Many of us find it difficult to cope with stress. Feeling pressure to meet a deadline, juggling tasks at home, experiencing relationship conflicts, or dealing with health issues are typical stressors. While it's important to understand what triggers your stress, learning how it affects your body may give new insight on how to handle it. Did you know stress affects the body in stages? Let's explore the stages of stress along with healthy tips to get relief.
The three stages of stress are part of a scientific concept known as General Adaption Syndrome (GAS). Vienna-born scientist Hans Selye was the first to study elements related to GAS. The stages are part of a process the body goes through when stress occurs, including mental and physical effects. These mental and physical effects are the body's reaction to stressors as a form of defense. The three stages of stress include the following:
The first stage of stress is your body's immediate reaction. Anything can trigger the response, and each person has different levels of tolerance and sensitivity. You may notice an increased heart rate, sweating, nervous fidgeting, or feeling tense, anxious, worried, or scared as your body reacts to the cause of your stress. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and biological changes occur to make you poised to take action. This reaction is part of our innate tendency towards a "fight or flight" response, which results in a burst of adrenaline through our system.
The second stage of the stress response is when our bodies attempt to return to a normal balance, counteracting the "alarm" response in the first stage. Generally, when you enter into this stage you'll begin to feel calmer. The parasympathetic nervous system begins to bring down the heart rate, your body's physiological functions return to normal, and you can better focus on attending to the source of the stress. In this phase, however, you may think you can handle more stress, or get the impression the threat has passed because the sense of urgency is reduced. But if the cause persists, the body can suffer. Fatigue, sleep disturbances, irritability, poor concentration, chronic anxiety, and other issues can develop because the body is essentially still on alert without the alarm bells ringing.
The final stress stage is exhaustion, which results from your body trying to combat stress for an extended period. Typically, in this stage you find yourself feeling run down and with far less energy than normal. You may fall ill easier as your immune system can also weaken due to stress. This stage is a signal that your stress is severe. Long-term psychological changes can occur as well, causing you to become depressed, possibly sleep deprived, or chronically anxious.
Studies have shown life events such as financial troubles, job loss, medical issues, and breakdowns in relationships may lead to chronic or long-term stress. Chronic stress may increase chances of diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, viral infections, or depression.
If you're experiencing bouts of stress and find it's affecting your daily activities, there are a few things you can do to find relief.
BetterHelp Cares about Your Stress Relief
BetterHelp has a team of experienced counselors that understand the difficulties of dealing with stress. Whether you need someone to talk to or someone to help you see things from a positive perspective, the counselors can help you understand how stress is affecting your life and how to regain control. They understand stress affects people differently and want to help you establish effective coping skills. Connect with an online counselor that cares about your emotional and physical wellbeing. Read some reviews about BetterHelp counselors below.
"Alisha has let me view situations in another perspective. Like the stressful times I've gone (still going) through with my family and my work. I'm really grateful for her time to listen to what's on my mind and really making me comfortable to share so much with her. Thank you, Alisha!"
"Karen is amazing. I've never done therapy before and was very skeptical of it. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to talk about my stresses, feelings and opening up about work and relationships. Karen has made it very easy to do that and very appreciative of the work she does. I've been working with Karen for 3 weeks and have seen big improvements and changes in my life. Very thankful for Karen and this platform. It is really amazing to talk to someone that listens and offers great advice, encouragement and doesn't judge. Thanks Karen!"
Understanding the stages of stress is a big step toward relief. Using the above suggestions may help you manage stress with practice and patience. Reach out to a therapist and regain the control you want to live a better life today.