The Causes of Stress and How to Overcome Them

Written on 4/19/2008 by David B. Bohl, the author of Slow Down Fast.

Causes of Stresssources of stress so you can control them.

In order to get control over your stress, something in your life must change. We all live with a certain degree of stress in our lives, but there is a point at which it becomes unmanageable, causing physical and mental illness.

Causes of stress can be broken down into internal and external stressors.

External stressors are those things which we have no control over. Physical stressors can include a noisy environment, being overly hot or too cold, or feeling confined.

Major changes in your life can also cause stress, such as a lost job, the birth of a child, or a death in the family. Even that promotion you have been wanting will cause stress. Daily inconveniences create stress in our lives: rudeness of others, unreasonable rules at work or inefficient business practices, commuting, and deadlines.

Finally, you also have personally imposed stressors, such as a negative attitude, perfectionism, setting unrealistic expectations, self-criticism. As you can see, stress is hitting you from all angles.

Stress manifests itself in various ways, but there are three main categories where stress will begin to appear.

    • Physical Manifestations: You may find that you are uncomfortable much of the time, suffering from headache, fatigue, sweating, or trembling. You may suffer from stomach cramps or nausea, or find you are always sick. The most serious physical effects include chest pains and heart palpitations, often mimicking the symptoms of a heart attack. 
  • Mental or Emotional Manifestations: Depression is probably the most common mental symptom of stress. More and more, people are seeking out treatment for depression when a few lifestyle changes might take care of the problem. 

Other emotional or mental signs of stress include anxiety, frustration, irritability, indecisiveness, confusion, loss of humor, short temper, worry, nervousness, or a loss in concentration or memory.

  • Behavioral: Any sudden change in behavior should be a signal that something is wrong. Some of the behaviors that may appear as a result of stress include crying, yelling, throwing things, smoking, drinking, eating, pacing, or other nervous behaviors such as nail biting.

In order to manage your stress you need to make some lifestyle changes. Here is a quick rundown of the simple changes you can make (as soon as today) to begin lowering stress levels.

  • Elevated stress may cause weight gain so ensure you are eating a balanced diet and receiving plenty of exercise. 
  • The act of exercising greatly reduces the effects of stress on your body. 
  • Allow yourself leisure time to enjoy your hobbies like reading, sewing, or music. 
  • Allow yourself to have leisure time. Completely remove yourself from your environment, either for a few hours or for a real vacation.

You may also try changing some major things in your life. If you are in a job, or in a relationship, that causes you more stress than it does enjoyment, it may be time to leave those things behind. Quitting your job may not be so bad if the stress it causes you is likely to lead to a heart attack a few years from now.

Once you realize what is causing stress in your life, you can implement measures to control it. Controlling stress is not only important for your overall happiness and well-being, but for your health as well. Many serious diseases such as cancer are being linked more closely with stress, and scientists are finding new ways every day that stress impacts our lives. Do not let stress get in the way of your own personal development.

The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that stress is mostly self inflicted. This means you have the means within yourself, and in your life, to counteract the effects of stress or to remove it altogether.

-David

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