It is a circle, really. First, there is something that causes grief and depression within us, but then we come out of our slumber and try to fight against that factor.
Like in a game of chess, the factor first causes the stress in us and then the stress in us causes a reaction that gives the check and mate to the factor and eliminates it.
We have to make sure to maintain that balance.
We have to ensure that we can remove every stress-causing element in our life with the stress itself.
But, in order to be able to do that, we have to first identify what those factors are. What are these factors that can cause such specific reactions to happen within us?
On the whole, we can classify these stress-inducing factors are external stressors and internal stressors.
Both are equally dangerous if they are left to be as they are.
And both need to be fought against with equal fervor if we want to ensure a happier life for ourselves.
Let us see what these external and internal stressors are.
These are the changes happening in the environment around us that pose adverse situations for us.
These things are happening in our external environment.
Hence,we call them as external stressors.
When these changes happen, our body begins to react in a particular way. We get a feeling of being threatened.
External stressors can confront us anywhere. They may come up at work… a looming deadline is a good example. They may relate to financial matters.
A bill that has to be paid, some payment that has not yet come, tax that is overcharged, a wrong credit card score, etc. are so many different things that can disorient your living.
There can also be such factors in relationships.
In fact, most of the stress-inducing factors happen in relationships.
This is because two people are involved… two people with two different ways of thinking. Things are definitely going to make noise when opinions clash.
There can be so many other kinds of external stressors. The current political situation could be a stress-causing factor for you.
If your home needs to be renovated, it could cause stress even if you have money. Someone close to you leaves you and goes away. Again, that can cause a lot of stress.
Stress happens in joyful situations also.
If there is a wedding in the family, the stress that is caused there is indescribable.
Why just wedding, anything that you have to organize in your house can cause stress, even a small kitty party!
Also, something like an impending pregnancy can cause stress. You are happy about the little one coming to live with you soon, but maybe the anticipation is taking its toll on you.
Now, you shouldn’t think that you have to move out of the house to feel stressed.
There are so many ways in which stress can meet you in your house itself.
We have already pointed out some such factors above.
Bills to be paid, pregnancy, etc. are stress-causing factors that happen in the home itself. Something in your house doesn’t work when you want it too… that can cause stress as well.
At the same time, you shouldn’t think that stress has to be caused by monumental, life-changing factors.
There are so many trivial matters over which we can get so worked up.
Do some people get stressed just because children playing outside make too much noise? Or that the dogs bark so loudly?
Or that the vehicles honk incessantly outside their house, even if they really don’t? Or simply that the water for their bath isn’t hot enough? Or that they have missed their bus?
All these are external factors that can cause stress. The list is endless, but these examples are more than adequate to help you understand what they are like.
Some of the stress-causing factors come from within. Mostly these are the mental problems that we so often face in today’s world.
These may manifest themselves in the form of depression, insomnia, ADD, and even more physical forms such as allergies, nausea and vomiting and digestive disorders, etc.
Internal stressors are usually more difficult to handle because they are working inside the body.
They are related to your constitution and have a medical ground.
Chronic diseases can also cause internal stress.
People who suffer from heart-related problems or diabetes, for instance, are usually under a large amount of internal stress.
Usually, the stress due to these factors also becomes chronic.
But, the situation is not all that bleak. There is not much we can do about chronic ailments, but not all internal stressors are related to chronic problems. Some of these can be easily managed, and even completely eliminated.
A lot of internal stress stems from the way you look at yourself or the way you deal with things.
For instance, if you have high beliefs or hopes about something and then it doesn’t go your way, it can lead to stress. The solution here would be not to expect anything irrationally.
If you cannot focus on your work, that is internal stress as well. You can solve that by improving your concentration and finding new ways to motivate yourself.
Other forms of internal stress come in the form of low self-esteem, low self-perception, lack of confidence and other similar personality traits.
Sometimes, too much of a good thing is also bad. Just as high expectations can lead to stress, perfectionism can also lead to stress.
If you always seek perfection in everything, especially to a point of obsession, then it is going to hurt you at one time or the other.
At the same time, if you are too eager to please people, then that could be a big problem as well because you are not going to be able to do that all the time.
If you have habits that are not quite accepted socially, then those could be a problem as well.
For instance, if you try to put people on, or if you are dishonest with people, then sooner or later, this could cause your balance to get disturbed.
Some internal stressors are rooted in the past.
These are very difficult to get rid of. A childhood-related phobia, for instance, is difficult to shake off.
If you have had a bad childhood or an abusive relationship, then it could leave a scar on you for a long time, and could become an internal stressor as well.
