What causes stress?
November 2022   HEALTHCARE

What causes stress?

Stress is difficult to measure and the causes of stress can vary. It may build up as a result of a particular circumstance or it can arise as a result of an ongoing situation or it may be an accumulation of home and work issues colliding.
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External stressors include:

  • Physical environment: noise, bright lights, heat, confined spaces.
  • Social rudeness: bossiness or aggressiveness on the part of someone else.
  • Organisational: rules, regulations, “red tape”, deadlines.
  • Major life events: death of a relative, lost job, promotion, new baby.
  • Daily hassles: commuting, misplacing keys, mechanical breakdowns.

Internal stressors include:

  • Lifestyle choices: caffeine, not enough sleep, overloaded schedule.
  • Negative self-talk: pessimistic thinking, self-criticism, over-analysing.
  • Mind traps: unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, all-or-nothing thinking, exaggerating, rigid thinking.
  • Stressful personality traits: perfectionist, workaholic, pleaser.

It is important to remember that most of the stress we have is self-generated. Recognising that we create most of our own upsets is an important first step to dealing with them.

Work related stress

Work related stress develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. Stress, including work related stress, can be a significant cause of illness and is known to be linked with high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other issues such as errors.

Stress can affect anyone at any level of the business and recent research shows that work related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. That is why a population-wide approach is necessary to tackle it. If you believe you are suffering work related stress then you should talk to your line manager or your human resources team in the first instance.


The following can be helpful in mastering stress:

1. Change lifestyle habits

  • Decrease caffeine
  • Have a well-balanced diet
  • Eat slowly
  • Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes, three times per week)
  • Make sure you have adequate sleep
  • Enjoy leisure time
  • Try relaxation exercises

2. Change stressful situations

  • Improve time and money management
  • Build assertiveness
  • Enhance problem-solving skills
  • Possibly leave a job or a relationship

3. Change your thinking

  • Look at things more positively
  • See problems as opportunities
  • Refute negative thoughts
  • Keep a sense of humour

Diversion and distraction are also good methods so take time out (anything from a short walk to a holiday) to get away from the things that are bothering you. This will not necessarily resolve the problem, but it gives you a break and a chance for your stress levels to decrease. Then, you can return to deal with issues feeling more rested and in a better frame of mind.

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