Causes of stress

We experience stress every day of our lives. We can also experience too little stress which can lead to poor performance, just as too much stress does.

The symptoms of stress that we experience is part of the body’s normal reactive process. If the stress is prolonged, beyond a month or two say, then it is more likely to result in ongoing stress, anxiety or illness.


This type of stressor is unforeseen and unpredictable and is completely out of your control, for example, devastating natural disasters such as major floods, earthquakes or wars.

Though they are rare, they cause a great deal of stress in a person's life.

Major life events

Major life events include marriage, death of a loved one, birth of a child. These events can be either positive or negative.

They may or may not be stressful. We may often assume that the death of a loved one is a negatively stressful event, but if that loved one had been unwell for a long time, it’s possible that the event is not as negatively stressful as we would assume.

If it was a positive life event then it is unlikely to generate significant stress. Understandably, negative events can be linked to stress and associated health problems.

If you would like to test your stress level by taking our life experiences survey, please flollow this link.

Life Experiences Survey

Daily hassles/micro-stressors

This is the most common stressor and includes daily annoyances and minor hassles. Examples could include making decisions, meeting deadlines, dealing with irritating personalities, and can often include conflicts with people.

Daily stressors are different for everyone – what is stressful for you may not be stressful for another.

Ambient stressors

These are global (as opposed to individual) low-grade stressors that are a part of everyday life. They are the kinds of stressor that are ongoing, have a negative effect on you and are non-urgent. You can perceive them physically and yet you are unable to change them, such as pollution, noise, crowding or traffic.

Unlike the other three types of stressor, they can negatively impact stress without you being consciously aware of them.

Optimal stress levels

You will no doubt have seen the optimal stress graph. Clearly it shows that if you are not stressed enough then your perfomance will suffer because of boredom. Conversely, if you are too stessed then your performance will also suffer. While you are flying it is clearly a good idea to keep your arousal state at the optimum.

So if there are quiet times, do something that will ease your burden in the busy periods of flight. This will also have the added bonus of having you at an appropriate state of arousal should anything unplanned happen.

Recurrent training and keeping current will help you to keep your stress levels at the optimium if you have an inflight emergency, by exposing you to issues and being able to practise solving them.


Physiologically, day to day (chronic) stressors have a greater negative impact on your health than do more traumatic (acute) stressors which tend to have a start and end point. For example, daily stressors such as dealing with traffic, meeting deadlines, dealing with customers/clients, cause more harm to your health in the long run than major life events such as a death in the family.

Optimal arousal graph