like a busy day at work or a small disagreement with a loved one. Other stressors can be harder to manage, like bereavement, divorce, or becoming severely ill.
Although everybody experiences stress differently, experts have identified the top life stressors. These common stressors are most likely to contribute to anxiety.
What are the most stressful life events one can experience? It’s difficult to quantify stress, especially because we all experience stress differently.
The Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, is a list of stressful life events. First developed in 1967, this stress inventory attributes points to different life stressors. According to the scale, the more points you accumulate over a year, the more likely you are to experience health issues.
However, there are some criticisms of this scale. The way we cope with stressors depends on many factors, including your individual circumstances, your cultural context, and how much support you’re receiving from others.
Remember that the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale was created to predict illness — the purpose is not to compare your stressors to others’ or to downplay the other stressors in your life.
Stress is subjective, and you might find it harder to cope with stressors that aren’t listed here than those that are. For example, you might find it harder to cope in the aftermath of a violent crime than with your divorce. And that’s okay.
1. Death of a spouse
When your life is deeply intertwined with a person, losing them can be agonizing and can even lead to decreased life expectancy. When you lose a spouse, you might also experience other changes — your lifestyle, daily routines, and living arrangements might change. These changes can make it harder to cope in the aftermath of your spouse’s death.
If you lost a spouse or life partner, give yourself time to grieve. It might be wise to join a support group for grief or speak with a therapist who offers bereavement counseling.
Even if you know it’s for the best, divorce can be difficult to deal with, especially because it often requires you to readjust your routine and lifestyle. Legal difficulties, custody battles, and moving can compound this stress.
It’s common to feel lost after a divorce. You might feel a mixture of emotions, including relief, grief, and loneliness. But it’s possible to make it through to the other side.
3. Marital separation
Like divorce, marital separation can disrupt your life as you know it. Although it might be a wise choice, separating from your spouse can be deeply stressful. Even if you’re already undergoing marital counseling, you may want to see a therapist during this period.
4. Being incarcerated
Being in jail or prison is considered a major life stressor. Incarceration can be deeply traumatic, as it is a complete disruption of your current life and routine.
Incarcerated people might also face the following stressors:
- lack of productive activities
- lack of access to medical treatment
- violence and abuse
- human rights violations
- lack of access to adequate nutrition
Formerly incarcerated people might experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms, often called post-incarceration syndrome.
5. Death of a close family member
The loss of a loved one is often difficult to comprehend and cope with. The death of a close family member, such as a sibling, parent, or child is considered one of the most stressful life events.
6. Major personal injury or illness
A major personal injury or illness can be a significant cause of distress. Becoming ill, whether temporarily or chronically, can disrupt your routine, lifestyle, and life plans.
Your illness or injury might require you to learn to adjust to a new way of living. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness can also be extremely scary. Expensive medical bills can compound the stress.
Marriage is generally thought of as a happy occassion, but it can also be stressful. It might require a great deal of adjustment, especially if you didn’t co-habitate with your partner beforehand. The legal and financial admin can add to the stress.
8. Being fired or laid off from work
Losing your job can be a huge source of stress. This could cause financial anxiety — and for many people, a loss of identity. Many people identify with their jobs, and experience shame and depression when they lose that occupation.
After being fired, this stress can be compounded by financial worries and the emotional rollercoaster of job hunting.
9. Marital reconciliation
As with marriage, marital reconciliation is usually thought of as a positive thing. This might be so, but reconciling with your spouse after a separation can still require a lot of adjustment and thus be stressful.
Although many of us look forward to our retirement, it can cause you to feel upheaved. When you’re used to working, it might be difficult to adjust to retirement. You might experience social isolation and a loss of purpose. You might also miss your routine and the excitement of working towards a goal.
“Retirement depression” is not uncommon, but it can be overcome. In fact, research from 2018 has found that retirement can improve your overall mental health and life satisfaction. Focus on filling your days with meaningful, enjoyable activities and make an effort to maintain healthy habits.
Although it’s difficult to quantify stress, experts have identified common life stressors that can have an impact on your health.
Any major change or trauma can have a negative impact on your mental health. If you’re finding it hard to cope with stressors — whether they’re listed here or not — you might benefit from speaking with a therapist.
Psychology of stress: theory and practice
%PDF-1.5 % 10 obj > /Metadata 4 0R >> endobj 5 0 obj /Author /Title >> endobj 20 obj > endobj 3 0 obj > endobj 40 obj > stream
Why even minor stress can negatively affect our health in the future and how to avoid it?
A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, USA, supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health, found that even small daily stressors can lead to future health problems. The results of the study were published in the journal Psychological Science of the Association for Psychological Science. nine0005
The fact that exposure to stress is a risk factor for many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, and chronic pain, has long been known. Nevertheless, many people think that stress in this case means such serious factors as, for example, dismissal, breakup of relationships or surgery - events that significantly affect our lives. But a recent study showed that even small stressors can harm our health in the long run if we keep thinking about the problem. For example, a misunderstanding with a friend today can lead to health problems in the future if we allow ourselves to experience this stressful state the next day. nine0005
This study suggests that negative emotions that persist after even minor stressors have important implications for long-term physical health. In such cases, many psychologists advise to “just let go” of unpleasant emotions. Surprisingly, however, few studies have confirmed the usefulness of this advice.
This study was designed to test this idea: Is it really helpful to try to "let go" of daily frustrations as they arise? And what happens when we can't easily deal with such stressors? nine0005
To answer these questions, researchers at the University of California examined data from the Midlife in the United States National Longitudinal Study of Health and Well-being program. At the beginning of the study, participants were asked to complete an 8-day questionnaire that recorded their daily emotional states.
Each day during this period, participants were asked to record how much time in the past 24 hours they had experienced each of the following negative emotions: nervousness, worthlessness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, irritability, shame, frustration, anger, frustration, anxiety, etc. In addition, they were asked to explain which daily stressors triggered the emotions they experienced. nine0005
10 years after this initial survey, participants were asked to report whether they developed any chronic illnesses or experienced any other health problems that interfered with their daily lives and did routine tasks such as getting dressed - complex.
Researchers found that those who could not let go of negative emotions caused by daily stressors, allowing them to torment themselves the next day, noted a tendency to experience more health problems, including chronic diseases and functional limitations later in life. nine0005
An association between lingering stress and poorer health at 10 years was noted even after adjusting for recent stressors, the average number of stressors participants had to deal with.
In addition, the long-term health effects of stress were the same regardless of gender, education, and health at baseline.
This means that health outcomes do not simply reflect how people respond to daily stressors or the amount of stressors they are exposed to. Health problems demonstrate the impact of negativity felt the next day, which has important health implications. nine0005
Why do even minor stressful situations cause health problems? The researchers believe there may be two plausible reasons. First, lingering negative emotions activate stress-related systems on a "stable" basis, thereby weakening the body and making it more susceptible to illness. A second explanation could be that negative moods can lead to destructive behavior that can ultimately lead to poor health.