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What Is A Stressor?

A stressor is an event, response or condition that can trigger your stress.

We all experience stressors – both good and bad. Learning how to identify your stressors is the first step to managing and controlling them.

Stressor Definition

A stressor is simply something that causes tension or strain.

Nearly all forms of life on earth experience stressors in their environment. Stressors can be good, for example when they warn us of potential danger. And stressors can be bad when they cause false alarms and bring about anxiety.

Here are some common examples of stressors:

  • Pressure or change at your place of work or losing your job
  • Life changes such as losing a loved one or divorce
  • Getting stuck in a crowd or in traffic
  • Having an unexpected illness
  • Going on a first date

How To Identify What Your Stressors Are

Everyone has reasons for feeling stressed out.

Perhaps you are stressed all of the time because you hate your job. Or maybe you have a relationship or financial problems. While these are common examples, there are endless reasons why people experience stress.

Even when you identify the primary stressors, there are likely a few additional minor causes that you need to identify as well.

  • Are you are suffering from a minor, but nagging medical condition from an old injury or pain from constant aching joints?
  • Have you gained some weight and feel uncomfortable because your clothes fit tighter than they used to?
  • Are you due for a medical exam but procrastinating because you’re worried about what the Doctor might find?

Less significant issues like these might seem like minor things compared to hating your job or having financial problems, but they need to handled as well.

If you do not deal with them, they can pile up and have a compounding effect on your overall stress levels.

The major stressors in your life will become even more overwhelming because of the accumulation effect of all the minor problems. You could end up feeling overwhelmed by the situation, and that’s when you could wind up doing something you’ll regret later.

For example, if you hate your job, quitting your job tomorrow might bring an immediate sense of relief (and even a little satisfaction that you got to tell your boss off as you made your exit) but it may soon bring another set of stress triggers that will disrupt your life.

The key to reducing your stress levels is to identify everything that’s causing you stress – both major and minor things. You can break down the main stressors into smaller pieces. This will make each individual thing seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, they will be easier to take action on individually.

By breaking things down into manageable pieces, you can start removing some of these stress triggers from your life. Some things will take longer to remove completely, but at least you will have made a start.

Just the thought of being more in control of your life can make a big difference. The fact that you are taking decisive action can help reduce your stress levels significantly.

Q: Is Illness Considered A Behavioral Stressor? Or A Biological Stressor?

Illness is classified as a biological stressor because it involves biochemical changes in the body. For example a virus, injuries, or a disability.

A behavioral stressor is something caused by the outside world (our environment). For example sleep problems, diet, or emotions.

Action Plan: Identify Your Stressors

#1 – Grab a notebook and write down everything you consider to be stressful, or that makes you feel nervous or anxious. Include all the little things that upset you, as well as the larger causes of stress such as job challenges, financial struggles and relationship problems.

#2 – Next, break down the major causes of your stress and be more specific. For example, if you hate your job, write down exactly what is bothering you about the job so much. Is it your boss? Co-workers? Is the specific work itself?

If you have financial problems, can you identify what lead to these money shortages? Have you made a mistake by running up too much credit card debt? Or is it your low-paying job that is leading to your financial problems?

#3 – Now drill down even further if you can, so you dial in more specifically what is causing your stress. For example, going back to the work situation, is it your boss who is the cause of your elevated stress levels? If so, why? Is it because your stuck in your current salary? Does he or she expect you to do more work than you can manage? Have you been passed you over for promotions? Do you feel like you can do more?

#4 – Now study your notes and put some deep thought into everything that’s causing you stress, because it’s time to take action. Look at what you can immediately change or remove from your life to reduce your stressors. Start with the simple issues first and work your way through to the complicated ones. Write down some goals to make change and a plan to implement them. Once you start taking action you should see your list of stressors getting smaller, which in turn will make you feel calmer and more in control of your life.

#5 – Think of your notebook like a living journal. Keep it with you and write down anything new that makes you feel anxious as events change. There are likely things that you hadn’t realized at first were causing your stress levels to rise. This exercise will keep you on top of your stress, rather than letting stress get on top of you.


All of us have our stressors – both good and bad.

A stressor is a something that can cause you to stress.

Learning how to identify your stressors is the first step to managing and controlling your stress levels.

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The first step to stress reduction is identifying what is causing your stess.

Follow the steps above to identify your stressors and start taking control of yourself again.

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