Also, the habit of worrying too much, which could also have its origins in your past, can cause stress.
These are the various factors that can lead you to stress. Most of them are possible to control, though the going may not always be easy.
You have to take stock of the situation. As we shall see in further chapters, you have to first come out of denial if you want to conquer your stress.
Your body will react to stress-causing factors in different ways.
What you have to do is to channelize this response of your body so that it brings about positive results for you.
You have to target the response so that it eliminates the stress-causing factor.
Whether externally or internally produced, it is possible to combat stress, though, difficult. It all starts with how much in acceptance you are, and then depends on how much effort you want to put in.
A Stressor May or May Not Be a Cause of Stress
When we look for signs and symptoms, causes of stress, we must look at every stressor as a potential cause of stress. “Potential” because stressors do not have to cause stress.
Different people will respond differently to them, and it is the response, you remember, that is the stress.
For example, a great cause of stress for one secretary may be a stack of documents waiting to be filed. She hates filing because she has no system.
She is never sure where to file a given paper, so she puts off all filing. The stack grows, her anxiety grows, her guilt grows, but a lack of expertise paralyzes her.
Finally, she becomes ill and takes a day off work. The substitute secretary takes one look at the stack of documents and sets to work cheerfully.
She has developed a filing system and is confident of where she should put the papers. She soon has everything cleared away and rewards herself with a quick 5-minute walk.
The stressor was the pile of documents to be filed. It was the same for both secretaries. One secretary responded with anxiety and guilt, resulting in physical sickness.
The other responded with cheerful confidence, resulting in a successful completion. The stressor was not an absolute cause of stress.
For a second time, how you respond to a situation, stressor or not can make the difference.
Everyday Causes of Stress
Everyday causes of stress are recurrent. They keep coming up.
Here are a few examples.
1. The boss that never has a pleasant word for you can be a cause of stress if you let him. It depends on whether you let him bother you, or whether you decide to take it in stride.
2. The child that daily refuses to get up in time for school can be an everyday cause of stress for the parent that does not take control of the situation.
3. A family member that is always on the phone will become a cause of stress if you want to use the phone, and have no control over the situation.
4. Your neighbor’s barking dog or even a singing bird on the windowsill is a potential cause of stress, depending on how you respond.
5. The spot on your clothing from food dropped during lunch might be a cause of stress when you go back to work – or you might have the emotional resilience to ignore it.
Your days are filled with signs and symptoms, causes of stress to which you will choose either to respond or not to respond.
Occasional Causes of Stress
In addition to potentially hundreds of everyday causes of stress, each of us faces occasional things that may become causes of stress. They may seem bigger, and more difficult to handle.
Each of these three could become a cause of stress.
1. You are relocating. You have to sort, pack, and clean.
Then you have to move to a new location. You leave behind your friends and acquaintances. You leave your former life in many ways.
Relocation can be a major cause of stress, or you can prepare ahead of time to deal with the emotional changes.
2. Your job is being redefined.
There is new, more difficult work to do, and little time to do it. This potential cause of stress could make you physically ill unless you organize the work and take control.
3. Family finances are suddenly cut when you or your spouse loses a job.
Might this be a cause of stress? It depends on whether you immediately take action to seek new employment, and use your spare time to catch up on little chores around the house.
Each potential cause of stress can overwhelm an individual, or energize them to take on the challenge and turn things around.
Life-Changing Causes of Stress
A stressor in this category is much more likely to become a cause of stress since such changes shake our very roots. Look at these examples, and see if there is a cause of stress you are trying to handle.
1. Serious illness or injury of a family member can quickly become a cause of stress. We find it difficult to respond appropriately to this kind of stressor. Emotionally and mentally, we lack the resilience we need.
2. Separation from a spouse due to marital difficulties, or even due to your job, can also become a cause of stress. Emotional tension may overcome you as your body responds to the parting.
3. Divorce is a too-common cause of stress and one that is difficult to handle with an appropriate response.
4. A major loss of income will be a cause of stress to those who rely too much on finances. Credit difficulties falls into the same group.
5. Finally, the death of a child, spouse or a loved one is a stressor that almost always will become a cause of stress.
The Underlying Cause of Stress
The ultimate underlying cause of stress is your inner response to losing control of your lives.
It is natural for humans to want to control life at every turn. You want to be the masters of your own ships, and be able to determine what will happen to you.
Stressors threaten that control, and you respond by preparing to fight whatever is stealing the control you want – or flee from it. Stress is the “fight-or-flight” response of your body.
If all the signs and symptoms, all of the causes of stress were lumped together and labeled with a single phrase, that phrase would be “response to the loss of control”.