WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 26, 2014
version 7, draft 7

Early Warning Signs of Stress

stress

You've probably encountered this word in your work place: stress. It's a hip-hop word in psychology and health. It affects our emotional responses,when blown out of proportion; we can go crazy.

To distinguish emotion from stress, the term emotion has been derived from the Latin emover, which may be translated to move, to excite, or to agitate. In psychiatry, mood (emotional) symptos are the initial and/or prolonging reactions to stimuli - when emotions are so intense or out of proportion (or easily aroused), they can lead to frequent trouble. It's a sign that unpleasant stress has set in.

Emotion and behavior are a function of the hypothalamus, the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex. Some authorities believe that the hypothalamus receives information from other areas of the nervous system and brings out the physical expression of emotion.

But not all stress is bad. Stress stimulates people to act. A little stress is needed for a person to be able to concentrate and accomplish what is needed. In this case, when stress promotes mental soundness, we could say we cannot do without stress. So when does stress become unhealthy?

Stress becomes unhealthy when we cannot concentrate, we cannot eat and sleep, we're sad or we easily get sick. These are a few signs of how most of us respond to anxiety. Mental health professionals define this state as "stressed out." To understand the symptoms of stress more, here are the early warning signs of stress from the physical, psychological and behavioral perspective:

Physical:

  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appetite problems
  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Allergies
  • Hair loss
  • Colds, flu, cold sore
  • Teeth grinding
  • Problems sleeping 
  • Fatigue

Psychological:

  • Irritability
  • Excessive anger
  • Worry
  • Depression
  • Excessive crying
  • Aggressiveness
  • Isolation
  • Boredom
  • Decreased sense of humor
  • Critical of self/others
  • Decreased motivation
  • Decreased self-esteem

Behavioral:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor concentration
  • Distorted perception
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Decrease in creativity
  • Living in the past
  • Drinking more
  • Smoking more
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Acting "antsy"
  • Accident prone

By learning to identify stress symptoms and their sources, we can develop the ability to respond with proper treatment. The energy from stress can be channeled constructively and can be helpful to initiate changes in our lifestyle.

Planning how to respond to certain stressful events in our lives will teach us to anticipate crises. Marcus Aurelius noted, "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but due to how you estimate it." Simply stated, we can somehow control our own response to external stressors. If we feel our stressors are getting out of hand, we might try medications prescribed by a physician or undergo professional psychotherapy or both.

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