Healthier Life Guide
Stress :Symptoms, Signs, and Causes

Stress :Symptoms, Signs, and Causes

Technically, stress is any disturbance that triggers a biological change on the body. During physical or emotional stress, the sympathetic division of the autonomic system creates the ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes pupils to dilate, heart rate and blood pressure increase, blood vessels that supply the stomach and kidneys constrict (resulting in the slowing of digestive activities and urine formation), blood glucose levels rise, and blood vessels that supply the muscles, dilate, allowing greater flow to these tissues. Some people handle stress better than others – what may cause one person to become tired or ill may actually stimulate another.

Today, stress is one of the major causes of illness in western society. The most common and familiar type is burnout, but stress can also manifest in more subtle forms such as worry, guilt, or even jealousy. Our bodies can counter the minor stresses in small doses, to the extent that they may go unnoticed. However, when stress becomes intense, prolonged, or unusual, the control mechanisms actually work against our bodies and impose a harmful response rather than a healing one. When our bodies can no longer cope with the burden inflicted upon them, exhaustion and eventually disease sets in.


I. Burnout

Overwork, burning the candle at both ends, studying for exams, taking on more than you can handle. Do any of these terms ring a bell? Almost all people face burnout at some point so here is what to do:

  • a. Recognize and accept that there is a problem. Identify any negative coping patterns associated with the stress (ie: overeating, eating too little, smoking, drinking, etc.) Try to replace these with positive coping patterns such as the relaxation techniques mentioned below.
  • b. Identify the stress. Giving it a name usually identifies the cause, and may offer a way to amend it. For example, if you are feeling stressed out at work, look at what is causing the problem. Is it the type of work you are doing, conflict with a co-worker or boss, the hours you are working or the location of the job? Once you have pinpointed the source of the stress, look at ways to modify it. Is it feasible to change jobs, work in a different department, adjust the hours you work or move to a different location? In most situations, a solution can be found. Remember, stress is your body telling you that something is not right. Listen to it and make the necessary changes.
  • c. Eliminate or reduce the stress. Try to delegate some of the responsibility, get extra help where you need it, change jobs, take a break, change your relationship, manage your time more effectively.
  • d. Eliminate or restrict the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods.
  • e. Take a multivitamin and extra Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, Zinc and Vitamin C.
  • f. Try a herbal supplement of ginseng, eleuthero coccus senticosus
  • g. Seek help from a qualified Health Practitioner if the stress becomes overwhelming or unbearable.

II Anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by nervousness, or a sense of inappropriate fear and can range from mild unease to intense fear. Some types of anxiety are panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Symptoms- fatigue, increased heart beat, insomnia, irritability, nervousness, rapid breathing, sweating or tingling sensations in the extremities.

Cause – stress, certain foods or drugs (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, food allergens), deficiency of B vitamins, Calcium or Magnesium, often unpredictable, occurs twice as often in women as in men.

Treatment –

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Identify and eliminate stressors.
  • Exercise
  • Nerve Tissue Salts
  • Nutrition – fresh fruit and vegetables, soy, whole grains and keep a diary of all food intake to monitor how food affects anxiety. Also avoid sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which are precursors to anxiety.
  • Flaxseed oil – 1 Tablespoon daily
  • Herbs – catnip, chamomile, cramp bark, gingko biloba, milk thistle, St. John’s wart, skullcap, evening primrose.
  • Essential Oils – Clary sage, rose, patchouli, sandalwood, geranium
  • Supplements – Multivitamin, Vitamin B Complex, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc and Omega 3 & 6.

III Depression

Depression is diagnosed when a person displays 5 or more of the psychological and/or behavioral conditions listed below:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite or excessive appetite with weight gain.
  • Feelings of guilt, sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Swings from moments of hyperactivity to inactivity
  • Loss of interest in usual activities, low libido
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Crying spells
  • Irritability
  • Muscular/Joint aches

lack of exercise, reduced exposure to sunlight, malnutrition, genetics, allergies, chemical imbalances (ie low levels of serotonin), thyroid disease, bipolar disease, drugs, grief.

IV. Conflict

We all have attitudes and beliefs about conflict from our childhood and cultural background. When a conflict occurs we respond based on those attitudes and perceptions. This experience becomes part of the circle which continues building our attitudes and beliefs, developing our perceptions and informing the way we respond to the next conflict that occurs.
The attitude most helpful for resolution is that conflict is neutral – neither good nor bad; it is just a part of life. And, although conflict cannot be avoided, we can change the way we RESPOND to it. Ask what can be learned from the source of conflict – it could lead to de-escalation, resolution or a better relationship.

V. Post Traumatic Stress

This is an anxiety disorder that can develop in a person who has experienced a physically or psychologically distressing event. Stressors include hostage taking, terrorism, torture, physical or sexual abuse, war and serious accidents. Symptoms may include nightmares, avoidance of activities, people or places, flashbacks, insomnia, apathy and irritability.


In contrast to the ‘flight or fight’ activities of the sympathetic division, the parasympathetic division enhances ‘rest and digest’ activities. This includes supporting the body functions to conserve and restore body energy during times of rest and recovery. And, although it was once believed that we had no conscious control over the parasympathetic division, yoga and meditation practitioners have taught us otherwise. We are now aware of several methods that can counter stress when practiced on a regular basis:

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