Stress is a normal feeling that can happen whenever things in our environment change. The causes of stress (stressors) can be very different from person to person, as can individual reactions to stress.
In a moment of crisis, stress can be a good thing. It fuels the body with adrenaline and other chemicals intended to help us respond quickly to either fight or escape from danger. The positive symptoms of stress that help us react quickly can be the feeling that we are “pumped up” or “wired”.
But if stress becomes a constant in our lives, or if our bodies lose the ability to come down from the natural stress response so we can relax, stress can become a negative factor in our lives that can cause serious issues that can affect many parts of the body including the brain, nerves, muscles, joints, heart stomach, pancreas, intestines, and reproductive system.
Stress symptoms can show themselves in your body, your mood, and your behavior:
Body Symptoms of Stress
• Sore muscles or muscle tension
• Chest pain or pressure
• Racing heart
• Feeling dizzy or flushed
• Hyperventilating or having difficulty breathing
• Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting
• Intestine issues such as diarrhea
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
• Changes in sex drive
Mood Symptoms of Stress
• Feeling anxious or worried
• Feeling restless
• No motivation or difficulty focusing
• Feeling irritable or angry
Behavior Symptoms of Stress
• Eating changes – overeating or under-eating
• Anger – sudden outbursts of anger
• Substance abuse – drug or alcohol use may increase under stress
• Smoking – tobacco use may also increase under stress
• Withdrawing from friends or social situations
Behavioral symptoms triggered by stress can also become a vicious cycle. For example, overeating due to stress can lead to weight gain which contributes to stress in someone who is trying to diet. Unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse can make other stress symptoms more pronounced which may trigger a higher desire for the unhealthy behavior.