This is the 7th in a series of blogs, using answers to pass Mental Health qualifications.

Defining Stress

Stress is considered to be the emotional and/or physical response of a person, when faced with a challenging situation.

Many would say the emotional and physical reactions are adverse, causing more stress in a person.

Stress is the build-up of pressures and demands put on a person, and everyone has varying levels of tolerance of those pressures and demands.  Pressures and demands come from many different sources in life and work.

Causes of Stress

Causes of stress differ with every individual.  Causes include, but not restricted to:

  • Death of a loved one,
  • Breakup of relationships and divorce,
  • Changes in the home environment, including the above but including introduction of babies, children, new relationships, pets and moving home,
  • Work related pressures and deadlines, including too much work, too little work, threat of job losses, strict deadlines and targets,
  • Anxiety caused by study including exam pressure, deadlines, peer pressure, the desire to achieve and please and to succeed,

Financial problems.

Ultimately, all of these, and others, are events that cause some sort of challenge or change.  People generally fear these, being uncertain of the outcomes and not feeling in control.  These, themselves, are also considered to be stressors.

People tend to put themselves under pressure too, with the desire to please, with things like how they should be coping under stressful situations and with pressures, how they should look and behave, and it is these added pressures that can also cause stress.

Possible causes of stress in the workplace

There are many, many studies and research about stress in the workplace and how absenteeism and presentism can cause more undue pressures and so, stress, to the individuals and those they work with.
The HSE states there are 6 main causes of stress in the workplace, being
– The demands of the job
– The degree of control people have over their working conditions and how to do their work
– The level of support people receive from managers, supervisors and work colleagues,
– Working relationships, whether inter-departmental or within the same team,
– Improper or incorrect communication of an individual’s roles and responsibilities,
– Inadequate communication of workplace changes.

Breaking down into more succinct causes, in my experience the main causes of workplace stress are:
Bullying in the workplace by managers and colleagues
Sexism and inequality of pay and conditions
Poor appraisal systems with people only being spoken to when it’s ‘a telling off’ rather constant feedback and criticism, both positive and negative.
Changes being made without proper consultation or communication, leaving people frustrated, fearful and not involved.
High expectations of others of the work that can be completed in the time allowed, with unrealistic deadlines, goals and targets.
Other colleagues high levels of absence causing someone else to have an increased workload, when they may already have more than enough.
Redundancies causing uncertainty, and perhaps increased workloads, usually without adequate training.
Poor training of being able to complete the work, causing feelings of inadequacy and dreading criticism and meetings.

The next blog will focus on how stress can affect people.

Tracey of PlumEssence Therapies and Training is a Mental Health First Aider and teacher / trainer for a range of Mental Health Awareness qualifications and accredited First Aid for Mental Health courses. 
If you are interested in any therapies that help with physical and emotional concerns, treatments or courses, please make contact on 01889 808388 or 07803 399594 or email

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