Demanding situations or excessive pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. Typically, we associate stress with negative scenarios, such as caring for sick relatives or an exhausting workload. However, there are a variety of situations that place high demands on us that are positive, such as planning a wedding, starting a new job, or moving home. The key is to recognise the difference.
The way each of us processes stress is significant to its effect on us. Our perception plays a vital role, as do our circumstances. While some people seem to thrive on stress, others are debilitated by it. Understanding that it is unique to the individual is key, and identifying the symptoms of stress can be critical to our wellbeing.
Stress can be caused by external factors, self-induced or internal factors, environmental factors, and physiological factors.
Life’s most stressful events include:
- Job loss
- Financial commitment
- Moving home
- Chronic physical illness
- Mental/emotional issues
- Carer duties
- Natural disasters
- Feeling isolated
Work and relationships are usually the number one cause of stress in our lives. Significant life decisions and environmental stressors can also act as external stressors.
- Excessive workload or long hours
- Responsibility beyond our job description
- Insecurity around performance, promotion or job stability
- Public speaking and presentations
- Lack of job satisfaction
- Powerlessness within role
- Unclear work expectations or poor communication from the manager
- Unsafe work conditions
- Discrimination, harassment, unsupported in the workspace
New systems, technologies, processes
- Insufficient remuneration
- Being overcommitted (schedule and financial)
- Relationship difficulties
- Children and family
- Assault (home or person)
- Environmental toxins
- Air quality
- Air conditioning
- Screen glare
- Natural disasters (bushfires, tsunamis, floods)
- War and human-made disasters (industrial pollution, chemical spills)
- Climate (extremes of solar radiation, temperature or wind)
Internal stress can often be self-induced, brought on by obsessive or irrational worry about an external stressor. Remember, positive stress can make you alert and productive, but negative thoughts can spiral out of control and become debilitating.
Changes in your body can also be stressors, whether through ageing, lifestyle, illness, or hereditary, so recognise the signs, understand your stage of life, and consider lifestyle choices.
- Change (wedding, promotion, exams, breakups, illness)
- Fear (terrorist attacks, global warming, chemical disasters, vivid media coverage, financial commitments, phobias)
- Attitude (pessimistic, rigid thinking, inability to accept change, perfectionism)
- Lack of social support networks
- Overweight or obesity
- Chronic illness & infections
- Diet (sugar, saturated trans fats, processed foods)
- Drugs, alcohol, tobacco
- Family history (pre-existing conditions)
It is important to remember that short bursts of stress can be beneficial, improving productivity and potentially helping to protect you from a threat. However, consistent, uncharacteristic, or overwhelming levels of stress require intervention.