5 Hidden Causes of Stress, That Might Shock You
Before delving into the causes of stress and anxiety, it’s important to briefly explore what happens within the body in response to stressors.
Under stress, several hormones are released into the human bloodstream, including the two main players called adrenaline and cortisol, which are released by the adrenal glands. These hormones trigger a “fight or flight” response to external stimuli and suppress the body’s normal functioning, including the digestive and reproductive systems.
But stress is not always bad. Under the right circumstances, this fight-or-flight response is necessary to avoid danger or overcome difficult challenges. The problem occurs when these stress hormones are constantly released into the bloodstream despite the absence of danger. The result: chronic stress.
Type A Personality
In the early 1960s, two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, coined the term “Type A” to describe people who tend to be highly competitive, achievers, hostile, impatient, and highly aware of time pressure.
Not only have studies found that people with a type A personality tend to experience more chronic stress than other humans, but that type A carries at least as much heart risk as high cholesterol or smoking.
This is because Type A personalities perceive the world as a hostile environment filled with stressors that threaten their safety. They are haunted by an underlying feeling of never being good enough and fight with all their might to prove themselves to the world.
Perception of low socioeconomic status
While studying non-human species, Sapolsky found that levels of stress hormones were highest among low-ranking members of social groups and lowest among those with high social status. But among humans, what matters most is the perception of classification and context.
For example, a low-ranking employee in a large organization may gain a sense of high social status as captain of a Sunday league football team. Meanwhile, a senior manager within the same organization may feel inferior because he is number ten instead of number one in the chain of command.
The same logic applies to economic status.
While poverty has been linked to high levels of stress, it is the feeling of being poor that can actually cause the highest levels of stress and anxiety. For example, if you are a millionaire surrounded by billionaire friends, you will probably feel poorer than if you are surrounded by friends who earn less than you.
Another contextual factor is social support. People with low socioeconomic status and strong social support tend to experience less stress than those with high socioeconomic status and a weak social support system around them.
Lack of sleep
In the context of stress, sleep deprivation not only prevents the sleep-induced reduction in stress hormones, it also causes them to increase.
But that is not all. High levels of stress hormones reduce sleep quality and contribute to insomnia, which in turn creates more stress and less sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.
The importance of sleep deserves to be repeated, including several scientific strategies for falling asleep when you can’t sleep.
According with the doctor. Sapolsky, chronic stress and anxiety in adulthood can be triggered by past traumatic events in childhood, including childhood abuse, unstable family environment, death or absence of a loved one, etc.
In fact, a baby in the womb can be marked with a propensity for high levels of stress and anxiety if the mother is under a lot of stress during her pregnancy.
Although the traumatic event occurred in the past, the victim’s mind tends to imagine and overestimate similar negative outcomes happening again. In a world of trauma victims, life is full of stressors that threaten your safety, and the only way to avoid danger is to stay alert and use coping mechanisms. Unsurprisingly, being aware of hazards 24/7 leads to high levels of stress and exhaustion.
Perceived lack of control
According to burnout research pioneer Dr. Christina Maslach, one of the biggest predictors of stress and burnout is a lack of control. This is particularly prevalent in corporate middle management roles, often fraught with control over resources, high and insufficient work demands, and little authority to get the job done. and as efficiently as possible.
But the effects of lack of control vary among individuals based on their past experiences and perceptions. For some, lack of control triggers stress and anxiety. For others, however, it is a source of pleasure and excitement.
While there are many underlying causes of stress, there is only one underlying cause behind it all: perception.
Perception is the lens through which we interpret and make sense of the world around us. It is the unique combination of images we have in our minds about ourselves, others, the past, the present and the future.
In essence, chronic stress and anxiety are the by-product of a negative perception of reality. This is a lens that sees the world as a dangerous place and a mind that constantly imagines worst-case scenarios.
In this perceived world, everything and everyone is a potential threat, and constant vigilance, which creates more stress, is the only way to protect yourself from danger. Unfortunately, most of us live in this scarce, highly competitive and dangerous world. But we don’t need to.
There is another world out there that can only be seen through a pair of pure, neutral glasses. And the few who live in this world are free from stress and its ill effects.
Through this lens, the world is neither a dangerous nor a safe place, and scarcity and competition do not exist. Life reveals itself in new and surprising ways every moment. We all already lived in this world as innocent children, before life events, culture and the media created our current perception of reality.
If the dime drops, you will suddenly realize the truth: the root cause of your stress and anxiety is your conditioning.
We have been conditioned from birth to feel inadequate, seek external approval, and live in fear. And so we try to control our environment, including future events imagined in our heads. The result is a stressful life.
Ultimately, those who live stress-free lives are those who have the courage to let go of their conditioned perception of reality, focus only on what they can control in the present moment, and let go of everything else.