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Where’s your stress from? Learn about different types of stressors

July 22, 2022 - 15 min read


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What are stressors?

7 types of stressors

5 types of stressors in the workplace

4 types of good stressorsz

What is the importance of knowing the different types of stressors?

Moving forward: How can a coach help you to manage stress?

I love puzzles. There’s nothing like the thrill of seeing how one piece after another fit together, until a beautiful picture is revealed. 

When you’re trying to figure out what types of stressors you have in your life, it’s like a puzzle. But not so beautiful. 

When you're in the midst of life, it can be challenging to recognize how all the pieces fit together. What exactly what causes your stress? We look for the obvious ones like a work deadline, sick kid, or argument with our partner. We tend to only think of negative stressors.

But there are a lot of other stressors. Stressors can be good or bad, brief or long-lasting. They can have positive effects and negative effects on our health, relationships, and growth.

When you're in the midst of stress, it's easy to be in a reactive mode. You're just trying to get through. Knowing more about stressors and how they might appear in your life can help with your stress management

Whatever stressors you have in life, identifying them helps you become more aware of how they are affecting you. The more you know about stress, the better you can take care of your mental health and well-being. You can make stress work for you.



What are stressors?

Stressors are simply any causes of stress. The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as our body’s response to demands or challenges of any kind. Everyone responds to stressors differently.

What could be a massive source of stress for someone might cause little stress for others. Stressors can come from anywhere in our lives and take the form of different types of stress. We can experience chronic or acute stress. 

Our brains release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that enact a fight-or-flight response when we encounter stressors. We become more alert, and our muscles tense up as we perceive a challenge.

These stress hormones reach every part of our bodies, from our nervous system to our immune system. Being too stressed can lead to health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, or various sleep problems

Stressful situations pop up in daily life, not just major life events or changes. That’s why we need to understand all the types of stressors and how they can impact all areas of our lives.

Stress is part of life. It shouldn't run your life. BetterUp coaches are here to guide you toward developing a new relationship with stress and stress management techniques that work for the stressors in your life.

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7 types of stressors

All of the different types of stressors can seem overwhelming at times. It doesn’t mean that we should feel guarded or on edge at all times, but knowing where they can come from can help us understand our feelings better. It helps us with our self-awareness and knowing what works for us and what doesn’t. 

Since stress can stick around for varying lengths of time, we can experience both acute and chronic stressors. 

Below are seven types of stressors that we encounter in life, along with some examples:

1. Physiological stressors

These stressors can come from pregnancy, injuries, or other physical health problems. Sometimes they come unexpectedly, like if we’re involved in a car accident or stem from other health issues that we’ve been facing.

2. Lifestyle stressors

The choices we make dictate our lifestyles. Some mean that we don’t get enough sleep or manage our time correctly. Our work-life balance also plays a key role in our lifestyle choices and our stressors.

A lifestyle stressor might be that our demanding job forces us to order lots of takeouts, which might not properly fuel our bodies.


3. Major life event stressors

Life changes can be a huge source of stress while we adjust. These could be positive sources of stress, like starting college, having a child, or getting married.

They can also be things that negatively change our lives, like losing a loved one or losing your job. Even major events like elections can cause stress.

4. Organizational stressors

Organizational means anything from our schools, workplaces, or even clubs. Our stressors can stem from the people we work with at these organizations or the rules we have to follow. They can also be from pressure, like working for a good grade or meeting a tight deadline at work.

5. Financial stressors

Financial stress is a significant source of stress for people of all ages. One survey found that 50% of respondents were stressed by simply talking about their finances. Other financial stressors can come from taxes, thinking about unpaid bills, and unexpected expenses.

6. Social stressors

Our social health is crucial for dealing with stressors. Many studies have found that having solid support is important for our physical and mental health. But a lack of social support or unhealthy social relationships can cause us stress and damage our mental health.

These stressors can stem from conflict with people close to us or loneliness.

