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What causes stress?

Causes of stress range from problems at work to relationship worries

Stress is an increasingly common part of our lives, and while the causes depend on the individual, there are some factors which commonly contribute to increased stress levels. Stress advisor Marianna Kilburn discusses some of these common causes.

An introduction to the causes of stress

Different people find different events stressful. What may appear to be a perfectly reasonable situation for someone else may be uncontrollably difficult for you.

Stress may be short lived, such as when moving house. In other circumstances, stress may be a more long-term issue, the root cause of which is not so easy to identify or rectify. As the causes of stress are particular to the individual, it is difficult to make generalised statements about them.

However, there are certain triggers which seem to be more likely to cause stress.

Work

The ordinary pressures of work are usually manageable but there are a number of ways in which work can begin to cause stress.

Relationship issues with your colleagues or boss can make the workplace a place of dread. Some people may find that an increased workload means that they are spending less and less time with their family or unable to take time to enjoy hobbies. For others they may feel as if the good work they are doing is not being properly recognised.

Whatever the reason it is worth examining to see how it can be rectified to reduce the impact on your health – for example the dread of returning to work is thought to contribute to the estimate that 60% of workers experience their worst night's sleep on a Sunday. Much of your adult life is spent at work, so it is worthwhile employing measures to make it enjoyable while you are there!

On the other hand, in a difficult economic climate, stress may come from a different angle as often unemployment or the fear of losing your job can put an even bigger strain on you.

Exams

Exams are a notoriously stressful time. The fact that they cause stress is usually (believe it or not) a good thing. It shows that you are concerned about performing well. This nervous energy produces better results in the exam than a completely lackadaisical approach.

Nevertheless, if exam stress is causing severe anxiety or even panic attacks, then this may have a more negative effect on your thinking and performance.

It is worth remembering that the exam period, while generally unpleasant at the time, is fairly short-lived. It won’t take long before you are free from days of endless revision.

There are several coping strategies you can employ to make the exam period as stress-free as possible and it is worth experimenting with these to find those which are most effective for you.

Relationships

One of the traits which make us human is our tendency to have strong emotional bonds with others. It is when these bonds become damaged and we start experiencing problems in a relationship, whether be with family or friends, that the amount of stress we are able to endure becomes dramatically reduced.

It is important to remember that often, pressures outside the relationship, such as work, can inadvertently put a strain on those you care for, as you are unable to spend as much time with them. Realising what is putting the strain on the relationship often goes a long way towards solving the problem.

Illness or death

Illness and bereavement are two of the most difficult experiences we have to face. Aside from the initial sadness we naturally experience, stress can come from other angles.

Having to look after an ill person can be stressful, both for the carer and the patient. The carer has to dedicate much of their time to make life as easy and comfortable as possible for the patient, while often the patient feels guilty about the trouble they are causing.

If a person loses their spouse, the pressures of housework and cleaning, or looking after children, as well as having to work often puts you under even more stress, at an already difficult time.

Often support from friends and family are vital throughout these experiences, and it is important to seek help as you adjust to a new lifestyle.

Money

Financial problems are one of the most common causes of stress. Not seeing a means of keeping a roof over your head or of paying off debts is a frightening experience. Nevertheless, it seems to be a common one, and a difficult one from which to escape.

Seeking financial advice is always a good place to start, as a professional will be able to highlight the reality of your situation to you, and will be able to show you how you can make the most of your situation. It is important to be realistic, and not to convince yourself that you are in a worse situation than you are.

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