Major causes of stress

Updated July 19, 2017

Nowadays the word "stress" is all to familiar to most of us. This article will help you identify the major causes of stress in your life so you will be able to devise healthy coping methods and avoid the harmful effects of being stressed.


Stress can be defined as a person's physiological and psychological response to a challenging or threatening event. Stress is a very subjective thing: what one person may consider stressful, another may not. For most of us, life is filled with stressful events known as stressors. Even positive and pleasant events, such as getting married or buying a new house, can produce a great deal of stress. Over time, excessive stress can become a threat to one's immune system and overall mental and physical health. In order to better manage your stress, it is necessary to first identify the stressful events in your life. There are three categories in which major stressors, or stress-causing events, fall into: cataclysmic events, personal events and "background" (or micro) events.

Cataclysmic Events

The first category of stressors is cataclysmic events (also known as catastrophic events). These stressful events typically occur unexpectedly and impact many people simultaneously. Some examples of this type of stressor are: natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, tsunamis or hurricanes), plane crashes, wars and terrorist attacks. Some victims of cataclysmic events experience long-lasting stress, but most do not. Those who do are likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder, a condition in which the person may relive the traumatic event through vivid flashbacks or dreams.

Stress is Personal

Personal stressors is the second category of major stress-causing events. These include major life changes that can result in a great deal of stress. Some examples of this type of stressor include: death of a loved one, loss of one's job, buying a new house, having a baby or getting married. The typical response to these stressors is an immediate reaction that dissipates gradually over time.

The Not-So-Small Stuff

The last category of stressors is background (or micro) stressors. These consist of the daily hassles in life that we all endure on a regular basis. This category covers everything from traffic jams and losing your keys to being late for work and waiting on long lines at the bank or store. Although the term microstressor may suggest minimal impact, the accumulation of microstressors is a major cause of stress for many people. A recent study examined the top ten microstressors experienced by people. Over 80 per cent of the participants reported that lack of time was the background stressor that troubled them the most.


In this day and age, there is an endless amount of things to stress us out. Many people are troubled financially, in their relationships, in their jobs or with their families. Stress can be physically and mentally damaging to one's health, so it is crucial to identify the stressors in your life and devise healthy ways of coping with stress.

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