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Stress Management for Health Course
Signs and Symptoms of Stress

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"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. 

Physical Stress Symptoms   (How Our Body Reacts)

 

  Breathlessness

  Churning stomach

  Diarrhoea/Constipation

  Dizziness

  Dry mouth

  Excess perspiration

  Fatigue

  Headaches

  Hyperventilating

  Increased colds/flu

  Increased heart rate

  Indigestion

  Impotence

  Nausea

  Palpitations

  Pounding heart

  Pre Menstrual Syndrome

  Sense of heart pounding

  Shallow breathing

  Sleeping problems

  Tension headaches

  Tingling in hands/legs

  Tremor in hands/legs

  Weight loss/gain

 

Psychological Stress Symptoms (How We Think and Feel)

 

  Abrasive

  Anxious

  Blaming others

  Catastrophising

  Cynical

  Depression

  Depressed/Anxious thinking

  Excess guilt

  Excess worries over health

  Feeling a failure

  Feelings of fear

 

 

  Feeling unable to cope

  Frustration

     Hopelessness/helplessness

  Hostile

  Hypercritical of self/others

  Impatience

  Increased worrying

  Indecision

  Irritability

  Jealousy

  Lack of concentration

  Loss of confidence

 

 

  Lower self-esteem

  Mind in a whirl

  Mood swings

  Negative thinking

  Pessimistic thinking

  Rumination

  Sensitivity to criticism

  Snappy

  Stressful thinking

  Tense

  Worrying a lot

 

Behavioural Stress Symptoms  (How We Behave)

 

  Aggression

  Agitation

  Avoidance behaviour

  Crying

  Decreased/increased sexuality

  Difficulty relaxing

  Difficulty with relationships

  Eating fast

  Eating too much/too little

  Gambling

  Hostile behaviour

  Impatience

  Increased alcohol

  Increased caffeine

  Increased smoking

  Losing temper

  Making mistakes

  Nail biting

  Outbursts of anger

  Poor eye contact

 

  Poorer personal hygiene

  Poor time management

  Restlessness

  Risk taking

  Substance abuse

  Talking fast

  Walking fast

  Withdrawal from relationships

  Withdrawal from activities

 

 

Work Related Stress Symptoms (How we may be affected in our work)

 

  Absenteeism/

     presenteeism

  Accidents

  Inability to delegate

  Increased sick days

 

  Inefficiency

  Persistent lateness

  Procrastination

  Poor decision making

 

  Poor interaction with colleagues

  Reduced work performance

  Resentment/anger/

      irritability

 

 Click here to be taken to Causes of Stress


S. Jackson D.A.Ac., M.S.A.Ac., M.I.S.M.A. (2003)

The Stress Confidential Helpline 01622 717656

email mailto:stressadvisor@lycos.com

web address http://stresshelp.tripod.com/