Symptoms of stress and the stress spectrum

Stress for some people can lead to an over-reliance on alcohol or drugs, food bingeing, withdrawing from family and friends, being angry, short tempered and impatient a lot of the time; sleeping too much and being disengaged and unmotivated which can lead to a seriously sedentary lifestyle.

Most of my working life has been spent sitting at a desk, resulting in numerous aches and pains including recurring neck and back problems. As a result I’ve become more and more interested in workplace health and wellbeing and it’s only in the last couple of years that I have discovered why unmanaged stress can be so dangerous!

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Sleep & digestive problems
  • Increased irritability and negative emotions
  • Tension leading to back and neck pain
  • Palpitations and headaches
  • Feeling dizzy and shortness of breath

These are all symptoms of stress that in turn can lead to burnout, severe mental health issues like clinical anxiety, depression and a nervous breakdown. The dangers also include suffering a stroke or coronary heart disease. It’s easy to see why when there are so many more demands placed on our time, that stress and anxiety is on the increase!

First thing to do is to try and acknowledge where we sit on the stress spectrum, changes can then be made, help can then be sought and coping strategies put in place.


A recent study by Odelya Gertel Kraybill PhD identified aspects that she thinks are important when understanding and managing stress.

Eustress – is the word used to describe stress levels that have a beneficial effect. A moderate, routine kind of stress that elevates our attention and functioning and at times even contributes to a sense of excitement and exhilaration.

Distress is the tipping point at which helpful stress becomes too much and we experience it as distress. This point varies greatly between individuals depending on genetics, family history, personal disciplines etc.

Accumulative stress is the build up of stress. Kraybill defines distress as caused by a sense of real or implied threat that activates instinctual response mechanisms that originally evolved to enable survival.  These include increased heart rate, breathing, and alertness levels all functioning at an autonomic level not readily controlled by rationale thought.  These things make management of our stress responses very complex.

Burnout is used to describe the final phase; it refers to chronic physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual fatigue.

The full article is available via LinkedIn

The next two posts will cover some stress busting recommendations including the importance of exercise, movement and stretching in the workplace followed by breathing, mindfulness and meditation.

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