Posted on May 14th, 2018 by Pete Keohane

Welcome back! 

Last time we talked about what stress is and how it affects us all. In this blog I’ll focus on some common causes of stress and also some common signs that we are stressed. This might all sound very obvious, and for some it may be, but for many of us we can overlook how stressful our lives can be at times. We can also easily miss our own signs that we are stressed.

What are some of the common causes of stress?

In the previous blog I talked about how anything that we perceive as a threat can make us feel stressed (and also illicit the FAFFing response!). So in some respects, this section is going be very individual as everyone will find different things more or less stressful. That said, there are some common things that come up in the literature. For example:

  • Large or significant changes
  • Feeling uncertain about an outcome 
  • Feeling like we have no control over a situation
  • Perceived sense of responsibility or pressure (this can come from others and ourselves)

Some specific examples of these might be:

  • Illness or injury
  • Pregnancy and having a new baby
  • Debt 
  • Bereavement
  • Getting married
  • Everyday tasks or chores
  • Losing a job
  • Speaking publicly
  • Relationship or family difficulties
  • Being a carer
  • Not having much to do
  • Starting a new job
  • Retiring
  • Money worries
  • Exams 
  • Deadlines
  • Issues at work
  • Moving house

Some of these events might relate to things that are commonly seen in particularly ways. Some things are seen as sad or difficult and some happy and exciting – such as having a baby or getting married. If events bring changes or demands they are often still stressful. 

In some instances there can be one or two very ‘big’ or significant things. In others, it might be a build-up of lots of ‘little’ things. It might be a mixture. This can make it really hard to identify what is causing the stress to be around in the first place. It can also make it more difficult to communicate this to others. 

Often particular things make us feel more stressed

How stressed we feel about a particular event may depend on a lot of different things. For example:

  • If we perceive the situation has a really big effect. This might connect to our past experiences, our mental health and the way we look at the world. 
  • Different types of pressure might be easier or more difficult to manage for us as individuals.
  • How resilient we are at any given time. This can include our own individual sense of reserves or resilience and the amount of social support we have around us.
  • How many different pressures or stressors we are juggling at once and how significant or big these are for us. 

Recognising stress

We all experience the world differently and this is true of our experience of stress. Sometimes it is easy to notice that we are stressed, other times, not so much. Some people are better at recognising stress, some people really have to work at it. 

Stress can affect us in lots of different ways so it is important to be aware of our own ‘tell-tales’, those emotional, cognitive (our patterns of thought), physiological (body experiences) and behavioural (way we act) signs that we are stressed. Doing this can be really good to guide us to helpful action if it is possible. Below are some common signs of stress: 

  • Feeling irritable, grumpy or wound up
  • Feeling burdened or overwhelmed
  • Feeling anxious or frightened more than you would normally
  • Feeling low or uninterested in things you would normally enjoy
  • Not seeing the funny side as much as you would normally
  • Having  a sense of dread
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Finding it hard to enjoy yourself
  • Finding it hard to make decisions
  • Sore eyes
  • Difficulties getting to or staying asleep
  • Nightmares
  • Worrying a lot
  • Avoiding the things that we are worried about
  • Feeling panicky
  • Behaving in a grumpy, irritable or snappy way
  • Biting nails
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Headaches
  • Clenching or grinding teeth
  • Sexual problems
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Feeling tearful
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Smoking, drinking or taking substances
  • Feeling restless
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Feeling tense in our body
  • Hyperventilating or shallow breathing

Knowing ourselves, and our experiences of stress, can be really helpful in identifying triggers and thinking about any solutions that might be available to us. With that in mind you might consider taking a minute to look at that list again and identify the things that you are most likely to do, think or feel when you are stressed. That will help when we get to the next blog which will focus on managing stress, thinking about resilience and also more ‘formal’ treatment options.

I hope this was useful or interesting. If you feel worried about any of the information here you can have a look at our resources page for contacts which might be helpful.

See you next time,