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Signs of Stress

Word Count: 2013″Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health
effects from stress; 75 to 90 percent of all physician office
visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints; stress
is linked to the six leading causes of death–heart disease,
cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and
suicide.” (Miller, 1993, p.12) “Stress plays havoc with our
health, our productivity, our pocketbooks, and our lives,
but it is necessary, even desirable.” (Oxford, 1998, p.29)
In researching stress, one would learn about what stress is,
the early warning , the different types of
stress, and how to build resistance to it.

Stress is a combination of physical, mental, and emotional
feelings that result from pressure, worry, and anxiety. These
pressures are called stressors. Some examples of common
stressors are; divorce, death in the family, job change,
pregnancy, a large mortgage, marriage, and retirement. “In
medicine, stress is, a physical, chemical, or emotional
development that causes strains that can lead to physical
illness.” (Microsoft Encarta)
The early warning signs of stress include apathy, anxiety,
irritability, mental fatigue, and overcompensation or denial.

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Some signs of apathy are feelings of sadness or recreation
that isnt fun any more. Feelings of restlessness, agitation,
insecurity and a sense of worthlessness are examples of
anxiety. Signs of irritability are feeling hypersensitive,
defensive, and arrogant. Feeling argumentative, rebellious,
or angry are also signs of irritability. Examples of mental
fatigue are feeling preoccupied, having difficulty
concentrating, and trouble thinking flexibly. Working too
hard, denying that there are problems, ignoring symptoms,
and feeling suspicious are all signs of overcompensation or
Some behavioral signs of stress are avoiding things, doing
things to extremes, administrative problems, and legal
problems. Avoiding things includes keeping to ones self,
avoiding work, having trouble accepting responsibility, and
neglecting responsibility. Examples of doing things to
extremes are alcoholism, gambling, spending sprees, and
sexual promiscuity. Some administrative problems are
being late to work, poor appearance, poor personal
hygiene, and being accident prone. Possible legal problems
are indebtedness, shoplifting, traffic tickets, and an inability
to control violent impulses.

Some physical signs of stress include excessive worrying
about illness, frequent illness, and physical exhaustion.

Reliance on medication including remedies like aspirin is a
physical sign of stress. Ailments such as insomnia, appetite
changes, and weight gain or loss are also physical signs of
stress. Indigestion, nausea, and nervous diarrhea, are also
physical signs, as well as, constipation, and sexual

Stress can be confusing. There are some myths surrounding
stress. Here are a few of them. One myth is that stress is
the same for everybody. This is not true. What is stressful
for one person, may or may not be stressful for another;
each person responds to stress in a different way. Some
people seem to think that stress is everywhere, so there is
nothing a person can do about it. This is not so. A person
can plan their life so that stress doesnt overwhelm them.

Another myth is that stress is always bad for a person. This
isnt true because managed stress makes people productive
and happy. Some people think that only the major
symptoms of stress require attention. The minor symptoms
are the early warnings that a better job of managing stress
is needed. Another myth about stress is that people think if
they dont have any symptoms of stress, they dont have
stress. People can be affected by stress without having
symptoms of stress.

There are four types of stress. There is acute stress,
episodic acute stress, chronic stress, and traumatic stress.

Each type of stress has its own characteristics, symptoms,
duration, and treatments.
Acute stress is the most common type of stress. “Acute
stress comes from demands and pressures of the recent
past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near
future.” (Hanson, 1985 p.17) Acute stress is exciting and
thrilling in small amounts, but too much is exhausting.

Overdoing it on acute stress can lead to psychological
distress, tension headaches, upset stomach, and other
symptoms. Some examples of stressors that can cause
acute stress are; an auto accident that crumpled the car
fender, the loss of an important contact, a childs
occasional problems at school, and so on. Acute stress
doesnt have enough time to do the extensive damage that
is associated with long-term stress.

Some of the most common symptoms of stress are
emotional distress, muscular problems, stomach problems,
and transient over arousal. Emotional distress includes
anger, irritability, and anxiety. Muscular problems such as
tension headaches, upper and lower back pain, and jaw
pain (TMJ), are symptoms of stress. Muscular tensions that
lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems,
are symptoms of stress as well. Other symptoms of stress
are stomach, gut and bowel problems. Heartburn, acid
stomach, ulcers, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and
irritable bowel syndrome are examples of these problems.

Transient over arousal is another symptom of stress. It
leads to elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and
sweaty palms. Heart palpitations, dizziness, and migraine
headaches can also result from transient over arousal.

Symptoms like cold hands or feet, shortness of breath, and
chest pain are also common.


Episodic Acute stress is what people who suffer from acute
stress frequently have. These peoples lives are so
disorderly that they are constantly in a state of chaos and
crisis. They are always in a hurry, but they are always late.

If something can go wrong in their life, it does. “They take
on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and cant
organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures
clamoring for their attention.” (Miller, 1993 p.18) Often,
these people describe themselves as having “a lot of
nervous energy.” Another form of episodic acute stress
comes from non-stop worry. The people who worry too
much are always thinking that something bad is going to
happen. These people tend to be over aroused and tense.

The symptoms of episodic acute stress are the symptoms
of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches,
migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. “The
treatment of episodic acute stress requires intervention on a
number of levels, generally requires professional help, and
may take many months.” (Eliot, 1989 p.59) Sufferers are
usually very resistant to change of any kind.

Acute stress can come up in anyones life but it is highly
treatable and manageable. A more serious type of stress is
chronic stress. Chronic stress is not thrilling or exciting like
acute stress can be. “Chronic stress is the grinding stress
that wears people away day after day, year after year.”
(Battison, 1997 p.19) It destroys minds, bodies, and lives.