7. Environmental stressors

Stressors that come from our environment are out of our control. We can encounter environmental stressors like excessive noise or traffic or things like natural disasters or war.

Sometimes we can manage them ourselves, like dealing with loud noises, but other times we don’t have control over things like hurricanes or tornados around us.

5 types of stressors in the workplace

The workplace is home to many stressors. Before you enter the workplace, you may feel stressed in anticipation of returning. You could be going back to work after maternity leave or returning to work after COVID-19.

Other reasons could be examples of what toxic stress is for you at work or learning how to decline a job offer


We’ve compiled a list of five types of stressors in the workplace to review:

  1. Having a conflict with coworkers and managers
  2. Experiencing burnout from overworking
  3. Doing things you aren’t comfortable with
  4. Feeling like you have no purpose in your work
  5. Having no agency at work

4 types of good stressors

You read that right. There are actually good types of stressors. Good stress, known as eustress, can be beneficial for you. It makes you feel excited, motivated and focused. In these scenarios, you can make stress work for you. Eustress is still a stress response often experienced on a short-term basis. 

Here are four examples of good types of stressors:

  1. Career growth: After tons of effort, you’ve earned a promotion. It’s exciting, but you’ll have new job responsibilities and learn new skills. Your stress levels may increase, but you’ll see your career growing.
  2. Financial obligations: You’re so excited that you just bought your first house, but you know it’ll cost you. It’s a great accomplishment, but you’ll still have monthly payments toward your mortgage. 
  3. Educational achievements: A letter came in the mail saying you were accepted into your first-choice college. You’re thrilled, but it’s stressful to move to a new city and start college. It’s a major life change — but it’s positive.
  4. Traveling opportunities: It’s the night before your flight to your dream vacation. You’re trying to rest, but the anticipation is too much. You can’t ignore how excited you are.


What is the importance of knowing the different types of stressors?

It’s important to be aware of the different types of stressors because it’s one of the first steps in effectively managing your stress. Understanding where your feelings come from is crucial to getting things under control.

Being connected to your surroundings and mindful of your feelings is how you’ll recognize the different types of stressors and how they impact you.

Stress becomes a problem when it’s not managed, and you feel like it’s out of control. It can feel like it dictates your life and your opportunities. But knowledge is power, and knowing more about it can return that sense of control. You’ll know what stress management techniques work the best for you and how best to calm yourself down

You’ll also know the types of stress and where they originate. Perhaps work stress is what’s bringing you down. Then, you’ll be able to figure out how to achieve stress relief or what kind of health care you need to receive. Understanding our bodies takes time and plenty of effort.

It doesn’t happen overnight, but having a better understanding of why we feel the way we do is a way of prioritizing and protecting our health for the future.

Moving forward: How can a coach help you to manage stress?


Perhaps your family members and friends are people you love talking to, but they aren’t capable of helping you manage your stress the way you need. But there’s someone who can help, and that someone is a coach.

A coach will guide you toward dealing with various things in your life besides managing stress. They can recognize what’s holding you back and what kind of work you need to do to achieve your goals.

A coach can help you develop healthier and more effective strategies for stress reduction. They may help you develop better habits for well-being and create your own set of practices to build up your mental fitness.

Both of these are key to being able to navigate the stress of change, uncertainty, and performance pressure that are part of life. 

A coach also gets to know the unique stressful events in your life, decipher what your stressors are, and how best to deal with them. Maybe you’ll need to do some inner child work, or perhaps you need to work on your work-life balance.

Your coach will help you implement habits that work for you and your specific types of stressors. Plus, they’ll be someone you can be honest and open with about the challenges you face.

Sometimes we need someone to talk to about the stress in our lives, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK because when we’re overwhelmed with stress, we need to remember that people are present to support us and help us manage our challenges.

If you need someone to help you find perspective and hold you accountable for working on your stress management, discover how BetterUp’s expert coaches can help you.

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Published July 22, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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