Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment. It has physical and emotional effects on us that can cause both positive and negative feelings.
Stress feels like an emotional reaction which elevates our cognitive and physiological activity levels. It is also something that makes demands on us for physical or cognitive productivity, in other words, anything that makes us think or act differently than we expect to or want to such as a near-miss car accident or a deadline at work.
Stress can be caused by positive events such as getting married, the birth of a child, buying a house or starting a business, negative events such as disappointment, failure, threat, embarrassment, death of loved ones, financial trouble and illnesses.
Physical Signs of Stress include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, sweaty palms, tightness of the chest, neck, jaw, and back muscles, headache, stomach problems, trembling, twitching, stuttering, nausea, sleep disturbances, fatigue, shallow breathing and dryness of the mouth or throat. Other symptoms are susceptibility to minor illnesses, cold hands, itching, being easily startled, and chronic pain. Emotional Signs of Stress include irritability, anger, hostility, depression, jealousy, restlessness, withdrawal, anxiousness, diminished initiative, lack of interest, tendency to cry, being critical of others, self-deprecation, nightmares, impatience, decreased perception of positive experience opportunities, reduced self-esteem, insomnia, changes in eating habits.
There are also cognitive signs of stress (forgetfulness, preoccupation, blurred vision, errors in judging distance, reduced creativity, lack of concentration, diminished productivity, lack of attention to detail, disorganization of thought, lack of control or need for too much control, negative self-statements and negative evaluation of experiences) and behavioral signs of stress (smoking, aggressive behaviors increased alcohol or drug use, carelessness, eating disorders, withdrawal, hostility, clumsiness, nervous laughter, compulsive behavior and impatience).