Bak to Home - Shores of Positive Mental Health

Home - To the Shores of Positive Mental Health

Symptoms of Stress 



True Stories
Book Fair
Video Gallery
Refer this Site
Contact Us

Privacy Policy

© Twilight Bridge™ All Rights Reserved



How stressed are YOU???

A certain level of stress brings out the best in us, often described as eustress. But high levels of unmanageable stress over a sustained period can damage our health, causing distress.

Think of it in this way - good stress or eustress, is what gets you up and running, what enables you to get to work, keep your date with your sweetheart, or clean out the attic on Sunday morning. Eustress helps to make your life enjoyable' even interesting. Such stress provides stimulation and challenges, and is essential to development, growth and change.

Bad stress or distress makes you anxious and irritable, dampens your spirit and shortens your life. Distress is a reaction to some type of pressure, either external or self-imposed, which prompts psychological and physiological changes of an undesirable nature.

These changes can be complex, but they all involve a certain group of basic body responses which arose in the course of evolution, as organisms met situations of physical danger. Such situations triggered the body's "fight or flight" response (Survival Stress).

However inappropriate they may be we observe the same response in certain social, emotional or occupational situations. Usually the responses are of short duration. If their effects persist beyond a reasonable length of time, they can lead to  mental and physical problems mentioned below. 

Each individual may have different reactions to the same stressor depending on how one interprets the event. Some individuals relish change; others fear it. A great deal of stress has to do with the degree to which we need to be in control of events in our life. People who have less of a need to be in control of their environment tend to experience less stress.

Many people are not aware of being under stress. Some are frequently under so much stress that they assume the feeling is normal. This is especially true for those individuals who are not aware of their emotional responses. For them, it is often necessary to rely upon the physical manifestations of stress.

There is no single symptom that can identify stress. Some physical symptoms of stress like high blood pressure and heart disease may be life threatening while others like headaches and insomnia and less so. Along with these there is an entire plethora of emotional symptoms varying from general irritability to loss of libido.

In the last article we focused on the first step in learning to manage stress: i.e. recognize the triggers or stressors in your life. The section below shows common symptoms of stress, and the negative effects that excessive stress can cause. While the symptoms in isolation may or may not show stress, where several occur it is likely that stress is having an effect. It is to important to bear in mind that all these symptoms may be caused by factors other than stress.  

Note that as the stress you are under increases, your ability to recognize it will often decrease.

The symptoms are organised into the following categories:

Naturally if any of the symptoms feel serious, consult a doctor.

Short Term Physical Symptoms

These mainly occur as your body adapts to perceived physical threat, and are caused by release of adrenaline. Although you may perceive these as unpleasant and negative, they are signs that your body is ready for the explosive action that assists survival or high performance:

  • Dry Mouth  
  • Cool skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Increased sweating  
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Faster heart beat
  • Tense Muscles  
  • Feelings of nausea, or 'Butterflies in stomach'
  • Diarrhea
  • A desire to urinate

These are the symptoms of survival stress.

Short Term Performance Effects

While adrenaline helps you survive in a 'fight-or-flight' situation, it does have negative effects in situations where this is not the case:

  • It interferes with clear judgement and makes it difficult to take the time to make good decisions.
  • Where you need good physical skills it gets in the way of fine motor control.
  • It can seriously reduce your enjoyment of your work
  • It damages the positive frame of mind you need for high quality work by:
    • narrowing attention,
    • damaging self-confidence,
    • promoting negative thinking,
    • disrupting focus and concentration and
    • making it difficult to cope with distractions
  • It consumes mental energy in distraction, anxiety, frustration and temper. This is energy that should be devoted to the work in hand.

Long Term Physical Symptoms

These occur where your body has been exposed to adrenaline over a long period. One of the ways adrenaline prepares you for action is by diverting resources to the muscles from the areas of the body which carry out body maintenance. This means that if you are exposed to adrenaline for a sustained period, then your health may start to deteriorate. This may show up in the following ways:

  • Insomnia
  • change in appetite
  • sexual disorders
  • aches and pains
  • frequent colds
  • illnesses such as:
    • asthma
    • back pain
    • digestive problems
    • headaches
  • feelings of intense and long-term tiredness

Internal Symptoms of Long Term Stress

When you are under stress or have been tired for a long period of time you may find that you are less able to think clearly and rationally about problems. This can lead to the following internal emotional 'upsets':

  • Worry or anxiety
  • Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by events
  • Confusion, and an inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Mood changes:
    • Restlessness
    • Helplessness  
    • Impatience & irritability
    • Hostility  
    • Frustration
    • Depression
  • Feeling ill
  • Being more lethargic
  • Changing eating habits
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Drinking more alcohol and smoking more
  • Relying more on medication

Behavioural Symptoms of Long Term Stress

When you or other people are under pressure, this can show as:

  • Yawning
  • Talking too fast or too loud
  • Fiddling and twitching, nail biting, grinding teeth, drumming fingers, pacing, etc.
  • Bad moods:
    • Defensiveness
    • Irrationality
    • Being irritable
    • Being critical
    • Aggression
    • Overreaction and reacting emotionally
  • Reduced personal effectiveness:
    • Being more forgetful
    • Being unreasonably negative
    • Making less realistic judgements
    • Making more mistakes
    • Being more accident prone
  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Changing work habits
  • Increased absenteeism

These symptoms of stress should not be taken in isolation - other factors could cause them. However if you find yourself exhibiting or recognizing a number of them, then it would be worth investigating stress management techniques.


Next Up: Optimum Stress Bracket