What Causes Stress?

There are many different things that can cause a person to become stressed and feel raised levels of anxiety.

Here are examples of possible triggers that can cause stress:
Conflict – conflicts present us with heightened stress levels. It may be temporary such as the acute stress experienced during an argument or upon receipt of a parking fine, or it may be enduring such as being in a war zone or living in an unhappy relationship. Any type of conflict can bring about negative emotions.

Personality – some people are more prone to negative emotions than others because of how they interpret information and events and react to them. Two people may have the same experience but one is able to cope and the other is not. It’s not so much a cause of negative emotions, but one person may be more vulnerable to experiencing them.  

– at home, at work, at school or via social media, bullying is a potential cause of stress, fear, anxiety and other negative feelings. When it persists it is something akin to chronic stress. The individual may feel completely numbed and withdraw from society and suicide and self-harm become a possibility.

Negative Media – the promotion of beautiful, intelligent, and successful people and wonderful lifestyles and ideals, is perhaps the main way that media can influence people’s thoughts and feelings about themselves. Clearly those who do not view themselves as belonging to these elite groups may develop negative thoughts and feelings about who they are.

– the expectations that we have for ourselves and those that others have of us, can trigger negative emotions if we fail to live up to them - even if these expectations are unrealistic. Many people can become overwhelmed by pressures exerted on them to succeed.

How We Live – often people just don’t have an optimal work/life balance. They neglect their physical health, don’t take enough time to relax or they work long hours. Many problems, including mental health disorders, can be traced back to making poor or uniformed decisions and failing to lead rewarding and balanced lives.

Role Models – these are particularly influential for younger people. If someone you look up to and admire is sad or depressed, you may share their sadness. If a role model lets you down, dismisses you or avoids you, then you are likely to feel deflated.  

– hormones and other chemical messengers play a significant role in how we feel. Older children and adolescents have surges in sex hormones which can cause them to feel uncomfortable. They may be unsure about how to behave and struggle to contain negative feelings associated with their bodily changes. Hormone-like substances secreted by the brain and other organs, such as serotonin, adrenaline and endorphins also influence our moods.

Social Expectations – people in every country and social group, tend to be conditioned throughout childhood to have certain expectations of who they should be and what they should expect from life. When anyone deviates from what they expect of themselves, this can cause stress (eg. not getting a job, discovering their homosexuality, not getting married by an expected age).

Change – the world is changing faster than ever. Our environment (economic, physical, social, etc) is unstable, and for many people this creates and reinforces insecurity, leading to stress.

Physical Ill Health – any type of diminished physical condition can cause an increase in stress. There is a potential correlation between the condition and the level of stress, for instance, a person who is slightly obese may be slightly stressed by the obesity, but a person who is acutely obese is more likely to be acutely stressed. Infections, diseases, poor fitness, inactivity, physical injury and poor diet are all examples of things that impact on the ability of the human body to function physically. When the body doesn’t function properly, muscle flexibility can decrease, the ability to deal with toxins and food wastes can drop and cardiorespiratory function can decrease. All of these problems are not just causing physical stress, but can in turn cause psychological stress.

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