"The warning signs that stress may be affecting your
health vary considerably from person to person. Most of us, however, tend to
have our own usual stress response or fingerprint. This might be headaches in
one person, or an outbreak of eczema or diarrhoea in another . . ." (Professor Greg Wilkinson)
When we experience stress we can develop a wide variety of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms. These symptoms are not a sign of disease because stress is not a disease; they are brought about by the
bodys Fight-Flight Response, which is designed to give us extra energy and speed to cope with the threat.
When under stress we may experience a pounding, speeding heart. This is not a sign of heart disease, but is in fact, caused by stress hormones stimulating the heart to
pump harder and beat faster to get extra oxygen to vital muscles and organs so we can fight or run away. Once the stressful event has passed, the levels of stress hormones in our blood stream will fall again
and our heart will return to its normal rhythm.
The heart and the rest of our bodys organs and systems can cope with this
speeding up and working harder; they are designed to be able to do this, just as a car can speed up or slow down with extra
pressure on the accelerator and less pressure on the brake. Our sympathetic and
parasympathetic nervous systems, which deal with the fight/flight response, work in a similar manner. Stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (the accelerator) and increases the levels of stress
hormones in the blood stream, whereas relaxation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the brake), which reduces
the levels of stress hormones in the blood stream.
One of the problems with stress is recognising it. Once you are aware of it we can take action. However stress
can be stealthy, it can slowly creep up on us without us being immediately aware of it.
There are numerous signs and symptoms of stress that many of us are unaware
of. Not everybody develops exactly the same symptoms and research has indicated
that, although there are common symptoms of stress, individuals vary in the symptoms they present some of us may have mainly
physical symptoms such as muscle pain/tension, others may present with symptoms such as crying or anger.
Learning the signs and symptoms of stress can help us become more aware of
the problems stress can cause in our lives. The table included here lists many
of the physical, psychological, and behavioural symptoms of stress. We have also
included a few work related symptoms. Look at the table and tick the ones that
are applicable to you, using it as a record of your level of stress.