Identifying the cause of stress can be a difficult process as experience shows that just about anything can trigger stress. The problem is that stress differs greatly from one person to the next and stems from a combination of both external and internal factors. Identifying the external factors, such as a problem with a close relationship, the discovery of a health problem or the loss of a job, is often quite simple, but the difficulty lies in the fact that different people will deal with the same external factors in a very different manner internally.
Let's take as an example two individuals who both lose their job. One person may find this extremely stressful and view the loss of their job in terms of the affect that this will have on their income. With a family to support, a mortgage to pay, car payments to meet and the prospect of bills mounting, this may well be an extremely worrying time. The other individual by contrast may well see this as an opportunity, allowing him to move away from a job in which he was perhaps not entirely happy anyway and start afresh somewhere else with more opportunities for advancement and better prospects for building a secure future.
Yet another example might be two individuals who both find themselves ending a close relationship. One individual may view this situation with extreme sadness and may find that the hole which this leaves in their life is extremely stressful. By contrast, the other individual may see this is much less of a loss and more of an exciting opportunity to go out and meet new friends.
Despite the fact that in both of these examples the external factors were the same, the reactions of the individuals concerned were quite different and this difference in interpretation is essentially the factor which determines whether or not the external factors lead to stress.
Against the background of the examples given here we should remember however that individuals within a culture will often share many similar views and have a common outlook on life. As we are all human beings we will also share some common physical risks.
There are certain circumstances, for example, which are more likely than not to lead to stress in most individuals. If your doctor tells you for example that you have cancer it is unlikely that you will meet this news with calm acceptance. Similarly, if you're shopping at your local convenience store and two men carrying automatic pistols walk in to rob he store it's a fair bet that you'll find the situation quite stressful.
The real problem in finding a cause for stress lies in the fact that it is not the external circumstances that lead to stress, but the individual's interpretation of the situation and, in particular, his expectations for the outcome based upon his evaluation of his capacity to meet the demands of the situation.
If you are the sort of individual who sees major hurdles in life as a series of challenges and you believe that there is little that you cannot overcome quickly and without too much difficulty, then there may be few situations in life which will cause you any real stress. If however you are constantly confronted with obstacles which you find it extremely difficult to overcome and which you perceive are just another example of life being unfair to you, then there is a fair chance that stress may play a significant part in your life.