The Main Causes of Stress

By Val Silver

If you were to poll a group of people about the main causes of stress in their lives, most could quickly rattle off a laundry list of names, events and circumstances that get them worked up. Our awareness of feelings of fear, overwhelm, and annoyance accompanied by a pounding heart, tunnel vision and other symptoms alert us that we are in the grips of stress. 

Contrary to popular belief the main causes of stress are physical as well as mental and emotional. Below our levels of awareness, other types of stress are affecting your health and well-being in mind and body. 

Physical Stress Factors

Working your body too hard, or working it without the rest, nutrients or water it needs, puts it under a strain. Dealing with invaders, injury, or imbalance requires extra effort from your body systems.

Common physical main causes of stress include:

  • illness
  • acute and chronic pain
  • exercising too hard or too long
  • lifestyle choices such as not getting enough sleep and overeating.
  • dietary factors - junk foods and nutritional deficiencies
  • toxins - chemicals, drugs, allergens, metabolic by-products
  • caffeine and other stimulants
  • ignoring your body's signals for food, rest, thirst and other physical needs.
  • mental distress

Although they may appear unrelated, chronic mental stress is a major contributor to physical stress and illnesses resulting from stress. You cannot be stressed mentally without it affecting your entire body. You may jiggle, sweat, fixate visually, and tense up. Those are only the physical signs you notice. There is a lot more going on inside.  

Mental distress puts heavy demands on the body nutritionally and physically. Cortisol levels elevate which focuses your body systems for fight flight at the expense of digestion, healing and normal functions not needed for immediate survival. DHEA, the cell repair hormone, is sacrificed to make more the stress hormone cortisol. In this tense state, your body puts healing on the back burner. 

Physical stress is often compounded by worry about health problems and coping with them. You may also feel guilt for not taking care of your health properly. 

This video details main causes of stress in the body and how they lead to ill health. 

Mental Main Causes of Stress

What causes stress mentally and physically vary widely from person to person. What may be no big deal for you may be catastrophic for someone else.

A typical stressor may be no big deal for you one day can set you off on another day. Because your mental state is also related to your physical state, your hormones, blood sugar, brain chemicals and your general health can all affect whether or not a situation bothers you or not. 

Mental stress factors often revolve around:

  • your job or lack of a job and difficult coworkers
  • coping with the needs of children and their health and behavior
  • not having enough money and too much debt
  • personal relationship difficulties
  • being too busy, multi-tasking, and feeling overwhelmed
  • not allowing yourself enough time to get places or complete a task
  • physical and mental health concerns and weight control
  • addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and/or junk food
  • death or loss of a loved one or something you valued
  • cluttered, dirty living and work spaces
  • your perceptions of your life circumstances
  • reliving painful past events and worrying about the future
  • life transitions - having a baby, getting married, moving, changing jobs

Much of what stresses you mentally has to do with your perceptions and feelings of control and empowerment. Fear of losing control, or thoughts of losing someone or something you value are main causes of stress. Even very positive events such as getting married can be a major stress factor because of all you have to do, anticipating change, making decisions, etc.

Physical clutter is also stressful. Just notice how you feel when you enter a pleasant space as opposed to a chaotic one. In a clean, orderly space, your brain is likely to dip into a more relaxed alpha state as opposed to the more stressful beta state that accompanies a chaotic space.  

What causes stress for many of us is reopening and reliving old emotional wounds over and over in our minds. Because your brain treats this as real events, it triggers your stress response every time, especially if it involves blaming others, feeling like a victim and withholding forgiveness. 

These types of stress are common to all modern people. It would be impossible to live in this world free of unwanted challenges and situations. That does not mean you have to live in a constant state of turmoil. 

What are the main causes of stress in your life? It would benefit your mental and physical well-being to find and use ways to ease and relieve your distress naturally.

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