It is early morning 2 o’clock; Maria is still lying awake in bed with unrelenting thoughts about her presentation. She has to do a presentation tomorrow in the office. Maria did prepare well. But still, she is so stressed about it; she is unable to fall asleep. What if I get too many questions to which I have no answers? Will they criticize me? What if nobody likes my presentation? So many “what ifs” and negative thoughts pass through her mind. Do you get anxious about work deadlines or meetings? Let us look into some of the major causes of stress.
Stress affects virtually all of us at some point in our lives. For many of us, stress is a part of our day to day lives. Stress can have a massive impact on our health, mood and overall our psychological and physical state. According to the science daily, stress not only affects our memories but our abilities to learn.
Before start looking into the major causes of stress in our lives, first, let us understand Stress better.
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal physical and psychological reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. Just like a stretched rubber band, we can feel tension depending on our situation. Unlike rubber bands, we cannot immediately go back to our original state when a stressful situation is over.
We are living a life full of frustrations, deadlines, and demands. Strеѕѕ has become a nоrmаl part of everyday lifе, аnd iѕ рrеѕеnt in аll kind of рrоfеѕѕiоnѕ аnd businesses. Even kids have it!
The situation you find insecure, need not be stressful for another person. Major causes of stress vary from person to person.
Whatever may be the major causes of stress, we all have a natural, inborn response to stress.
Fight or flight response
When we experience extreme stress, our bodies get into a response mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals to prepare us for necessary physical actions. Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon termed this response “fight or flight.”
The “fight or flight response” is our bodies automatic, inborn response that makes the body to “fight” or “flee” from apparent danger to our survival.
Why do we need Flight or Fight Response?
All living beings respond to dangerous situations with their built-in flight or fight system.
Imagine you are walking on a deserted road in the midnight alone. Suddenly, a burglar attacks you. What would you do?
Either you should run away out of fear or fight to save you and your belongings. You cannot do anything without your fight or flight system. You may not even feel fear to escape from the burglar or the strength to fight quickly to the thief, without this system.
Thanks to our Brains! Our brains immediately react to the danger and prepare the bodies to respond quickly.
That’s the reason we have a fight or flight response. This stress response prepares the body to flee or fight immediately.
Signs of Flight or Fight mode
When we are in flight or fight mode, our hearts beat increases. Blood is pumped into our muscles and limbs to provide extra energy for running and fighting. Our pupils widen. Our sight sharpens. We become more alert than earlier. Our perception of pain reduces. We get prepared—physically and mentally—for fight or flight. We start to look at everything with the possibility of danger like a security guard on high alert.
Ha.. When you feel that a situation is unsafe, your brain prepares the body to respond to the stressful situation. It all sounds good, right? Then why is extreme and prolonged stress harmful to you. After all, irrespective of the major causes of stress, the body knows how to respond to it.
The problem lies in modern day’s stressful situations or events. Today, our predators are not wild animals whom we could either flee or fight. Today’s stressors are traffic, rising expenses, morning rushes, bosses, colleagues, nagging wife, lazy husband, screaming kids and the list goes on. We cannot run away from any of these new predators! We can neither fight them!
So our natural responses may not help us to deal with stress. To make it even worse, when we are in flight or fight mode, blood is shunted away to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee resulting in diminishing brain function. Our rational minds get bypassed. We look at everything as a possible threat. With cloudy thinking, we cannot even make clear choices. We cannot understand the consequences of our responses.
Whatsoever may be the major causes of stress, our responses differ based on our chances of survival.
Fight Response when there is hope of survival
When we have a hope of survival, we step into this flight or attack mode. We might get into a state of agitation or aggression, a helpful reaction to ward off wild animals or burglars. But in modern day to day situations, it can negatively affect our relationships and ruin reputations.
Imagine, you are shouting and arguing with your colleagues at work!
Flight Response when there is hope of survival
Some of us avoid our stressors, removing ourselves from the situation instead of tackling it. This “flight” survival instinct is a function that can save our lives if we find ourselves in dangerous surroundings. However, in everyday life, this natural ability can lead to increased stressful situations, raise our stress levels when we realize that the stressor isn’t going away and we need to face it.
Some of John’s relatives tease him over his past love failures. He thinks it is frustrating. So he stopped going to some of his annoying relative’s homes.
Freeze Response when there is no hope of survival
Sometimes, the stressful situation is so overwhelming that we neither fight nor flee but merely freeze. The freeze response can occur when we’re frightened and feel like there is no chance for our survival or escape. It happens in car accidents, to rape victims and robbed people at gunpoint.
Stress can be good
Stress isn’t always bad. It can help you perform under pressure, motivate you to do your best, even keep you safe when danger emerges.
