The Different Types Of Stressors And How To Deal With Them

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated September 30, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Stress can be a natural response to changes in our body or environment. It often helps us remain aware of our surroundings and survive potentially dangerous situations. However, excess stress can negatively impact our minds and bodies, particularly when we aren't sure why it's happening. 

The sources of stress are known as stressors. Learning more about stressors can help you reduce your exposure and adverse reactions to them. There are several potential stressors, manifestations of stress, and ways to prevent stress from negatively impacting your life.

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Stress Can Have A Significant Impact On Your Quality Of Life

What Are Stressors?

The word "stressors" refers to the internal and external stimuli that create feelings of stress. They are the signs that might tell our minds and bodies that something dangerous, complex, or harmful is occurring. Stressors can be certain situations, emotions, people, or physical sensations. 

A stressor could be sitting in traffic, an upcoming presentation, or an illness. A stressor often causes a stress reaction but is not the emotion or experience of stress itself. Separating stress from the cause may help you find ways to reduce it. 

Types Of Stressors

There are several categories of stressors that you may experience, which could overlap. For example, you might experience chronic and acute biological or internal stressors that are both biological and psychological. 

Below are several types of stressors. Consider creating a list of stressors you experience to write about or discuss with your therapist. 

Biological Stressors Vs. Psychological Stressors

Biological stressors are those that you might notice in your body first. They can include illnesses, injuries, hunger, coldness, and other physical sensations or ailments. Have you ever noticed that you felt more stressed when in pain? This feeling may come from a biological stressor. 

Psychological stressors are a broader category of scenarios, events, and feelings. Psychological stressors may include biological stressors, high-pressure situations (e.g., meeting a deadline, taking a test, or public speaking), or significant life changes. Often, psychological stress comes from the meaning you ascribe to the situation. 

Another example of psychological stress is when sensory cues around you remind you of past psychological trauma and cause you to relive the experience or feel the same emotions. The threat may be over at that point, but you might still feel stress and other challenging emotions. 


Acute Stressors Vs. Chronic Stressors Vs. Episodic Acute Stressors

Acute stressors are often short-term sources of stress that may show up without regularity. These short-term stressors can include things such as a job interview or an argument with a loved one. If acute stressors are felt at regular intervals, they may become episodic. 

Episodic acute stressors can occur when someone consistently takes on many responsibilities, experiences conflict in relationships, or struggles with tension, aggressive behavior, or anxiety. They are often repeated acute (short-term) events, such as recurring arguments, frequent stressful appointments, or unhealthy conflict styles.  

Chronic stressors are often considered a severe form of stress. They are ongoing stressors that persist for an extended period and may impact your mental and physical health. 

Chronic stressors often occur during high-risk jobs, periods of financial hardship, and other long-term situations in which you frequently feel you must be on your guard. 

Environmental Stressors Vs. Internal Stressors

Environmental stressors are stimuli that come from your surroundings. Cold weather, loud noises, a lack of resources, natural disasters, and allergens are all examples of potential environmental stressors. Environmental stressors can be challenging to avoid and manage because they may be or feel out of your control. 

Internal stressors are the thoughts and emotions you produce that often lead to stress. Internal stressors include the pressure you put on yourself to perform, feelings of inadequacy, or behaviors you feel you can't control. For example, college students often experience stress from the pressure they put on themselves to get good grades. This stress may lead to mental burnout

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Stress Can Have A Significant Impact On Your Quality Of Life

Psychosocial Stressors

The term "psychosocial" often refers to how social factors, thoughts, and behaviors interrelate. Psychosocial stressors include relationship stressors and other social stressors. For example, people who have social anxiety may feel nervousness and apprehension in social situations.

With psychosocial stress, you may feel that your relationship is being threatened internally by the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors you experience. Alternatively, the threat may come from outside the relationship through external stressors that affect the relationship's stability.

How To Manage Stress

You can use many stress management methods to reduce the impact of various stressors on your mental and physical health. You may find that some approaches work better than others or that certain stressors are best managed through specific techniques. 


Mindfulness is the process of bringing awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It has been shown to reduce stress and improve overall mental well-being. You can practice mindfulness by sitting or lying quietly, breathing deeply, or remaining aware of the thoughts and sensations you experience. 

Consider taking note of what you're feeling while you practice mindfulness, and let the thoughts enter your mind without judging them. Mindfulness can be practiced almost anywhere, anytime, so it can be a helpful tool when you're in a place with several environmental stressors. Studies show that practicing mindfulness on the go can be as effective as practicing it at home. 


Physical activity may help you release tension, produce mood-boosting endorphins, and improve sleep. To reduce the effect that biological stressors have on you, consider joining a gym, taking frequent walks, or starting an at-home workout routine.  


Self-care may consist of anything that helps nurture your body and mind. Self-care can mean eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, or avoiding drugs and alcohol. 

You can journal, meditate, exercise, or take a bath while caring for yourself. Consider creating a morning and night routine that incorporates several self-care practices so that you can stay consistent. 


Yoga is an exercise that may help calm your mind and body simultaneously. Beginners or experts can practice many different forms of yoga. 

Yoga can be a productive way to reduce stress, increase physical activity, and boost your immune system. Studies show that it can also be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Consult your doctor before trying any new exercise to minimize the risk of injury.

Managing Stress With Therapy

A licensed therapist may help you identify your stressors, understand how they impact your life, and work to address them. Online therapy can be a valuable option if you're considering stress therapy. 

Research shows that online therapy can be a stress management tool for individuals experiencing a variety of everyday stressors. In one study, for example, researchers found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy could significantly decrease feelings of stress in individuals whose stressors were related to physical health challenges. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can work by helping individuals reframe unhelpful thought patterns, such as those that may manifest as stressors.   

Consider working with a licensed therapist online if you'd like to understand your stressors and how to manage them. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow you to participate in therapy from home (or wherever you have an internet connection) through video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. 


Stressors can come in many forms and affect your life in several ways. Awareness of the stressors you deal with may help you address them as they arise. 

If you'd like help with stress management, a licensed mental health professional can give you valuable guidance. Consider reaching out to a licensed counselor to get started. 

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