Stress comes from many sources. A doctor or counselor may spend time exploring these different categories with you:
Physical and Psychological Stressors
Physical stressors include everything from lack of sleep to invasive surgery. Common psychological stressors evoke distressing emotions, such as hate, anger, sadness and fear.
Past, Present and Future Stressors
Past stressors, such as a traumatic childhood experience, may continue to exert pressure in the present. Present stressors include work deadlines and sales quotas. Future stressors include things that have not yet happened but that we worry about anyway, such as tax day.
Positive and Negative Stressors
Stress can be positive (a promotion, getting married) or negative (job loss, divorce). Although positive events are usually better, they can be stressful because often something is given up when something is gained. For example, you made trade the ease and comfort of an old job for the excitement of a new job, but the new job includes challenges, too.
Acute and Chronic Stressors
Acute stress comes on suddenly and lasts for a relatively short time, such as your babysitter calling in sick on the same day you have to give a big presentation at work.
Chronic stress is long lasting. It may stem from an unsatisfying job, an unhappy relationship or living in poverty. Chronic stress may also arise from traumatic childhood experiences.
Chronic stress is far more damaging than acute stress. Chronic stress can wear you down physically and mentally. When it lasts a long time, chronic stress can lead people to assume they must learn to live with it rather than trying to improve it. Addressing core problems and learning how to cope may help you avoid or reduce the damaging effects of stress.