For there to be stress, a trigger or STRESSOR, must be present to initiate, the feelings and perceptions, of coping with stress.

Stressor Definition

The life situation or demand which increases the pressure, load and our perception of the effects of these threats or issues on hand.

The presence of these stressors will invoke a stress response by the individual. Stressors can cause physical, chemical and mental responses internally. 

Transactional Model of Stress and Coping of Richard Lazarus. Image credit Philipp Guttmann.

Physical stressors

Physical stressors produce mechanical stresses on skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves that cause tissue deformation and (in extreme cases) tissue failure. 

Physical stressors may produce pain and impair work performance. Chronic pain and impairment requiring medical attention may result from extreme physical stressors or if there is not sufficient recovery time between successive exposures. 

A recent study shows that physical office clutter could be an example of physical stressors in a workplace setting.

Chemical stresses

Chemical stresses also produce biomechanical responses associated with metabolism and tissue repair. Scientists found that the earliest response to stress happens in the brain within seconds of perceiving a stressor. 

Chemicals which signal between nerve cells (neurotransmitters) are released. These include serotonin and adrenaline. Following this, stress hormones are released, which particularly affect areas of the brain key for memory and regulating emotions. Repeated stress changes how well these systems can control the stress response.

Life Change Units

A system of LIFE Change Units was developed as a tool for assigning and grading some common stressful situations we are most likely to encounter. This is not an exhaustive list but sufficient for our explanation.

Life eventLife change units
Death of a spouse100
Marital separation65
Death of a close family member63
Personal injury or illness53
Dismissal from work47
Marital reconciliation45
Change in health of family member44
Business readjustment39
Gain a new family member39
Sexual difficulties39
Change in financial state38
Death of a close friend37

Get In Touch

If you are experiencing any of the above stressors and not managing to cope or feeling overwhelmed: