What causes stress? 

Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life which involve:

  • Being under lots of pressure 
  • Facing big changes 
  • Worrying about something 
  • Not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation 
  • Having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming 
  • Not having enough work, activities or change in your life 
  • Times of uncertainty  

There might be one big thing causing you stress, but stress can also be caused by a build-up of small pressures. This might make it harder for you to identify what’s making you feel stressed, or to explain it to other people. 

“Lots of things stress me at the moment, mainly worries about my memory, as I’m a pensioner with nothing to do all day. Trying to fill my day is hard as I have arthritis so can’t walk too far.”

Why do certain things make me feel stressed? 

The amount of stress you feel in different situations may depend on many factors such as: 

  • Your perception of the situation – this might be connected to your past experiences, your self-esteem, and how your thought processes work (for example, if you tend to interpret things positively or negatively) 
  • Now experienced you are at dealing with that particular type of pressure 
  • Your emotional resilience to stressful situations 
  • The amount of other pressures on you at the time 
  • The amount of support you are receiving. 

We’re all different, so a situation that doesn’t bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress. For example, if you’re feeling confident or usually enjoy public speaking, you might find that giving a speech in front of people feels comfortable and fun. But if you’re feeling low or usually prefer not to be the centre of attention, this situation might cause you to experience signs of stress

“I get stressed when things get out of perspective – too much work, thinking too far ahead.”

What kind of situations can cause stress?  

Stress can be caused by a variety of different common life events, many of which are difficult to avoid. For example:

  • Personal
  • Illness or injury 
  • Pregnancy and becoming a parent 
  • Bereavement 
  • Long-term health problems 
  • Organising a complicated event, like a group holiday 
  • Everyday tasks such as travel or household chores.
  • Friends and Family
  • Getting married or civil partnered
  • Going through a break-up or getting divorced
  • Difficult relationships with parents, siblings, friends or children
  • Being a carer for a friend or relative who needs lots of support.
  • Employment and Study
  • Losing your job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Retiring
  • Exams and deadlines
  • Difficult issues at work
  • Starting a new job.
  • Housing
  • Housing problems such as poor living conditions, lack of security or homelessness
  • Moving house
  • Problems with neighbours
  • Money
  • Worries about money or benefits
  • Poverty
  • Debt.

“My breakdown […] was due to having a stressful job as a project manager and dealing with a marriage break up and subsequent divorce.”

Can happy events cause stress? 

Some of the situations listed above are often thought of as happy events – for example, you might feel expected to be happy or excited about getting married or having a baby. 

But because they can bring big changes or make unusual demands on you, they can still be very stressful. This can be particularly difficult to deal with, because you might feel there’s additional pressure on you to be positive. 

“I’ve never been more stressed in my life than the 6 months leading up to my wedding… everyone kept asking me if I was happy and expecting me to be excited all the time, but I just couldn’t feel it. I ended up getting really ill.”

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