Top 10 life-event stressors

top life event stressors

A recent survey revealed that South Africans’ psychological and emotional stress levels have shot up by 56% since the start of the pandemic. Stress is a fact of life.

But never in the history of humankind have people been more stressed out and anxious than in this age of technology, information overload and professional and social complexity.  Add to this, the financial hardship that the majority of South Africans are experiencing, what with the high cost of living, the increasing fuel prices, constant load shedding, and many more challenges. More and more people, are finding that the stress is taking its toll, physically and emotionally.

What is stress?

You become stressed whenever a situation or an event demands more than you believe you’re able to give. This can be a response to a positive or negative event, or to an ongoing situation. The definition of stress is that; it is a feeling you get when the “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise.

Major changes such as weddings or moving house are among the most stressful events someone can experience. Of course, the death of a spouse or child is arguably the most stressful of all.  The effects, physical and emotional, will linger for a long time to come.  Sometimes it can even result in heart attack and death  –  a condition known as broken heart syndrome.

Today’s human stress storm

People routinely suffer chronic stress as a result of financial woes, work pressure, a bullying boss, relationship troubles, or the challenges of parenting. All these stressors may cause anxiety, irritability, depression, headaches, insomnia, and other serious physical or psychological symptoms.

But add to these the realities of real life and cyberbullying at work or school, and you have a modern-day human stress storm never encountered before. Teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable to online bullying on social media, particularly on TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp groups. However, cyberbullying can take place on any platform, via text message or email, or in forums and on gaming platforms. This is a major cause of teenage depression and has been known to result in suicide in some cases.

Top 10 life-event stressors

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale lists these 10 life events most stressful for adults, to the extent that they can make you sick.

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marriage separation
  4. Imprisonment
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Job loss
  9. Marriage reconciliation
  10. Retirement

Importance of managing your stress

What is of vital importance, is the way in which you manage your stress.

Constant high levels of stress will put your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium and physical health.

Effective stress management will help you break the hold stress has on your life so you can be happier, healthier and more productive. Your ultimate goal should be a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun. Stress management is however not one-size-fits-all. It is therefore important to experiment and find out what works best for you.

For some more helpful tips, read our article on techniques for dealing with stressful situations.

Everybody handles stress in their own way. When severely stressed, walk away from the situation or person upsetting you. Exercise is one of the best ways to gain perspective and it is important to maintain a positive attitude. If nothing works and your health suffers as a result, see your doctor or mental health professional.

By Linda Cilliers


The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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