What Causes Stress: 14 Stress Factors That Harm Your Health

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Many books on bed

You are still thinking about last night’s argument with your partner while rushing to work in the morning. In fact, you do not really like your job but you need to keep it because you are concerned about your financial situation.

In this scenario, you are already confronted with a whole lot of stress factors (also known as stress causes, stressors or stress triggers) early in the morning, but there are many more. In this article, we will address 14 of the most common stress factors.

Before we dive into our article, we need you to know that stress is a normal part of everyone’s life. It is basically nothing more than a natural reaction of your body.

What Causes Stress

You feel stressed in certain situations because your body puts itself into a stage of alarm and releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The result: Your pulse and breathing accelerate and your muscles tense up. As soon as the stressful situation is over, your body starts to relax again.

Thereby you have to distinguish between short-term stress and long-term stress, and between positive stress and negative stress.

Short-term stress, for example, is when you have to rush to work. Long-term stress, for example, occurs when you are permanently dissatisfied with your job.

Long-term stress is also negative stress because it gives you a burdensome and unsettling feeling. This permanent, negative stress leads to serious health problems. For example:

  • Exhaustion
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

Positive stress, for example, occurs when you are under time pressure but have fun. You feel excited and motivated.

In order to get to the source of the problem, you have to address what causes stress in your life. Therefore, you should learn which stress triggers there are and how to recognize and avoid them in everyday life. 

If you already feel stressed on a daily basis, we can recommend our article “How to Reduce Stress Naturally“.

Stress Factor 1: Job

Stressed guy in front of laptop

We became aware of a study that reports that 40% of the workers feel that their job is at least very stressful.

Furthermore, 25% report that their job is the main cause of stress in their lives

One fifth even quit their previous job due to stress.


That proves that stress factors in the workplace must be taken seriously. Causes of stress at work include:

  • High workload
  • Too much responsibility
  • Poor management
  • Working under dangerous conditions
  • Harassment at the workplace
  • Frequent overtime
  • Demotivating tasks
  • Lack of clarity about career opportunities

Before you draw conclusions about which of these factors cause more stress or which job is more “stressful” you should consider that stressors are a very individual topic.

In fact, having to complete paperwork can cause more stress for police officers than the dangers of pursuing criminals. 

How stressed you feel at work depends on three factors: the extent of the demands that are being made, the sense of control over the requirements, and the decision-making latitude in dealing with the tasks.


To fight stress at work, you can communicate more openly with the management, be more organized, stop multitasking and quit perfectionism.

In the worst-case scenario, you could consider changing jobs.

In our article on stress reduction (see link above) we also give detailed tips on how to deal with stress at work.

Stress Factor 2: Relationships

There are people who stress you out. This can be someone at work, your partner, friend, or family member.


Triggers for stress in relationships can be:

  • Lack of communication
  • Misleading communication
  • An inappropriate behavior (at least from your point of view)
  • Unresolvable interpersonal differences
  • Abuse of trust through lies

Relationships can even cause stress without you being directly involved. For example, a dispute between two good friends of yours or a family dispute.


It is helpful to not ignore (upcoming) problems, but to address them openly and transparently and to find a solution together. If this is not feasible, in extreme cases, you may consider to distance yourself from that person for good.

Stress Factor 3: Finances

Financial difficulties or worries about them are a common cause of stress that almost everyone can identify with. 

According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), 72% of American adults feel stressed due to money. 22% rate their stress level on a scale of 1-10 with at least 8!


Triggers can be one-time incidents, such as a broken refrigerator or laptop that you need to replace with a new one. They can also be long-term, such as the monthly rent, which is simply too expensive for you.

Signs that finances are a stress factor in your life are:

  • You feel guilty because you have no money for necessary things
  • You are either worrying or are feeling anxious about money
  • You are afraid of opening emails, mail or answering the phone
  • You argue with your family or partner about money


Make a precise plan of how much income and how much expenses you have and, above all, what you spend your money on. This gives you an excellent overview to optimize your financial situation.

You can optimize your finances in three ways. Either you increase your income or you lower your expenses or both. Since reducing expenses is often quicker to achieve in the short term, you should start with that.

Stress Factor 4: Health

Health, which is often taken for granted, can also be a trigger for stress.


