Mental health factors

Last updated: September 7, 2021

This page describes the elements, circumstances, or influences which contribute to mental health--specifically stress, chronic illness and grief and loss.

On this page


Stress is a reaction of the body to demands placed on it.

People often say 'stress' or 'stressed' to refer to the body's reaction when demands exceed a person's capacity to cope.

While this notion of stress seems negative, a certain amount of stress is necessary and desirable.

At a reasonable level, stress can make us feel challenged and motivated.

Too little stress, however, can lead to boredom and low mood.

Even situations commonly seen as positive, like the birth of a child, being promoted or moving to a new home, can be stressful.

It's important to remember that people will experience the same stressful situation in different ways, and that personal and situational factors can make a huge difference.

Negative stress

There are several sources of negative stress.

Two of the largest categories of stress come from the workplace and from home life.


Workplace stressors are the subject of much research and debate.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety defines stress as 'the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.'

People often say the challenge of finding a balance between the demands of family and personal life and job responsibilities is a source of stress.

Stress experienced in one area of life can make stress in another feel worse.

Home and family

Home life stressors include:

  • Time constraints and scheduling
  • Child or elder care
  • Family, marital and interpersonal conflict
  • Health issues
  • Financial problems

Managing stress

Given that stressors can come from different sources, use a range of strategies to reduce their impacts.

For individuals

Consider practical strategies to deal with stress, from simple deep breathing to more complex methods.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has tips to help cope with stress, including the usefulness of recognizing symptoms and sources.

In the workplace

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety's Stress at Work (PDF, 612KB) summarizes workplace factors that influence stress and offers solutions for employees and supervisors.

Feeling like you have more control over the work environment can help you reduce stress for yourself or your work group. Employees and supervisors should make time to talk about workplace stressors and identify opportunities for change.

Grief and loss

Losing someone close to you can be very difficult. Grief is a normal process.

The experience of grief is different for everyone, but there are 3 stages that most people go through:

  • Numbness or shock
  • Disorganization – physical and emotional symptoms, including anger, guilt and emotional upheaval
  • Reorganization – moving past the pain and gaining new awareness of the value of people and experiences

What you can do

As you move through the stages of grief, try to:

  • Be with caring people
  • Take as much time as you need
  • Express your feelings
  • Accept a changed life
  • Reach out for help
  • Take care of your physical health
  • Support others in their grief
  • Come to terms with your loss
  • Make a new beginning
  • Postpone major life changes

Communicating with others, including your supervisor, is important in this time, especially if you need flexibility.

Chronic illness

Serious illness can cause changes in lifestyle and limit your mobility and independence. Many people with chronic illness experience depression or anxiety. In fact, depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness.

Mental health issues can also affect the management and treatment of chronic illnesses. Proactively manage your illness, practice mental health awareness and develop positive mental health habits.

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