The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress

3   Significant Life Events

One of the biggest causes of stress is the cumulative effect of overlapping major changes in our lives

It doesn't matter whether you see a change as 'good' or 'bad'

Major life changes are stressful
Significant life changes are among our biggest causes of stress. Even 'happy' changes add to your stress load.

What matters are the extent of change and your perception of your ability to cope.

Every now and then an event occurs that causes significant change in our lives.

We feel such an event alters our lives completely in some way.

Examples of significant events include marriage, the death of a loved one, starting a new job, and moving into a new home.

It's long been known that events which cause significant change are among the biggest causes of stress.

We may view the change caused by the event as being either good, or bad.

That doesn't matter as far as its potential as a stressor is concerned.

It's the degree of change that matters - good or bad.

The type of change is not the issue

It appears that what matters is your perception of the extent of change you must face, and your beliefs about your capacity to cope.

It also doesn't seem to matter what causes an event that creates significant change in your life.

Events may just happen, or you may initiate them.

For example whether you decide to move to a new job, or your employer decides to promote or transfer you, is not the crucial factor. What matters is the extent to which it requires you to adapt to your new circumstances.

The nature of the event doesn't matter either.

Changes may be real or imagined.

Significant life changes are a cause of stress.
Changes may be real, like moving into a new home, or they may be purely psychological or emotional.

A 'real' event is a tangible, physical or material change in your life circumstances, like moving into a new home.

Such an event is 'external,' actually happening out there in the real, physical world.

Sometimes though, changes are imagined. They are not 'out there' at all.

They are 'caused' by changes in your psychological or emotional state.

You may think that something has happened, or will happen, when in fact you are wrong about that.

You may think, for example, that your boyfriend intends to leave you, or that your boss plans to to promote you, when in reality the other party has no such intention.

The crucial thing is that you believe the change is real, or is going to occur. In your mind, it has the potential to be a significant change in your life, and you must be prepared to deal with.

The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress

1   poor health
2   environmental stress

3   significant life events (this page)
4   internal stress
5.1   work stress
5.2   work related stress
6   stress overload
7   burnout

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Similarly, the expected impact of a change, real or imagined, may really be major, or you may just think it is.

In terms of the potential stress impact of an event these things really don't matter.

What matters is that you perceive that in some significant way your life will no longer be the same.

You feel that your circumstances have permanently changed in some major way.

And crucially, you believe that you must now adapt to a new reality and cope with new demands.

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It doesn't matter whether you see a change as good, bad or neutral

Environmental Stress v.
Significant Life Events

The second of the 7 biggest causes of stress, environmental stress, described the 'normal' stresses of our crowded daily lives

Environmental stresses pervade our personal space and penetrate our regular routines. They are part of the pattern and fabric of our normal existence.

They may be unwelcome, but they have a level of predictability, of normality. We expect them. They irritate, but do not throw us off balance. Life rolls on with familiarity.

In contrast, now and again we encounter times of significant transition. Our lives change. significant life events are those that we feel trigger major change in our lives.

The point isn't whether you welcome or fear the change.

What governs your experience of stress is the mismatch between the extent of change you perceive, and your perceived ability to cope with the demands placed on you by the change.

Stress, then, occurs when we feel we lack the inner resources to deal with external pressures.

The fact is, we're more likely to be vulnerable if we're required to confront a number of major transitions at around the same time.

When multiple events in our lives all seem to be crying for attention, focus and priority, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, and incompetent.

We can begin to lack confidence in our ability to cope.

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Not all significant life events are equally stressful

Some events cause bigger changes in our lives than others.

For example, compare the pressure of dealing with divorce to that of revised responsibilities at work.

Studies have been undertaken which rank the average relative stress impacts of typical life events.

These studies have enabled us to calculate the extent to which the cumulative stress impact of multiple events may harm our health.

For example you can take this simple self-administered stress test to see whether significant life events are among your biggest causes of stress right now.

The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress

1   poor health
2   environmental stress

3   significant life events (this page)
4   internal stress
5.1   work stress
5.2   work related stress
6   stress overload
7   burnout

Return to top

Because stress effects are cumulative, you're more vulnerable to stress when you experience more than one significant life event simultaneously or at about the same time.

For example, commencing a new job might normally be an exciting experience that you would take in your stride.

But if you start a new job when you've just moved into a new house, or your partner is ill, or you're experiencing financial problems, you might find it hard to cope.


Are You Being Stressed?

One of the 7 biggest causes of stress is the life-changing impact of significant life events such as marriage, starting a new job or having a baby. It doesn't matter whether you think the change is a good thing or a bad thing.

Take this stress test to see how events (big and small) in your life may be adding to your overall stress load.