You can feel stressed when you are sick, but also when you are constantly worried about your health even though you are healthy.

The American Psychological Association (APA) published a report that people who care for a family member on a permanent basis are exposed to an additional risk of emotional and physical health problems. Including the increased risk of certain heart diseases and strokes.


For this stressor, it is important to not worry too much unless there is any specific reason for it. Besides that, proper stress management and good night’s sleep helps as well. Sleep helps your body to regenerate better, prevent sickness, and reduce stress.

Stress Factor 5: Parenting

Mom and child in front of laptop

Parenting can be very stressful. Especially with smaller children.


As a parent, you no longer only have to manage your own calendar, but also raise your offspring, take them to the doctor, juggle your job performance and much more. These duties lead to parenting stress.

If you, on top of that, have a lower income, are a single parent, have conflicts with your partner or have to work long hours, being a parent is even more difficult because several stress factors affect you all at once.


Take some time out. Regular meetings with friends help to relax and unwind. 

If you cannot take much time off, try meditation. You will benefit from meditation after only a few minutes.

Stress Factor 6: Anxiety

Fear and stress often occur together. Therefore, it is not always easy to tell whether you are anxious or stressed.

Stress is a physical fight-or-flight response to situations. Fear, on the other hand, is a persistent mental disorder.


The news show you frightening things like terrorist attacks, global warming, natural disasters and other bad events every day. 

Stress factors in everyday life and fear are, for example, worries about a job or the fear of a clarifying conversation.


Recognize which situations cause fear and challenge yourself whether your fear is really justified and find out how you can regain control.

For stressful moments caused by fear, the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help. You will find a detailed explanation and a study that proves this effect in our article on falling asleep quickly (the link takes you directly to this chapter).

Stress Factor 7: Life Changes

Any change in life, whether positive or negative, can be a stress factor.


Examples of this stressor can be a wedding or divorce, promotion or loss of a job, moving to a new country or the children moving out.

With big changes in life, your routine will be disrupted. That means you have to adapt to the changes.


You can prepare for predictable changes. Plan how your life will change and set realistic expectations.

Often you can also “prepare” for unexpected happenings. 

You prepare by theoretically going through different scenarios and considering a rough plan when the scenarios occur. For example, you can build a strong network to be prepared for changing your job unexpectedly.

However, you cannot be prepared for everything. 

In this case, it is helpful to regularly leave your comfort zone. The comfort zone ends where you break out of your routine and start to feel challenged and need to put in an extra amount of effort. For example by traveling to a foreign country or starting a new hobby. This helps you deal with unexpected changes.

Stress Factor 8: Pressure to Perform

Confused faced looking at open book

In today’s competitive society, the pressure to perform is an everyday reality. Often the pressure does not come from others, but from yourself. It is one of the triggers that cause stress.


The pressure to perform is psychological pressure, triggered by an obligation to perform at a high level. It can come from high demands from yourself or from high demands from society. Furthermore, it is one of the reasons that cause stress in teens that cause stress in college students.


Focus on a few things and master them. Define your own values, your life goals and what is important to you.

From there you can evolve step by step without rush and become the best version of yourself. Become aware of your successes and acknowledge your progress. After all, it is your path that should not be manipulated by the pressure of others.

Stress Factor 9: Personal Beliefs

Opposing viewpoints and events related to your personal beliefs can be a strong stressor. Especially when it comes to sensitive topics such as political, religious or social beliefs.


Examples are direct conflict situations to which you are exposed to. For example, if your partner or employer acts against your personal beliefs.

You can also be exposed to indirect situations, such as events that are happening around the world that you see in the news and social networks. Most people start to get angry because they feel helpless in such situations.


There are certain views on certain topics that are particularly important to you. Other people, maybe people who are very close to you, have a completely different opinion on these topics.

This does not have to be a reason for you to get stressed.

The first way is to avoid conflict situations. Usually, the result of intense discussions is rather more stress and anger than convincing others of your beliefs. Ask yourself if it is more important for you to defend your views and risk stress or to sit still and do not participate in the discussion.

The second option is to go into the conflict situation, but keep cool. In any case, do not let yourself be upset and do not react judgmentally. There are certain reasons why people have developed their views that are not immediately comprehensible.

