Stressors – Possible Causes Of Stress

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There are various definitions of the term “stressor”. The English Language refers to it as something that causes worry or anxiety: a source of stress. In medical terms, it is a stimulus that causes stress.

A stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism.


So basically, the word “stressor” is used to represent anything that causes stress. One key activity that is recommended for proper stress management is the identification of what causes your stress (i.e. stressors). Once you can identify the root cause of your stress, you can be better equipped in knowing how to cope with it.

Causes Of Stress – Types of Stressors

An event that triggers the stress response may include:

1) Environmental Stressors

A good example would be hypo or hyper-thermic temperatures. On a ridiculously hot summer day, one tends to get stressed physically (intense headaches). These then affect the pace at which an individual can work. Imagine trying to do some math or accounting with a serious headache. Instead of making progress, you’d rather be inducing mental stress – forcing yourself to think when you clearly have difficulties.

Elevated sound levels can also be an environmental stressor.

Another environmental factor that can cause stress is excessive illumination.

If you are fond of increasing the brightness of the screen of your devices too much, I’d advise you to stop. You never know – it may be what causes your stress.

Excessive illumination causes you to stress your eyes. How? When the pupil constricts (due to the bright light), it becomes more difficult to take in your surroundings or focus. Hence, it takes more effort. This will then slow down how fast you can work.

During the day (or even if you are in a lighted place), you can increase their brightness and not be affected much. Because at such times, it becomes a necessity as it is hard to tell the contrast and leaving the screens dim will also place a strain on your eyes.

At night, however, very bright screens can be damaging to your eyes.

Flash blindness is caused by bleaching (oversaturation) of the retinal pigment. In daylight, there is a constriction of the eye’s pupil. This, therefore, reduces the amount of light that can enter after a flash. At night, flash blindness has a greater effect and lasts longer. Because the dark-adapted pupil is wide open and so lets in more light.

Flash blindness, Wikipedia

2) Workplace Stressors

Your posture at work can induce physical stress. Especially how you sit behind a computer. Extreme postures can be damaging to your body.

There are also other examples like:

  • repeated or sustained exertions
  • forceful exertions
  • monotonous, unpleasant or meaningless tasks
  • working under time pressure or working long hours
  • lack of clear job description
  • no recognition or reward for good job performance
  • heavy responsibility but lack of control or influence over the demands of the job
  • harassment or bullying
  • new management techniques or new technology
  • poor leadership and poor communication.

3) Daily Stress Events

When you hear that everybody can get stressed out daily, it’s not an exaggeration. There are many normal everyday occurrences that can place one under stress. Take traffic for instance. Supposing you’re in a hurry so as not to be late for an appointment and you get stuck in traffic (one that’s clearing up slowly). This can change your mood (emotional stress) to that of anger, perhaps. 😤😤

Or maybe you stayed up late the last night writing an article for a presentation only to wake up the next morning to it being damaged in some way or misplaced. You can either force yourself to rewrite everything from memory (mental stress) or get worked up, angry or depressed about it (emotional stress). 😭 😓

Even exercise can be stressful. The quality and quantity of physical activity will determine the amount of physical stress one is placed under.

And as a final example, something as petty as losing your keys. You worry yourself trying desperately to recall where you left them… Only to find them in a pretty obvious place (but your brain couldn’t think of it because it was under pressure). 😂😂😂

4) Life Changes

Changes in your life can cause stress.

When you decide to move house, the packing and actually moving places a lot of stress on you. You worry about not leaving anything behind, being on time (if you have a flight), etc. Basically, the whole circumstance of having so much to do in such little time can be stressful. Also, leaving your memories, friends and loved ones behind places some emotional stress on you. So that explains why most people cry when they move. 😱😱

And when you eventually get to your new homes, unpackaging and making new friends (more like worrying how to do so) can be quite stressful too.

Other examples of life changes that can cause stress are:

  • Divorce
  • Bereavement
  • Loss of a pet
  • New baby (get ready to spend some worthwhile sleepless nights😏😏)

5) Chemical Stressors

There are three key examples in this category: Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs. These are very harmful not only to your health but also to the health of those around you as well.

6) Social Stressor

“circumstances of daily social roles that are generally considered problematic or undesirable”

Social stressors, Ilfield (1977)

Finally, the final category of stressors I would like to touch on.

“Characteristics, situations, episodes, or behaviors that are somehow social in nature and are related to psychological or physical strain”

Social stressors, Dormann and Zapf (2004)

Social causes of stress include:

  • A rejection − such as a break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Disciplinary crisis − could involve legal problems or a crisis at home or school
  • Humiliation − being dishonored in some way
  • Gossip/cliques
  • Teasing/Bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Pregnancy
  • High pressure to succeed/excel
  • Academic stressors and test anxiety
  • Perfectionism − A perfectionist has “all or none” thinking, which is thinking they have to be all “perfect” or they are “no good” at all.
  • living in a violent environment or relationship
  • Unemployment
  • Discrimination

 Do you have stressor categories or examples to add?


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