More about stress and its causes

The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress

Find out about about the the 7 biggest causes of stress. Understanding where your stress is coming from can help you deal with it.

overview

An introduction. Many things seem to trigger stress in our modern, fast-paced world. The first step in the fight against stress is to understand the potential causes of stress in your own life.

1. poor health

Poor health is not only a major potential cause of stress; it actually reduces your ability to cope with stress, making you more vulnerable to stress from any source. This puts poor health at the top of the list of the biggest sources of stress. A lifestyle aimed at improving your health, personal growth and success is the best antidote to stress.

2. environmental stress

It's everywhere in our daily lives: noise, crowds, pollution. Environmental stresses may be individually minor, but can accumulate to form a high background stress load, diminishing your capacity for dealing with stress from other sources.

3. significant life events

Weddings, funerals, new jobs and the like rank among our biggest causes of stress. Significant life events, good and bad, are those which substantially alter the course or circumstances of our lives. The resultant stress may be due partly due to a fear of the unknown, and partly from a fear that we lack the ability to satisfactorily adapt to major changes in our lives.

4. internal stress

This occurs when the stress comes from the inside. The cause of your stress is psychological or emotional. No external stressor need be present, although you may imagine one. An understanding of how internal stress works can help you deal with stress from external sources as well.

5.1 work stress

Work stress can be caused by poorly designed jobs and working conditions, excessive work pressure, lack of control and autonomy at work, unclear job roles and responsibilities and relationship problems with co-workers.

5.2 work related stress

Closely related to work stress, this is about factors like fear of losing your job , failing career momentum, poor job satisfaction or recognition, and problems balancing work and lifestyle.

6. stress overload

This occurs when your cumulative stress load reaches a level beyond your ability to cope satisfactorily. With our busy and rushed lifestyles we sometimes face many issues simultaneously, or within a short span of time, creating an extreme total stress burden.

7. burnout

A high cumulative stress load over a long period can bring about a deep level of mental and physical exhaustion.

Ultimately this can compromise your ability to cope adequately with everyday life.


Stress is among the biggest killers of our time

Research has linked stress to the leading modern causes of death including cancer, stroke and heart disease. Long term stress can cause serious, irreversible and even fatal damage.

Are you stressed? Find out now if you are at risk.

The worst thing you can lose is your health!

Take it from the top: what is stress? How does it work? How do you know if you're suffering from stress? Find out how the stress response, also known as the fight or flight response fills your body with high-octane chemicals, a natural biological survival mechanism providing strength, speed and alertness for dealing with sudden emergrencies. The problem? These stress chemicals can can harm your health if they persist over the long term.

If you're feeling crushed by a continuing failure to cope with distressing demands in your life, you may be suffering from learned helplessness. Learn how to recognise and deal with this condition.

Feeling overwhelmed by major changes taking placein your life circumstances (like a new job, a new relationship, loss of a loved one?) - try this life events stress test.

See if you identify with some of these common physical symptoms of stress or these common mental signs of stress.

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The 7 Biggest Causes of Stress

Overview

Many things can cause you to feel stressed in our modern, fast-paced world. The first step in the fight against stress is to understand the potential causes of stress in your own life.

1. poor health

Poor health is not only a major potential cause of stress; it actually reduces your ability to cope with stress, and as a result makes you more vulnerable to stress from other sources. This triple-whammy puts poor health at the top of the list of the biggest sources of stress

2. environmental stress

It's everywhere in our daily lives. Noise, crowds, pollution. Environmental stresses, although individually minor, can accumulate to form a high background stress load, diminishing your capacity for dealing with stress from other sources.

3. significant life events

(You are here) Weddings, funerals, new jobs and the like rank among our biggest causes of stress. Partly due to a fear of the unknown, partly from fear that we lack ability to adequately adapt to major changes in our lives.

4. internal stress

This occurs when the stress comes from the inside. The cause of your stress is psychological or emotional. No external stressor need be present, though you may imagine one.

5.1 work stress

This major problem can come from poorly designed jobs and working conditions, excessive work pressure, lack of control and autonomy at work, unclear job roles and responsibilities and relationship problems with co-workers.

5.2 work related stress

Closely related to work stress, this is about factors like fear of losing your job , failing career momentum, poor job satisfaction or recognition, and problems balancing work and lifestyle.

6. stress overload

This occurs when your cumulative stress load reaches a level beyond your ability to cope satisfactorily. With our busy and rushed lifestyles we sometimes face many issues simultaneously, or within a short span of time, creating an extreme total stress burden.

7. burnout

A high cumulative stress load over a long period can bring about a deep level of mental and physical exhaustion, compromising your ability to cope with everyday life.



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