A student having some amount of stress prepares well for the exam and scores well.
A professional, having a moderate amount of stress about his project deadline, finishes his tasks on time.
But overwhelming stress can damage your health, mood, relationships, and quality of life.
Major causes of stress can vary from person to person. Similarly, there are different kinds of stress.
Acute stress is the most common one. It is the short-term stress we experience in our daily lives, like chasing a deadline to meet, an argument with a life partner. This stress spices up our lives and makes day-to-day life exciting.
When acute stress becomes frequent in life, it turns into episodic stress. Perfectionists, people having high expectations, and who do not feel good enough normally suffer from episodic stress. They find life as a sequence of emergencies, one after another.
Chronic stress is the long-term exposure to stressors. Here, the major causes of stress are unhappy marriages, unsatisfying work environment, poverty and so forth. Chronic Stress is the most dangerous kind of pressure.
Everyone experiences stress in a different way. What is the major cause of stress for me, may be an exciting opportunity for you.
Stephen lives for the spotlight, while his best friend, Lisa is scared of getting up in front of people to perform or speak.
Joy shuts down when work demands are too high, while his teammate James performs best when he has a tight schedule
Teresa enjoys helping her elderly parents. Her sister, Susan finds the demands of caretaking very stressful.
What major causes of Stress are in today’s world?
Strеѕѕоrѕ fаll intо thrее gеnеrаl саtеgоriеѕ:
When major causes of stress are extreme environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, or noise, our bodies may react out of control with heat stroke, severe headache or so forth.
Certain physical conditions like fatigue, lack of sleep, missed meals, illness cause physiological stress. This stress can affect our abilities to cope with day to day scenarios.
Have you noticed, you sometimes overreact when you are exhausted?
Sometimes, major causes of stress can be external or internal.
Workplaces are one of the major causes of stress. We spent most of our day at work. Especially in today’s competitive world, peer pressure is high.
Challenging work environment
Do you have a demanding boss? Are you fed up with office politics? Do you have colleagues who piss you off?
Probably you are in a challenging work environment.
Some of the other major causes of work-related stress are:
- Overwhelming workload
- Having a high-risk job
- Working under dangerous conditions like military officer, construction or mining worker
- No work-life balance
- Daily Long commute to work
Commonly, any situation bringing in a positive or negative change in our circumstances or our lifestyles can turn out to be one of the major causes of stress.
It could be any change like joining a new office or a new school, shifting to a new house, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, death in the family and so forth.
Studies rate Marriage as the seventh most stressful life event. Being in an abusive, unhappy marriage can create chronic stress.
Even the happy marriages can source pressure in both partners. ‘Living together’ also means less personal breathing space, adapting to different habits. Over time, this can lead to stress.
Sometimes, adhering to social norms can be stressful.
Especially, you may want to experiment with your life.
After two years of work, you want to travel for a year. But society or your family expects you to get married. When you decide to marry your dream partner, as per the community standards you need to marry from the same religion, state, country, etc.
These social pressures can lead to conflicts in your life.
We might face biases in our daily lives. Even in this 21st century, we cannot deny the fact that we live amidst so many different types of discriminations! It could be racial, religious, gender-based, financial status based! Discriminations do exist in this world!
People could comment about your cast or physical disabilities, looks, skin color or dress. Dealing with them in daily life could be stressful.
Do you worry about your weight, gray hair or balding? You are not alone! Many studies suggest that top major causes of stress are concerns over appearances.
Ideas of desirable looks come from the social standards projected by the media. In fact, this can lead to negative self-images and lack of self-confidence.
The constant pressure to be a socially accepted person is one of the major causes of stress.
Some of the other major causes of stress are Financial Problems, Health Concerns, and Traumatic Events.
Let’s look into some of the significant internal causes of stress now.
Anxiety and fear are one of the greatest causes of long-term stress.
Fear of public speaking is the most common concern. Remember, Maria’s pressure regarding her presentation?
Other common fears are fear about disasters, terror attacks, and chronic diseases.
Intense coverage of disasters, diseases in the media is one of the reasons behind this fear.
How do you view a situation decides whether you get stressed or not. Do you see a half glass of water as “Half Full” or “Half Empty”?
Contrary self-talks and worry lead to stress.
Unrealistic expectations keep you stressed. No-one is perfect. Be flexible enough to make mistakes and grow from mistakes.
Your stress endurance level depends on your beliefs, self-talks, fears, attitudes. That is why you need to try to improve yourself.
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In a nutshell, Stress is inevitable in our lives. The major causes of stress can be either external or internal. Managing stress is learning to control the way we respond to it. I will discuss different ways to manage stress in coming days. What sort of tensions do you experience? Could you relate to any of the causes listed here?
Please make a comment below.