Stop stress sign When we experience stress the first thing to do is identify the cause or source of stress. Once we know what causes stress we know where to look for a cure and then we can find out what to do to relieve stress.

1. Major Life Changes.

The biggest cause of stress would be a major life change, such as divorce, marriage, moving house, death of a loved one or a new job. Obviously this list is not exhaustive nor is it in any order. The death of a loved one would be much more stressful than moving to a new job. But in the big picture these large life changes can all cause stress.

You may notice that my list includes positives such as marriage. Big life changes, even if they are positive, still cause stress. The stress may be more welcome, but it is still stress.

If it is a major life change which is causing you stress, rethink do you really need this change? Is this really what you want? If not, do you have a choice over it? If you have no choice, or if the change is what you want, then using relieving stress techniques may be helpful in getting through the stressful period.

2. Poverty.

Money may not make us happy, but a lack of money can make us miserable and stressed. A study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School conducted in 2010 with responses from 450,000 Americans concluded that the optimum income for happiness was $75,000 per annum. Below this stress increases, above this there is no significant difference to happiness. This makes sense. At $75,000 you have enough income to meet your needs, and enough left over to allow choice in how you spend your free time.

People who have experienced poverty report it has an invasive grinding effect upon the psyche. It literally “grinds you down”. Poverty can cause stress with unpaid bills, debt collectors knocking at the door, embaressment as you cannot afford to pay for that school trip for your child, and the stress of trying to feed a family on a very small budget. Obviously the solution to stress caused by poverty is to increase your income.

Very few people would be poor from an active choice to be poor, and it is often a result of circumstances beyond one’s control. Increasing employable skills or taking on an extra job if one can be found can help alleviate poverty. Sharing a home to share expenses can help. For solo parents sharing living arrangements and childcare can provide support when children are younger. Finally, stress management techniques to help get you through can be a real bonus.

3. Unemployment.

This cause of stress is linked with number 2, poverty, but you do not need to experience one to experience the other. Because our identities are increasingly tied up in our occupations, losing a job can feel like you’ve lost a part of your identity. To illustrate what this means, imagine going to a party and being introduced to a new person. Amongst the small talk of getting to know someone new inevitably the question “what do you do?” comes up. If you’re unemployed this question would probably be uncomfortable at least.

The solution to this cause of stress is either to find a job, or create one for yourself by starting your own small business. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and there is more than one way to make money. Thinking outside the box can be a good way out of a bad situation.

4. Illness.

This is sometimes a bit of a chicken / egg argument. Which came first, illness or stress? Stress can certainly cause illness, and so the two are linked. Poor health limits our choices and movements, which can cause stress. Illness which causes pain would cause pain induced stress. Illness reminds us we are mortal, that eventually we all will die. This reminder surely is stressful. If illness is caused wholly or in part by stress then addressing your response to stress and practicing stress relief techniques can be very helpful in improving health.

5. Work Stress.

With the economy in dire straits since October 2010 many people who still have jobs find they are being asked to do more, for longer, for the same or less money. This can be a cause of stress. You can feel like you’re being asked to do more and more, but that it’s never enough.

Because we need money for survival, to buy food and put a roof over our heads, money and the acquisition of money drives our behavior very strongly. If we have a job we hate this can cause huge stress. We may feel like we cannot quit the job, especially when unemployment is high, so we stay unhappily and the stress builds up.

If the stress is caused by one particular person at work then you may want to think about how to best approach that person. If the stress is caused by the tasks or structure of the job itself this may be more difficult to address. Management may be open to hearing your ideas on how to improve your job or they may not, but it’s probably worth a try. Stress relief techniques that you can do for yourself at home or in transit may help you how to manage stress in the workplace and approach your job in a different frame of mind, so that you may be able to relieve some of the stress.