Stress Factor 10: Expectations

Having realistic expectations not only helps you to become happier, but it also helps you to lead a stress-free life.


You can set expectations for you or other people.

A typical expectation that you set for yourself is to achieve an ambitious goal. Whereas an expectation that you have for others is, that they do not let you down.


Expectations should always be realistic. In the simplest way, you do not have any expectations for others. If you notice that you have expectations for someone, revise them.

Mindfulness enables an increased awareness of yourself and your thoughts. This allows you to recognize thought patterns faster and consequently learn how to turn them off. This includes the moments when you have expectations for others.

We acknowledge that such a change takes time, but a less stressful life should be reason enough for you to start dealing with it.

Here is a short and interesting conversation between the well-known entrepreneur GaryVee and the musician John Legend:

Stress Factor 11: Noise

Noise is any unwanted sound and can quickly become a cause of stress.


Typical examples of noise are loud neighbors or thin walls that force you to follow other people’s conversations. Screaming babies at night or dogs barking at you behind closed doors in the hallway are examples of stress caused by noise.


One of the best ways to deal with unwanted noise is to directly address the problem. Speak freely to your neighbor or whoever is making the noise. People are not always aware of the fact that they might disturb others.

On the other hand, you can buy noise-canceling headphones or earplugs for the night to actively suppress the noise.

Stress Factor 12: Perception

How you see and judge the world, certain things and situations can determine whether your perception is a possible stress factor.


You feel stressed at work because you feel incompetent. The upcoming project is already stressing you.

Another example of what may have even happened to you is the loss of your passport on a trip. This can cause extreme stress. After all, you need a passport to leave the country and enter your own.


As you may notice, the examples are characterized by a rather negative way of thinking. Try to look at things more positively and more analytically. Often times things are not as hopeless and bad as they seem.

If you feel insecure at work, be aware that your appearance and experiences landed you that job. Even if you feel overwhelmed, your manager believes you can do it. You can achieve more than you think as long as you believe in yourself.

The situation with your lost passport, for example, could be tackled much better by staying calm: The passport is gone but there is certainly an embassy you can approach. Your embassy will give you a substitute with which you may not only leave the country but continue your holidays.

To develop this new mindset, meditation helps. Meditation develops awareness and calmness. This will make it easier for you to look at your perceptions from a different perspective. 

Stress Factor 13: Violence

Passive aggressive look

You can find violence everywhere in our everyday lives. For example in the news, verbal violence at work and in social networks.


Certain occupations, such as police officers or taxi drivers, are exposed to a higher risk of violence solely because of their job. However, there is not only the apparent violence as a cause of stress but also passive violence.

People with passive-aggressive behavior subtly express their negative feelings through their actions instead of expressing them outright. This tends to happen unintentionally and is often difficult to detect.

For example, people may repeatedly find excuses for not meeting up because they want to avoid a particular person. However, the excuses are just used to express dislike or even anger towards that person.


Do not let yourself get offended and do not react judgmentally. It is not recommended to react to violence with violence.

Be aware that violence is just the outcome for greater underlying frustrations, whether active or passive, for which you are not to blame. Give the person time to work on their own feelings. 

Stress Factor 14: Traumatic Events

We want to finalize our list of stress factors with one, that, hopefully, is unknown to you: traumatic events. People who have experienced a traumatic event often have to live with the consequences and long-term, negative stress.


A traumatic experience can result from a life-threatening situation, natural disasters, war, assaults, car accidents, violence, and other situations.

The result can be a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which causes permanent stress and anxiety.


If you experience a terrible event or even observe it, you should seek professional help. Professional help will assist you in dealing with what you experienced.


Before you reduce stress, you should be aware of what causes it. With this knowledge, you can even nip stress in the bud.

The list of possible reasons for what causes stress are:

  • Job
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Parenting
  • Anxiety
  • Life changes
  • Pressure to perform
  • Personal beliefs
  • Expectations
  • Noise
  • Perception
  • Violence
  • Traumatic events

As an immediate action, you can always use certain measures to reduce stress like meditation or sports. Many of these measures help in different ways with various stress factors.

As so often, Mindfulness is a powerful companion in the fight against stress. In our free newsletter, we will show you how to learn mindfulness for very different aspects of life.

Subscribe to our newsletter, directly below this article. Thank you very much for reading.

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