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7 Types of Stressors (And How to Deal With Them)

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Life can be busy–full of demands, activities, and people to please–with stress to accompany it. At times, we are so busy and stressed it’s like 24 hours aren’t enough to accomplish our daily goals. Work, school, family life, hobbies are just a few types of stressors that are more than likely to cause you stress. In fact, stress is so common that 1 in 5 Americans experience it.

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What is Stress?

Stress can be defined as a state of physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension resulting from demanding circumstances. Note that “demanding circumstances” doesn’t necessarily mean negative events. What are the demands in your life? Is it a project deadline? Is it the pressure to be home in time to set dinner on the table?

Read ahead for seven different types of stressors and common examples. Take this opportunity to evaluate the stressors you experience. The ability to understand and anticipate which stressors appear in your life will allow you to take control of and reduce your stress.

7 Types of Stressors

Here’s a look at the seven types of stressors, as well as what causes them.

Short-term Stressors

Short-term stressors are those that cause stress but will eventually be solved. We won’t have to deal with these exact stressors for the rest of our lives, especially if we can learn to deal with them effectively.

Most reasonably healthy people can deal with a variety of short-term stressors given that the occurrence of long-term stressors are few and far between (Stanford Medicine).

The good news is, most categorized stressors that occur in life are short-term. Short-term stressors include:

  • Acute stressors
  • Personal or non-personal stressors
  • Not knowing stressors
  • Trigger stressors

1. Acute Stressors

A car running out of gas or missing work due to a cold are examples of acute stressors. Acute stressors can happen quite frequently, but it’s important to keep in mind that they will come to an end.

2. Personal & Non-Personal Stressors

Personal or non-personal stressors simply can’t be controlled. Getting stuck in traffic or rain on your wedding day can’t be helped. Harboring frustration and grudges over things that are out of your control is not in the best interest of your health. There’s no need to expend energy and emotion, especially when it won’t change the situation!

3. Not-Knowing Stressors

Many people experience stress due to lack of information in a situation. It can be difficult to navigate a situation when you are unsure about where you’re going, who you’re meeting, or plainly, what you’re supposed to do. These types of stressors are not-knowing stressors.

A blind date is a common example of a mental stressor. Our thoughts are wrapped up in fear or anticipation towards an event or task and it can be mentally exhausting. You don’t know much about them because you’ve never met them.

Similarly, traveling in a foreign country can be stressful because you don’t know where anything is and sometimes, you might not speak the language. Both of these events are quite exciting but can still incite a little bit of fear and anxiety for the unknown.

Even though it’s impossible to know everything about a situation, you are capable of being as prepared as possible. For example, if you’re visiting a foreign country, plan where you’d like to visit beforehand. Consider learning some common phrases for how to get around like “I’m lost,” “Where is the bathroom?”, and “My hotel is located at…”

4. Trigger Stressors

Trigger stressors are reminders of past stress that is now producing a renewed stress response. An example of a trigger stressor would be if you got in a traumatic car accident. Passing the street where the scene occurred or seeing damaged cars may bring back this stress.

Long-term Stressors

Long-term stressors won’t go away within a couple of hours. They can cause you to be stressed for days, weeks or months.

  • Daily hassles
  • Chronic stressors
  • Ripple effect stressors

5. Daily Hassles

These stressors occur on a day-to-day basis and while no single stressor is detrimental, the sum of them can be. Think about how minor annoyances can add up throughout the day. Thoughts about making it to work on time, what to cook for dinner, or money troubles are all hassles that you can encounter every day.

6. Chronic Stressors

Unlike acute stressors, chronic stressors are long-term stressful situations that may have no resolution to look forward to. Examples of chronic stressors include the constant pressure to meet work deadlines or attending school at an overcrowded university where there never seems to be parking.

While finding a more flexible job or attending a different university is unlikely when encountering chronic stressors, stress can be reduced to prepare for them. Get organized with a planner or phone reminders to meet deadlines. Consider leaving earlier to find better parking or explore less population-dense areas of the university.

7. Ripple Effect Stressors

Much like a stone cast into a water to create ripples, these stressors are set off due to a change in routine or a life event. Marriage, divorce, moving to a new home, or expecting a baby are all examples of ripple effect stressors.

Life-changing situations can be eased through the development of healthy relationships. Having a strong authentic support system through friends and family that you can confide in will make both catastrophic and exciting events seem like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Health Implications & Symptoms of Stressors

The medical and health conditions that develop because of the above-mentioned types of stressors are known as physical stressors. We can see and feel the effects of physical stressors when our body is sore, low on energy, and our weight fluctuates.

Chronic stress has the tendency to build up in a very dangerous way. Research shows that failure to acknowledge or treat chronic stress can result in a variety of medical issues including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Sinus infections
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure

When placed under stress, adults indulge in overeating unhealthy foods (a common comfort), skip meals, and lose sleep due to lying awake at night. Whether positive or negative, ripple effect stressors are one of the top stressors that cause adults to experience a change in eating and sleeping habits.

Regular physical activity and a balanced diet relieve physical tension, replenish energy, and improve sleep that may have been lost due to stress (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

Regardless of which types of stressors you experience, a healthy mind and body will be better prepared to endure the impact of stress at any time.

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Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.

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