One of the facts that makes identifying the causes of stress difficult is that they can be nearly anything and can differ from person to person.
Losing a job, ending a close relationship, discovering a health problem… in the modern world there is no shortage of possible initiators. Also, some people react to these facts very differently than others. While some will be anxious, others will be stoic. Some people may thrive on the challenge of finding a new love, others may feel lonely and despair at the odds of fulfilling their dream.
The causes are neither entirely external nor internal, but generally involve both.
Losing a job can be an occasion for stress. A person may see his or her income plummet and wonder where the next paycheck is going to come from. Another, even in the same job market, may see the change as an opportunity to move away from a less than ideal situation to one that will be better in the future.
Similarly, ending a close relationship – whether with a friend, a romantic partner, a valued family member – can be stressful. But very quickly, at least in some cases, a person can come to view the situation as involving less of a loss or more of a chance to find a new love. Reactions vary because individuals are unique. They interpret their experiences differently.
But, though different, individuals within a culture often share many similar views and a common outlook. Because individuals are individual humans, they also share common physical risks.
Nearly everyone will be stressed if they are confronted by a dangerous criminal. Severe health problems – radical cancer, debilitating arthritis or even ‘just’ a major operation – will rarely be met with calm acceptance, at least initially. Many non-threatening circumstances will be met with similar feelings as well. Unjust treatment at work by an unreasonable supervisor, disrespect by neighbors or just simple indifference to justice will cause stress for nearly anyone.
The underlying causes of stress often have less to do with the external circumstances than an individual’s expectations for the future and their evaluation of their own capacity to meet them.
If someone discovers the need to have a tumor removed, they may feel some stress. But, it can be less than another would feel if they believe their general health is good and they’ll come through well. Someone who loses a job may be concerned, but their confidence in their ability to obtain another quickly and easily can result in only minor stress.
These examples show that both the causes of stress and the degree and length of time it’s felt are a function of several factors. One of the major factors is the attitude of the person in the given situation. If you feel you can overcome serious hurdles quickly or without major loss, you will evaluate fewer external events as a cause for stress. When you do experience it, the degree of stress will be less.