Chronic stress comes when a person doesnt see a way out
of a miserable situation. The worst part of chronic stress is
that people get used to it and forget that its there. Chronic
stress kills by means of suicide, violence, heart attack,
stroke, and, perhaps, even cancer. The symptoms of
chronic stress are hard to treat and could require a lot of
medical and behavioral treatment, therapy, and stress

Traumatic stress is a special kind of chronic stress, known
as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is caused by
trauma that is not handled correctly. Some examples of
traumatic experiences are; accidents, rape, verbal, physical,
psychological, or sexual abuse, being in the presence of
extreme violence, a brush with death, natural disasters,
death of a loved one, and imprisonment. The symptoms of
PTSD are flashbacks, over arousal, emotional numbness or
loss of feeling, along with extreme emotional outbursts to
minor things. People with PTSD suffer from problems with
concentration, controlling impulses, and decision making.

The long term consequences of PTSD are depression,
anxiety, behavioral disorders, multiple personality disorder,
and suicide.

There are three basic strategies for dealing with stress at
the source. The first strategy is altering situations to make
them less stressful. Avoiding stressful situations is the next
strategy. Accepting stressful situations is the other basic
strategy in dealing with stress at the source. Each strategy
has its disadvantages and its advantages. Its up to every
person to decide which one to use with which situation.

“The tougher a persons resistance to stress is, the more
stress they can take.” (Hanson, 1985 p.52) There is a lot
people can do to maximize their resistance to stress.

People have resources to help them handle stress. These
resources include familial and financial resources, social and
spiritual resources, as well as personal resources. They can
also develop good health habits and get rid of bad health
habits to help build up a resistance to stress.

Following these guidelines in a persons life is a good way
to increase their resistance to stress. Eat at least one hot
balanced meal per day. Improving a persons nutritional
habits makes them much less susceptible to stress. Limiting
a person to less than three caffinated drinks per day helps
to improve their health and increase their susceptibility to
stress. “Caffeine can stay in a persons system generating
adrenaline release for hours, creating and artificial stress
response that can keep a person wired and tense for hours
and interfere with their sleep.” (Perloe, 1998, p.62)
R. Coyle (lecture, February 1, 1999) Practice the calming
reflex regularly. The calming reflex is a quick exercise a
person can do to keep their stress level from reaching their
threshold for stress. When a person reaches their threshold,
they begin to experience symptoms. Use this whenever
something comes up that would cause you stress. The first
step in the stress reflex is to notice the stressor. Thats your
cue. Then you say silently to yourself, “Sparkling eyes,
smiling face; alert, amused mind, calm body.” Next, take a
deep breath in through imaginary holes in the bottom of
your feet; hold 2-4 seconds, and while exhaling very slowly
let your jaw hang loose, let your lips part and allow your
shoulders to drop. Notice a feeling of warmth follow the air
as it leaves your body out the imaginary holes in the bottom
of your feet. Take another breath and resume your activity.

Give and receive affection regularly. Research has shown
that people who give and receive affection regularly, live
longer and are healthier. Have at least one relative within
50 miles. Family is one of the best ways of reducing stress.

Regularly attend social activities. Friends a person meets
can provide a support network for good and bad times.

Have a network of friends and acquaintances. A strong
social network helps fight off feelings of loneliness,
isolation, and despair. Have one or more friends to confide
in about personal matters. Close friends boost a persons
mental health just by being there.

Exercise to the point of perspiration at least three times a
week. Exercise leads to fitness and people who are fit
handle stress better. Being the appropriate weight for a
persons height is important for their self esteem. Be in
good health because a persons health is the first line of
defense against stress. Get seven to eight hours of sleep
four nights per week. Lack of sleep leads to exhaustion that
harms the quality of a persons life, health, and productivity.

It also decreases your ability to handle stress.
A person should have an income or allowance that they can
meet their basic expenses with. Money can be a big help
when coping with stress and life. Be able to organize your
time effectively. People who manage their time effectively,
have less stress. Take quiet time for yourself during the
day. It can recharge a persons mind and body, increase
their energy level, and raise their level of efficiency.

Do something fun at least once a week. Doing something
just for the fun of it, improves a persons resistance to
stress. Have an optimistic outlook on life. Optimists handle
stress better that pessimists because they get things done
quicker. Be able to speak openly about your feelings when
you are angry or worried. Letting the emotions of stress
stay bottled up inside a person is harmful. A person can get
strength from their religious beliefs. Spiritual beliefs help a
lot with resistance to stress.

As one can see, stress is a combination of feelings that have
different effects on peoples health, and also there are many
different ways to build resistance to it so it will not conquer
your life. “Exciting or challenging events such as the birth of
a child, completion of a major project at work, or moving
to a new city generates as much stress as does tragedy or
disaster. Without it, life would be dull.” (Eliot, 1989, p.39)
Battison, T.(1997). Beating stress. New York: Macmillan.

Bradley, M.(1997). The 21st Century Stress Manual.

Mens Health, 13 (4),

Eliot, R. S.(1989). Is it worth dying for?. New York:
Bantam Books.
Hanson, P. G.(1985). The Joy of Stress. New York:
Andrews, McMeel, & Parker. .

Miller, L. H.(1993). The stress solution. New York:
Pocket Books.
Moir, A.(1998). Like a lolling stone. Forbes 161 (9), 55.
Oxford, M.(1998, April). Stress and the body. Harvard
Health Letter : 41+.

Perloe, M. M.D.(no date). Stress management Online.

Available: 1999, March 23.
Microsoft Encarta. Computer software. (1994). Funk &
Wagnalls Corporation.

Talan, J.(1998). Sick or stressed out. Psychology Today 4

Zuzanek, J.(1998). Time use, time pressure, personal
stress, mental health, and life satisfaction. Journal of
Occupational Science , 52+.


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