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9 Stress Triggers

Angela Sheddan

Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/16/2022

Our lives are filled with a dozen sources of stress a day, and whether you’re dealing with financial stress today or work-related stress tomorrow, we’re willing to bet you’ve got something on your shoulders right now. 

This doesn’t make you unique — everyone deals with different types of stress all the time, and some deal with it better than others. 

The key difference between someone who is handling stress well and someone who is not is how much control they allow the stress to have in their daily lives. 

If stress is causing you to lose sleep, feel overwhelmed and struggle to be productive while your to-do list continues to grow, it may be time to hunt down and slay some of these monsters taking over your life. 

The best place to start is with common stress triggers. But before we get to that list, it’s important to understand that stress is not just a symptom of anxiety or a signal of poor time management — it’s a chemical reaction.

Why You Get Stressed

What is the cause of stress conditions? What causes these work-related stress and financial stress responses in our lives? 

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines stress as a normal reaction to the pressures of everyday life. 

In this form, it’s familiar and common — something we all experience day to day, whether it’s from trying to squeeze a morning routine in and still make it to work on time, or just keeping up with the calendars and expectations of your work and personal responsibilities.

Stress can energize you in beneficial ways, like when you’re competing or participating in sports activities. When things are “stressing you out,” what’s really happening is that your brain is releasing hormones — stress hormones. 

Cortisol — the stress hormone — is responsible for some of these feelings, and has been linked to anxiety, particularly with regards to how it affects your sleep and restfulness. 

People who experience frequently elevated stress levels tend to have observably higher cortisol levels, which may be good for your focus, but over time can cause some damage.

Some of the side effects like the ability to hyperfocus might be good for your performance, but stress markers can include increases in blood sugar, rapid heartbeat, and over time it can cause inflammation and contribute to aging.

However, when stress upsets your ability to function or keeps you from performing, it can become unhealthy.

In many ways, stress is really just a product of anxiety due to uncertainty about things — things like not knowing if you’ll be able to get everything done, or if your boss will notice you’re past deadline.

Common Stress Triggers

Stress conditions are a mixture of chemical signals that happen in your body from internal and external trigger sources, often referred to as a stress response. This response can be caused by a number of external influences. 

Stress may be caused by any of the following:

Money

Everyone worries about money from time to time, but when financial stress and acute stress due to money become a guiding issue or major hurdle in your life, it doesn’t matter how big or small the amount is — you’ll still feel stress until the problem is solved.

Work

We’ve all felt acute stress at work over big projects, tight deadlines or major demands from bosses, clients or customers. 

When this becomes the normal operating procedure, though, it can become chronic stress, and the always-on nature of the stress can cause damage over time.

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Getting Fired or Let Go

The only thing worse for your career than a bad job with high stress might be no job, even for a short period of time. 

People who have recently become unemployed face uncertainty about their finances — where their income will come from and how they’ll afford bills.

And don’t even get us started about the search for new, steady employment.

Deaths

Losing a loved one is a major life change, and exactly the kind of life disruption that can add more sources of uncertainty and more tasks to an already burdened life and mind.

Divorce

It’s entirely understandable to feel like after death, divorce may be a major life change that can bring the most stress. 

Relationships are upended, and whether it’s amicable or not, there are papers to sign, assets to split up and habits to change in major ways.

Illness

Getting sick can be a pain in the ass, but getting sick when the pressure is already on can quickly lead to stress over when you’ll get better, how fast life will return to normal and how to not drop your responsibilities or suffer consequences in the meantime.

Major Accidents or Traumas

Acute stress in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may come from violent, major accidents or instances of trauma, and it’s not likely to go away without the right support.

Natural Disasters

While we’re talking about things you can’t control, natural disasters account for some of the least in-your-power sources of stress. 

Before the storms hit or after they’ve hit, you may have stress due to uncertainty and the new problems you need to solve. 

And during the storm? It doesn’t take a doctor to know that living through a tornado or a hurricane might cause some significant stress.

Caregiving

One final category worth noting is those people who are caregivers. Caring for a loved one, friend or family member who is seriously ill with something like cancer, dementia or another condition can cause just as much stress as living through those experiences yourself. 

It’s always good to remember that, because whether it’s you or a loved one, having a little compassion for someone who’s taking care of a sick person can make the difference in a difficult, uncertain time.

How to Handle Stress

If you’re experiencing stress and feel that it’s getting out of hand, you’re likely to benefit from communicating with people about the stress you’re experiencing. 

While some research indicates that genetics does play a part in our ability to bounce back from stress, there are effective, active ways to address your stress that can reduce its effects on you and your health.

Sharing your feelings with a friend, loved one or trusted coworker can be beneficial not just in strengthening these relationships, but also in creating a support system for stress management to help you take more care of yourself. 

It’s important to have this, because stressed people do isolate themselves rather than seek social support in many cases.

Things like exercise can reduce stress, so it’s important to reduce the urge to work out less or take diminished care of yourself — mentally or physically.

Diet, likewise, is something that shouldn’t go by the wayside when you begin to feel overwhelmed by stress — people who are stressed not only have a general tendency to eat less healthy foods (or more unhealthy food, if you’re like us an often find solace in the bottom of an empty 20-piece nugget box), but fail to burn off the higher calorie content because of increased insulin production and lower calorie burning rates.

This one may be obvious, but you can indeed treat stress by simply getting adequate sleep every night and resisting the opportunity to fall into bad sleep patterns. 

Sleep is beneficial to your mental and physical health, not to mention a contributing factor to your resilience against stress.

Stress can also be better managed with the employment of mindfulness and other meditative practices, which train you to acknowledge the problems in your path and respond to them with breathing exercises.

How to Handle Stress: The Big Picture

While there are plenty of “home” remedies for stress management that might help you along in your day to day, in the big picture, you may have more to do. 

Truth be told, chronic stress can overwhelm. We mentioned the ways it can affect your sleep, diet, weight and how it can impact your daily life and even cause things like inflammation, but left unaddressed, stress can spiral into bigger problems, increase your risk for other diseases and disorders and generally take years of happiness off your life. 

So what’s a person to do, other than get more shut-eye? 

Well, the smartest decision would be to talk to a healthcare professional and seek elevated levels of expert support. 

Mental health care providers are uniquely trained to help you spot symptoms of stress, as well as of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. They may see a big-picture cause for concern that might lead you to more aggressive treatment for issues you’re not even aware of. 

How this looks on paper will differ from person to person, and in addition to what we’ve mentioned above, you may be offered medications like antidepressants to quell senses of hopelessness or anxiety.

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The Bottom Line on Stress Triggers and Treatment

The sooner you seek help for how you’re feeling, the sooner you’ll be on the way to finding effective treatment options for stress to prevent it from wreaking havoc on your life further. 

If you’re ready to learn more about mental healthcare options now, read more about therapy for treating anxiety to see if your stress might be something more. If you have questions, you’re likely to find answers in our mental health resources guide.

As much as we like the clicks, though, the right thing to do for your mental health is to talk to a professional today. Do it for yourself, so you can stop stressing about your stress, and get back to living your life.

4 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, March 8). Feeling stressed? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/12/feeling-stressed. Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15(1), 18–22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/#.
  2. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress relief is within reach. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress.
  3. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress relief is within reach. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/uncertainty.
  4. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress relief is within reach. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/anxiety-difference

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.