Stress can originate from countless sources, often surprising, sources. Even the most joyful events in life can be causes for stress. There are a few events, however, which rate the highest on psychologists’ list of stress inducers. If you’re going through any of the following ten life events, you may want to look into ways to manage and relieve stress:

Death of a Spouse

According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, bereavement is the most stressful life event of all. The loss of a life partner brings with it significant emotional pain and confusion. Because even the most basic, everyday routines are disrupted after the death of a spouse, the stress is constant and often overwhelming.

Moving to a New House

Moving is third on most lists of life’s stressful events. As with the other top causes of stress, in moving your daily life is disrupted. When you move, your ordinary routines need to be re-established in foreign place, your support system may be left behind, and your budget may be depleted. This is all in addition to the stress of organizing your belongings, packing, and purchasing a new place to live.


Money is a leading source of stress for Americans, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Fatigue, a lowered immune system and anxiety are just a few of the symptoms of continued financial stress. With so many Americans deep in debt, this is one of the most common causes of high levels of chronic stress.


Loneliness, grief, and a sense of loss often accompany a divorce. Like the death of a spouse, divorce deprives one of emotional and financial support. The body reacts to this as a threat to survival, releasing substantial amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Carol Fletcher, a divorce lawyer in Appleton, says that even for divorcing couples whose relationship remains somewhat amiable, the adjustments they find themselves having to cope with on a daily basis make the separation process highly stressful and emotionally exhausting.

Separation or Breakup

An extended separation, or a breakup, can be unexpectedly stressful. Though not as wearing as a divorce, a separation from a romantic partner brings with it many of the same stress responses as your body’s way of responding to a perceived threat to its survival.

Injury or Illness

Physical injury and illness are always stressful, especially if the situation is prolonged. Chronic illness can bring exhaustion, financial complications, chronic pain, sleeplessness and feelings of isolation and frustration. Unfortunately, stress hormones often prolong illness and lower the immune system, so immediate measures to alleviate stress should be taken if one is sick or recovering from injury.


Anyone who has completed secondary education and beyond knows how stress-inducing most exams can be. People have been known to have recurring anxiety dreams about exams decades after they’ve left school—this is due to exams being perceived as a threat to future well-being, and thus regarded by the conscious as actual, physical sources of endangerment. Regular exposure to and preoccupation with exams will result in high levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the system, both a result of stress.


The happiest moment of a person’s life can also be the most stressful, especially if expectations are high. Weddings often involve tremendous amounts of planning. Marriages, even the happiest ones, require major life adjustments. These adjustments, much like those necessitated by moving, can be extremely stressful.

Losing a Job

The sudden loss of income, particularly by the primary earner in a family or partnership, can be emotionally and financially devastating. Again, this is perceived by the body as a threat to well-being and causes the release of unhealthy levels of stress hormones.


Leaving the workforce and life as you know it after decades of routine can be quite terrifying. Equally terrifying are the major life events that people face later in life, like bereavement, illness and financial changes.

Seeking help, slowing down, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and acknowledging the cause and merit of one’s emotions are some of the ways to handle life’s greatest stresses. Being prepared for certain events and knowing how you’ll react to them will help significantly when these most stressful of events threaten your physical and mental health.




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