Causes of stress

Categories of stressors

Thinking of stressors in different categories will help you to become aware of the variety that there are in your life. This is an important step – it is only when you have identified the stressors that apply to you, that you can realistically hope to control their effects.

As you read through the different categories listed below, think about how each stressor may be affecting your life. Which ones apply to you? When you complete the charts, it is crucially important to be as honest with yourself as possible. This is not always as easy as it sounds, but it is only by being truthful with yourself that you will gain genuine insight into the ways you think and feel.

Lifestyle stressors

These crop up in everyday life. Some may be beyond your control which others might appear to be insignificant but should not be ignored  - they could easily build up over time and become a major source of negative stress.

Do any of the lifestyle stressors in the chart below have a negative effect on you? Tick Yes or No.

Lifestyle stressor Yes No
Getting stuck in traffic
Exhaust fumes/air pollution
Interruptions at work
The weather
Noise at work or at home
Waiting in queues
Poor relationships
Time pressure - too much/too little
Financial difficulties

Mind stressors

These influence the ways in which you think. How do you remember your past? If you only remember the bad bits then you will think that you had an unhappy childhood. How do you view your present and future experiences? If you can only remember the row you had with your neighbours, or a nasty letter from the bank manager, you will tend to label your life as unhappy and stressful.

Talking to yourself in a negative way, jumping to the wrong conclusions, taking things personally, exaggerating your problems - these are all mind stressors that can have a massive impact on the ways in which you  behave and react to both people and situations.

Dwelling on things that you should, ought, must, and have to do, can make you feel depressed, guilty oversensitive and pressured. In short, mind stressors can make you feel so miserable an anguished that life becomes a struggle.

Do you feel that any of these statements (mind stressors) apply to you? Tick Yes or No.

Mind stressor Yes No
I always have to be pleasant no matter how I feel
I have to be the best at whatever I do
Unless I worry about things, they seem to get worse
I ought to be able to cope on my own
I must do everything perfectly
I cannot do much about my life
I often feel I am not good enough
I am the only one who can solve my problems
I will never be a success
Everyone is better than me

Body stressors

Your physical condition also affects how well you deal with stress. Check the chart to discover what might be weakening your body and leaving you vulnerable to negative stress.

Tick Yes or No, depending on whether or not these body stressors apply to you.

Body stressor Yes No
You are unfit
You have had a recent accident
You have an unbalanced diet
You have suffered a recent illness
You sleep badly
You sometimes overeat or overdrink
I often feel I am not good enough
You smoke
You take drugs (e.g. sleeping tablets)
You neglect your body

Work stressors

Overwork and poor staff management are now recognized as stressors. In the USA there has been a rise in employee compensation lawsuits due to occupational stress, and during the last few years British courts have awarded damages to employees who successfully claimed that their health had suffered due to work related stress. Not surprisingly, many countries now have official guidelines aimed at reducing stress in the work place.

Do any of the work stressors listed below apply to you? Tick Yes or No.

Work stressor Yes No
You are overworked
You feel undervalued
There is too much office politics at your place of work
The demands of work are affecting your private life
Your work is under constant time pressure
You are unhappy with what you are paid
You do not have enough work to occupy your time
You have to manage people
You frequently take work home
You occasionally get into conflict with colleagues

Change stressors

Changes taking place in your life can be immensely stressful and can even lead to illness. If several changes occur at the same time, the effects can be compounded. For example, if you move house, start a new job, and have your partner’s parents to stay for a month, all within a fairly short time span, the resulting stress burden will probably be huge.

In my work counselling people, I have observed that constant change, and the stress that it generates can be related to the onset of illness any time within the following two-year period. It is usual to find that the more life events a person goes through, the worse their stress condition gets.   Consequently, they find it harder than ever to get back to ‘normal’.

This does not mean that you must never move, swap your job, or refuse to let the children leave home for fear of the ensuing stress it will create. No changes at all in your life lead to boredom which can be almost as bas as too much stress - too little change will leave you feeling stagnant and unfulfilled.

In the next section we'll look at how important change stressors can be and the goal of stress management.

The goal of stress management >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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