Causes of stress - Mind
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Stress

Explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. Includes information about ways you can help yourself and how to get support.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg.

What causes stress?

Many things can cause stress. You might feel stressed because of one big event or situation in your life. Or it might be a build-up of lots of smaller things.

This might make it harder for you to identify what's making you feel stressed, or to explain it to other people.

You may experience stress if you:

  • Feel under lots of pressure
  • Face big changes in your life
  • Are worried about something
  • Don't have much or any control over the outcome of a situation
  • Have responsibilities that you find overwhelming
  • Don't have enough work, activities or change in your life
  • Experience discrimination, hate or abuse
  • Are going through a period of uncertainty

“Stressful life events, which in isolation might seem less significant, combined to have a real impact on my mental health.”

Why do certain things make me feel stressed?

How stressed you feel in different situations may depend on factors like:

  • How comfortable you feel in certain types of situation
  • What else you are going through at the time
  • Your past experiences, and how these affect the way you feel about yourself
  • The resources you have available to you, such as time and money
  • The amount of support you have from other people

Some situations that don't bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress. This is because we are all influenced by different experiences. We also have different levels of support and ways of coping.

Certain events might also make you feel stressed sometimes, but not every time. 

For example, if you go shopping for food with enough time and money, you may not feel stressed. But you might feel stressed if you have lots of other things to do, have a tight budget, or need to buy food for a big event.

I get stressed when things get out of perspective – too much work, thinking too far ahead.

What kind of situations can cause stress?

Many things can cause stress in different areas of our lives. These may include:

Personal

  • Illness or injury
  • Pregnancy and becoming a parent
  • Infertility and problems having children
  • Bereavement
  • Experiencing abuse
  • Experiencing crime and the justice system, such as being arrested, going to court or being a witness
  • Organising a complicated event, like a holiday
  • Everyday tasks, such as household chores or taking transport

Friends and family

  • Getting married or civil partnered
  • Going through a break-up or getting divorced
  • Difficult relationships with parents, siblings, friends or children
  • Being a carer

My breakdown [...] was due to having a stressful job as a project manager and dealing with a marriage break up and subsequent divorce.

Employment and study

  • Losing your job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Retiring
  • Exams and deadlines
  • Difficult situations or colleagues at work
  • Starting a new job
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Housing

  • Housing problems, such as poor living conditions, lack of security or homelessness
  • Moving house
  • Problems with neighbours

Money

  • Worries about money or benefits
  • Living in poverty
  • Managing debt

Social factors

  • Having poor access to services such as medical care, green spaces or transport
  • Living through a stressful community-wide, national or global event, like the coronavirus pandemic
  • Experiencing stigma or discrimination, including racismhomophobia, biphobia or transphobia
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Read more about racism and mental health

Can happy events cause stress?

Some of these situations are often thought of as happy events. For example, you might feel expected to be happy or excited about getting married or having a baby.

But these events can bring big changes, and you might experience new or unusual demands. So they can still feel very stressful. This can be difficult to deal with, especially if you also feel pressure to be positive.

I've never been more stressed in my life than the 6 months leading up to my wedding... everyone kept asking me if I was happy and expecting me to be excited all the time, but I just couldn't feel it. I ended up getting really ill.

This information was published in March 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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