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7 Main Causes of Stress: How to Deal With Underlying Stress Causes

Updated on January 21, 2010

By understanding the main causes of stress in your life, you can make some changes that can help you avoid its harmful health effects.

Stress is the body’s normal reaction to any event that requires you to make adjustments. The event or stimulus -- real or imagined -- that causes stress is called a stressor.

Acute stressors can affect you quickly and in the short term. Chronic stressors can affect you slowly and over the longer term; so, it can lead to more harmful changes in your body and health.

There are two components of stress or stressor. The external part of stress is what happens to the individual. The internal part of stress is the person's reaction to stress.

The person's reaction to the demands of life can be as much a source of stress as the stressful events themselves. The person's perception of events can maximize or minimize the amount of stress experienced.

There are two forms of stress:

  • Eustress is a healthy form of stress. For example, exercise, weight training or learning can enhance a person physical or mental function. In general, people perceive they have some control over positive forms of stress.
  • Distress is a harmful form of stress. Most people commonly refer to distress when they talk about stress. Real or imagined events that people perceive they can not control and are not able to cope with create negative stress. For example, being bullied at school, working for a horrible boss or dealing with a controlling spouse can lead to negative stress.

Whether an experience will cause stress that's healthy or harmful depends on the person's expectations, coping skills and resources. If you feel that you have no control over events in your life and if you feel that you have too much or too little to do, your perception of stress will be affected.

By Understanding the Underlying Causes of Stress, You Can Avoid Its Harmful Effects On Your Body

7 Main Causes of Stress Which Can Affect Your Health

There are many causes of stress, but they can be organized into 7 main categories. The 7 dimensions of wellness have a corresponding dimensions in illness. Whether you achieve wellness or illness will depend on how you deal with stressors in your life. Underlying causes of stress or stressors can be closely intertwined.

Here are 7 main causes of stress or stressors:

  1. Physical stress involves anything that your body physically experiences internally by ingesting or externally, such as, exercise, diet and nutrition, sleep and rest. Too much or too little amount of physical stress can determine whether you have positive or negative stress. For example, adequate nutrition, small amount of alcohol or the right medicine can help your body; but, excessive alcohol consumption, over-eating or drug abuse can be very harmful physical stress.
  2. Emotional or psychological stress involves how you feel about and cope with events in your life. For example, your relationships with your family, friends and others can offer rewarding, dysfunctional or toxic emotional stress. They can bring you greater happiness or misery. For people dealing with emotional and mental disorders -- such as, depression, phobia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or neurosis -- the effect of emotional stress can be magnified or minimized.
  3. Mental stress involves using your intelligence to deal with life events. These can include learning, problem-solving and creative pursuits as well as reading, writing and other mentally-stimulating and challenging activities.
  4. Spiritual stress involves events that challenge your value system or your sense of what is important in life, your sense of morality, your sense of purpose and meaning in life. Your reaction to any spiritually stressful situation can be influenced by the way you interpret that event and the impact of that event in the context of your value system. A good example of spiritual stress is a moral dilemma which requires you to consider doing something that is in conflict with your moral values.
  5. Social stress involves satisfactory or unsatisfactory inter-personal relationships, including new relationships or break-ups, birth and death, marriage and divorce. You can deal with social stress better by learning good communication and listening skills, practicing empathy and compassion as well as caring for others; these social skills can help you achieve more satisfying and meaningful relationships thereby decreasing negative social stress while enhancing positive experiences.
  6. Occupational stress involves your work or occupation, including school- and work-related tasks as well as getting hired, laid off or fired. Student stressors include exams and project deadlines. An important aspect of managing occupational stress is finding a healthy balance between work and leisure. Without this healthy balance, occupational stress can become overwhelming and lead to burnout. By managing occupational stress well, you can achieve greater satisfaction as a student, entrepreneur, employee or employer. Furthermore, your work can provide your life with more meaning and purpose.
  7. Environmental stress involves aspects of the environment that can affect your health and well-being. This includes exposure to chemicals, radiation, biological agents, electromagnetic radiation, noise, air and water pollution, tobacco smoke, climate change, food safety, waste disposal, hazardous materials and vector control. If you don't limit or manage your exposure to environmental stress, this can lead to functional impairment or even a serious illness; for example, excessive noise can lead to hearing impairment and smoking can lead to lung cancer.

Any change -- whether it’s positive or negative -- causes stress. The stress response, called the fight-or-flight response, is the body’s normal response to any change or perceived threat. The physiological stress response is the same whether one's body is responding to real or imagined threat.

By understanding the main causes of stress in your life, you can make some changes that can help you avoid its harmful effects in your body and your health.

Understanding Stress Causes and Management

What Causes Stress? Understanding Stress Management

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      Jorlan 4 years ago

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      JOhn cook  7 years ago

      AWESOME !

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      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      Excellent hub, thanks.