Leaving aside the lengthy definitions of the human body’s stress response and how it developed over the ages, stress is exactly what its dictionary meaning states “a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy”. While much has been written about the affects that stress, chronic stress and acute stress has on the human body and mind, what is also important to understand are the various aspects that cause stress.
Listing the various causes of stress may actually become an endless and futile exercise. This is mainly because of the fact that there is no comprehensive list of events, circumstances, situations or disturbances that exists. The events that cause stress in some people may not cause stress in another. When you study the causes closely, you may actually be surprised at some of the specific situations that can cause stress to others.
There can be countless causes as each individual responds differently to situations. A situation may be extremely stressful to one, moderately stressful to another and still mean nothing to yet another. There are many people who take death as part of normal cycle of life and death and do not feel stressed even at the death of a loved one. At the same time, for some, every thing and anything, from a simple delay in flight to bringing up a teenager, can cause stress.
Whether you consider a situation as a stressful one and allow yourself to get stressed is a choice that we all have. A sudden loss of money, if handled with a relaxed attitude and focused will and a readiness to face life’s hardships does not bring feelings of anger and frustration. Marital conflicts may indeed make life hell for you if you are prone to respond with accusations and frustration. A potential stressor ceases to remain a cause of stress if the situation is accepted as part of life’s challenges that need to be faced.
Stress is, in fact, your reaction to what life hands out to you. A lot of stress can be avoided or created by the way we react to specific events or information. Indirectly, it means that you and you alone are responsible for the amount of stress that you take or do not take since all stress is created by what you perceive rather than what actually transpires. It is therefore, logical to state that stress can be avoided by simple changing perception.
Despite the individual nature of the various causes, there are some broad areas that present themselves as aspects that have a higher potential to cause stress. Job security, financial issues, tension in relationships, upbringing of children and teens, the health of the elderly at home and the like are the most common potential causes.
While symptoms of stress among adult men and women are similar, there are some specific symptoms that are likely to surface more frequently among women. The causes of female stress, on the other hand, tend to be fairly different from the causes of stress in men.
Women have different emotional dispositions and personalities as compared to men and therefore while the physiological changes that occur during stress are the same, women tend to have different kinds of reactions at varying severity levels. Consequently, their reaction to stress as well as coping mechanisms tend to be different from men.
Women are also more likely to experience stress. Not only do they have to play a multiple roles of a homemaker, a mother and a professional, they also have the added responsibility of bearing children too. Managing these multiple roles is one of the main causes of stress among women. Lack of reciprocal and joint emotional management in families augments the situation causing the stressful condition to precipitate.
The emotional and psychological symptoms of stress among women are actually related closely to the physical make up of the female body. Female irritability and mood swings associated with symptoms of post menstrual syndrome have been a subject matter of research since long. Apart from these peculiar stress symptoms experienced during and after menstruation, some of the other typical symptoms of stress that demand special mention include:
Women who have been through various stressful events tend to experience tension headaches, some times daily, if the stress level remains high. In chronic conditions these headaches refuse to go away despite medication.
A working woman has two full time jobs – one at workplace and the other as a mother. The sheer enormity of the work leads to stress related insomnia, often requiring medication to get the much required rest.
Female irritability is not only a sign of post menstrual syndrome. Irritability can also occur due to the overwhelming amount of tasks that women have to perform. Wondering how everything will get done, women often get stressed out, which leads to irritability. Female irritability often translates into lashing out at children, husband and colleagues.
Often dismissed as insignificant occurrences, frequent memory lapses are a typical sign of stress in women. Actually the mind is so focused and concentrated in handling a specific task at hand that missing out on certain aspects that need to be remembered becomes common. A woman will often forget why she went to the kitchen and will remember only when she is back that it was the pot of coffee that she forgot to bring along.
Increased vulnerability to illness
Stressed women are more susceptible to developing infections and skin diseases. This is mainly due to the negative affects that constant stress has on the immune system. Women are also known to develop shingles due to stress.
As adults we tend to feel that childhood is a happy and carefree time of life. While a large number of children are indeed carefree, it is foolhardy to assume that children do not undergo stress. This is especially true in the day and age of today where the society puts a fair amount of pressure on performance in every sphere of life. Today this paranoia with performance is taking its toll on children as well where many parents deprive their toddlers and teenagers of a carefree childhood by making them run after better grades and better performance in sports and the like.
High expectations in academic performance, deprived childhood, and peer pressure, hormonal and physiological changes while growing up coupled with the demands for familial responsibility are some major source of stress in children. Another extremely common source of stress in children is stressed parents, who create an atmosphere of tension in the house and are not emotionally available for their children.
While the physiological, psychological and emotional symptoms of stress in children are similar to those of adults, there are various other symptoms that you can observe. Stressed children are vulnerable to anxiety disorders, which can affect their performances at school. Many respond with aggression and indignation.
Children and teenagers who are overly stressed usually display emotional signs like:
- Exhibition of extreme reactions and emotions
- Attention grabbing behavior
- Excessive shyness
- Social phobia, especially among the peer group
- Lack of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities
- Irritability and mood swings
It is only natural for children and teenagers to keep their feelings from their parents. It is therefore extremely important that you develop a bond that is based on trust and love with your children. Only when you understand your children completely will you be able to know when they are going through a tough phase. It is also important to note here that you should not be overbearing and monitor changes in behavior and moods carefully.
Teach your child how to manage situations in life. The best way you can do it is by setting a good example yourself. If your child sees you coping with day-to-day stressors with calmness and serenity you are bound to spur similar traits in him/her.
Never forget to compliment your child on achievements. Hugging and kissing is one of the best ways of showing young children that you care. More importantly, do not expect your child to excel in something he/she may not be interested in.