The term “stress factors”, also called stressors, includes all internal and external influences that can cause a stress reaction in the human body. Which circumstances act as stress factors for people and to what extent they do this varies greatly from person to person and depends on numerous factors. Stress factors are divided into several groups. Physical stressors, for example, include noise, heat and cold. On the other hand, mental stress factors are mostly based on internal and external performance demands or excessive demands.
Interpersonal conflicts, separations and the loss of loved ones are assigned to social stressors. The extent to which an external factor acts as a stress factor or not depends largely on the personality of the person concerned. For example, external pressure to perform is perceived very differently by people.

What can be stress factors?

Physical stress factors:

  • Long-lasting noise

  • Heat and cold

  • Pollutants

  • Bad light in the workplace

Mental stress factors:

  • Internal and external pressure to perform

  • revision

  • Feeling not living up to expectations

  • Over- and under-challenged

  • Competitive pressure

  • Unclear goals in the job

Social stress factors:

  • Loss of related parties

  • Breakups

  • Interpersonal conflicts

  • Job change

  • mobbing

Find out more about the topic: Consequences of stress

Can you measure stress factors?

With the exception of the physical stress factors, it is generally difficult to measure stress factors such as pressure to perform. Furthermore, there is the question of whether it makes sense to measure stress factors directly, since it is actually their effect on the individual that ultimately determines whether this triggers stress or not. The effects of a stressor on a person can be measured. Various methods can be used for this. There are now numerous psychological questionnaires that try to describe the influence of certain external factors on an individual and enable a distinction between light and strong stressors. Furthermore, the physical signs of acute stress can be measured. These include, for example, an increase in heart rate, increased sweating or an increase in muscle tension.

Also read the article on the topic: Are you stressed? - these are the signs

What are stressors in children?

While the stress response in children and adults can be very similar, there are large differences in the triggering factors. Social stress factors usually play an even greater role in children. One of the leading stressors in this context are family problems, such as a divorce, but also the loss of a parent. This is usually less well tolerated by children than is the case with adults. When one of the two parents leaves the family, the children often not only lack a loved one in everyday life, but also the child's thoughts about family security are broken and trust is lost.
Furthermore, a lack of security or a lack of trust are significant sources of stress for children. In addition, normal developmental steps such as attending kindergarten or school can mean enormous stress for children, as they have to get involved in a completely new social context and are usually overwhelmed at the beginning new claims are. The pressure to perform that many children suffer from on the part of their parents should also not be underestimated. It can quickly lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Do you suspect that your child is suffering from depression? Our next article will help you identify and eliminate them in good time: Depression in Children

How can you reduce stress factors?

If you intend to reduce your own stress levels, you should always first ask yourself which stress factors trigger the strongest stress reaction. Once these have been identified, various strategies can be pursued to reduce one's own stress level. The most banal method is to reduce or avoid the stress-inducing activity. However, since work or family tasks are often the strongest stressors, such an implementation is usually not possible. Rather, one should try to increase one's own stress perception and stress resistance.

Several relaxation exercises in studies have shown a significant increase in stress resistance. These include, for example, progressive muscle relaxation or certain forms of yoga. Other forms of exercise, such as jogging, can also have a positive impact. Furthermore, several everyday strategies for dealing with stress have been developed in recent years. This includes, for example, setting specific achievable goals for a day, better time management or creating a pleasant workplace. In addition, the aim should always be to achieve a good work-life balance.

Read more on the topic: How can you reduce stress?

What are positive stressors?

The concept of the positive stress factor sounds paradoxical to many people. But as we have already seen in the context of negative stress factors, it is also true here that stress factors are initially simply neutral internal and external stimuli that affect people. Whether this stimulus is ultimately assessed as negative or positive depends less on the stimulus itself and more on how you deal with it yourself. Stress factors, such as a full schedule, can be assessed as clearly negative by one person, whereas other people rate them as neutral or even positive.
Dealing with such stimuli depends above all on experience with them and one's own stress management mechanisms. This mechanism is also very often found in methods of stress reduction. The aim of these is often to train people to deal with stress factors in such a way that they can evaluate previously negative stress factors as positive and thus sustainably reduce the stress level.

What are stress hormones?

The term “stress hormones” includes all hormones that are increasingly released in the body as part of an acute and chronic stress reaction. The most important hormones involved in the stress response are the catecholamines and glucocorticoids. The catecholamines are largely responsible for our body's reaction within seconds and primarily include the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. They cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, they cause a release of our body's energy reserves so that it can deal with the acute stressful situation. With a little delay, the concentration of glucocorticoids increases, especially the most famous stress hormone, cortisol. This has numerous functions such as inhibiting the immune system, increasing the heart rate, mobilizing energy reserves, but also increasing alertness.

Read more on the topic: Stress hormones