What causes stress?

Stressors are things that happen in your life that can cause stress. We usually think of stressors as being negative. Examples of negative stressors could be an exhausting school schedule, or a rocky relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, anything that forces us to adjust or change can be a stressor.

Common stressors

When we think of stress, we may think about something really big, serious or overwhelming. But a lot of times, stress can be caused by little things like missing the bus, having a bad night’s sleep, fighting with a friend or sibling or dealing with a teacher. These little things can add up!

Here are some examples of things that can cause stress: 

• Practicing for an important concert performance

• Going to a fun party that lasts until 1:00 am and leaves you tired the next day

• Having a big test at school

• Worrying about whether your parent(s) will be mad about something

• Worrying about what your friends think about you

• Having your best friend from out of town come to stay at your house for a week

• Getting a bad cold

• Missing school because of a flare

• Worrying about your parent’s problems

• Wondering if someone likes you or thinks you’re attractive

• Not having enough privacy at home or at school

• Moving to a new school

• Re/marriage of a parent

• Not having enough money

• Having a teacher who you think doesn’t like you

• Skipping meals that your body needs to stay healthy

• Exercising too much in one day

Remember, there are many causes of stress or stressors. Something that is stressful to you may not be stressful to someone else. For example, taking the bus to school in the morning may make you anxious and tense. You may worry that traffic will make you late or the long ride will make you stiff and sore. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they enjoy listening to music and talking to their friends on the bus.

What are your stressors?

Stress and bad feelings: a vicious cycle

Any one source of stress may be easy for you to handle. However, when more and more frustrating, irritating and stressful things happen, they can build up until you feel overwhelmed.

Certain types of thinking and feelings can make stress seem harder to deal with. Bad feelings are like a magnifying glass on stress. They make stress seem bigger and more overwhelming. It’s like a vicious circle; bad feelings make us worry and worry makes stress much worse.

How does stress work?

Now that you have thought about some of the things in your life that have caused you stress, it is important to learn more about how stress works.

Some stress is good because it can help you perform better. When you cross a busy street, stress can make you more alert and careful. If you are determined to play a sport, stress can make you practice harder. Stress is caused by your body’s instinct to protect itself from emotional or physical pressure or, in extreme situations, from danger.

When you are under stress, your muscles get a big dose of energy called adrenalin. This energy prepares you to fight or run. In other words, stress makes you more alert and ready to act. But if you have too much stress or if it goes on for a long time, you don’t burn up the extra energy in your muscles. When this happens, your body can become tense, your heart beats faster, and your body may start feeling sick or tired.

When stress starts to build, the increased tension can lead to physical changes in your body such as muscle tension and narrowing or widening of blood vessels. These physical changes can lead to JIA flares. They can make your symptoms of pain, stiffness, and fatigue worse.

JIA symptoms can be made worse by stress that happens in your mind (emotional stress) or body (physical stress).


Welcome to the Taking Charge: Managing JIA Online Program! In this section you will learn what to expect in the program, how to get started and how to set goals to better manage JIA.

JIA stands for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Find out what causes JIA, the different types of JIA and how it will affect you now and in the future.

Diagnosing JIA may be difficult as joint pain and swelling may be a part of many different illnesses. Diagnosis of JIA typically includes a physical exam, blood tests and imaging studies.

Pain, stiffness, and tiredness or fatigue, are common symptoms of JIA. These symptoms can lead to difficulties with participating in school and sports activities, and enjoying time with your friends. Learn about pain, fatigue, and stiffness, how to manage symptoms and how these symptoms can cause stress.

There are several strategies you can use to help you cope with pain, stress, and sleep problems. These include relaxation, distraction, and managing your thoughts. In this section, learn more about how each of these strategies work.

When you know about your medications, you can talk to your doctor about them and make good choices for yourself. Find out about the different types of JIA medications, how they work, common side effects, and the importance of talking to your doctor about your medication plan.

Did you know that there are many other therapies that you can use to manage JIA symptoms? They can help to prevent complications so that you can do all the things you want to do. In this section, learn more about physical, occupational, and psychological therapies; maintaining healthy nutrition; surgical options for JIA, and more.

Your role in making decisions about your treatment plan is very important. Your health-care team and other members of your support system are available to help you make these decisions. In turn, they can help you to manage your JIA.

Whether you have JIA or not, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Find out how to stay healthy and active, learn about puberty and relationships, healthy body image, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Sometime between the ages of 18 to 22, you most likely will transition from your pediatric rheumatologist to the adult health care setting. At that time, there are a number of things you, your family, and your health-care team can do to help make this change go smoothly.