Stress: signs, symptoms, causes and possible treatment

Medically reviewed: 20, November 2023

Read Time:19 Minute

Experiencing stress is part of life. Everybody gets stressed sometime. It happens in situations that require something extra and the body usually gets extra power and energy. However, if the stress lasts for a long time, the body can damage. Therefore, it is important to recover and rest. There are many things you can do to counteract stress.

What is stress?

The stress reaction has previously been necessary to survive, but in modern society you rarely need to struggle physically to survive. Nevertheless, about the same things happen in the body, whether you experience a real threat or if you catch a bus. The stress response is also triggered by psychological efforts, for example when you get angry with someone or feel you have too much to do.

Different things are stressing

Situations that cause stress do not always have to be negative. For example, you may feel stressed by raising a contest, organizing a big party or holding a lecture. Stress can then provide the extra powers needed for the task.

A situation that a person perceives as stressful may be another perceived as pleasant. How you react to a situation depends on different things, such as what you’ve been to in past lives and how you work as a person. But there are some things that many experience as stressful. For example, many feel a lot of pressure when they have too much to do at work or at school. Even in the privacy of friends and family, some may experience social demands that are difficult to live up to. Most stressful are demanding situations that you have little control over and that you feel alone about managing.

You may also be stressed by not having enough and meaningful tasks or challenges in your life. This can happen for example, for a long time unemployment. Even then the equilibrium between activity and rest is distorted.
High demands can be stressed

Many people feel that the demands of others are high, but sometimes it may be their own requirements that stress most. For example, what requirements you put on yourself can depend on past experiences or how you have been raised.

If you are a person who values ​​yourself based on what you are performing, or believe others do, it is called a performance-based self-esteem. Most people can think about themselves sometimes, but if you always value yourself based on your performance, it’s easy to push yourself to do more and more to make you feel comfortable. Then it’s easy to lose respect for your own person when it is impossible to perform as much as usual, for example in case of illness or a life crisis.

The brain can not distinguish between real threats or one you think.

It’s not just real threats that can stress, because the brain can not distinguish between a real threat or one that you only think. Therefore, you can be stressed just by imagining a threat or a difficult situation that is not really and may not ever happen. The body nevertheless reacts to the signals of the brain. Thoughts that may be stressful are, for example, “Imagine the kids hurt” or “I might lose my job now when the company is going to save money.”

What happens to my body when I get stressed?

Two different nervous systems

Some activities in the body are controlled by nerves that are not affected by the will, such as the internal organs. These nerves belong to the so-called autonomic nervous system. It is that part of the body’s nervous system that controls breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure and digestion.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into two different parts, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is activated when the body’s forces are needed. The parasympathetic nervous system is most active at rest and in calm situations. It attenuates the effects of the sympathetic nervous system and helps to build up the body. It’s important for you to unwind, fall asleep and recover. In order to feel good, an equilibrium between the two parts of the nervous system is needed.

Fight-flight reaction

The stress response called the fight-escape reaction means that the brain and the body strive to either fight a threat or escape from it. The brain then sends signals to the sympathetic nervous system that is activated, it affects the entire body. Among other things, substances in the blood, such as sugar, and stress hormones, such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, are excreted. During the combat-escape reaction, the body does not save energy. Instead, functions such as digestion can go on low-key, which you do not benefit from in a battle of life and death.

When you are in a combat-refugee reaction, you may feel scared, irritated, angry or hostile.

The reaction can also be started in everyday situations where it does not work at all to fly or fight. The sympathetic nervous system can not distinguish between physical threats, such as a dangerous animal, or a social threat, such as bills that we find difficult to pay.

The sympathetic nervous system can not either distinguish between a real threat or something that you only worry about.

“Play Death” reaction

There is another way to respond to stress, which is very common. It is called the “play death” reaction and enters when the brain perceives that the danger is excessive when it feels as if we do not have a chance to get rid of the situation. It is a stress reaction that often causes feeling faint, fatigue, dizziness, weakness In the muscles and symptoms of the stomach, you also want to isolate and reduce your social contacts.

Emotionally, feeling tired, sadness, sadness and depression often leads to fatigue.

What happens is that the parasympathetic part of the nervous system acts as a brake and reduces energy. In extended stress situations, a part of the nervous system may continue to try to build up the body, even though it consumes less energy than usual.

That’s when the need to comfort us grows and you can start eating more sugar, fatty foods and maybe drinking more alcohol.

Sick of stress

As long as you take time for recovery and sleep, your body can handle stressful periods without damaging it. The combat refuge usually lasts only for a few minutes or possibly hours. Harmful, it’s only when you’re in stressful situations for a long time, both real and imaginary. For example, it can lead to elevated blood pressure also in rest and to tense muscles that begin to hurt.

The different hormones secreted into the bloodstream can cause memory and concentration difficulties over time.

Therefore, it is important to take time for recovery, in order to avoid the worst-stressed conditions, such as myocardial infarction, fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other long-term pain conditions. Long-term stress can also lead to the fact that you have no reserves left at a great stress, for example, if you get a disease, end up in unemployment or if someone in your family dies.

Some stressful situations are more difficult to relinquish, for example bullying, severe economic crisis, a close relative who dies, being exposed to abuse or excessive workload. In order to get rid of such a situation, support and assistance from someone outside are usually needed. Sometimes professional help is also needed.

Double stress for smokers

You as a smoker get a double stress on the body in stress. In part, the body responds to a stressful situation, and increases the pulse and blood pressure when you smoke and the nicotine goes into the blood. The nicotine causes the blood to become more viscous, which increases the risk of plugs. When the level of nicotine drops, you get withdrawal symptoms.

One of them is anxiety and it is temporarily muted when you smoke and refill with nicotine again. Therefore, it can easily be a bad stress circle trying to relax with a cigarette. An effective way to reduce stress is instead to quit smoking.

Stress: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Stress affects many parts of the body and may differ in different ways. Clear signs and warning signals may be one or more of the following:

  • You are tired in the morning, even when you have been sleeping for a long time and uninterrupted for several nights in a row
  • You are hard at falling in the evening and may wake up early in the morning without falling asleep
  • You are hard to relax and unwind
  • You feel indifferent to what’s happening around you, depressed and worried
  • You are harder to concentrate
  • You get bad memory
  • You feel anxiety
  • You are easily caught in negative thoughts
  • You get easily irritated and impatient over small things
  • You may have a stomach ache, tension headache or palpitations
  • You feel stiff, tense and get hurt in your body
  • You feel sober and tired, and therefore avoid social contacts
  • You have lost your desire for sex
  • You get infections easier and more often
  • You feel harder to breathe properly
  • You find that the time is insufficient and therefore raises the pace further
  • You choose to rest, leisure activities, amusement and contact with friends and relatives due to lack of time
  • You need alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or sleepers to cope with everyday life, or take on fat, sugar, alcohol or nicotine as a comfort.

How to manage stress

To cope with stressful periods, we need a balance between being active and being in silence, between awakening and sleep, and between physical activity and rest. If you feel stressed, it is often enough to try and beat the pace and rest a little more than usual.

Is it possible to reduce the demands on yourself and the environment? If you feel that you start feeling bad with stress, try to restore the balance of life as soon as possible. Stress symptoms can be a reason to start thinking about and choose from all you have to do. Is there too much or too little of anything in your life? You may also need to strengthen your own defense against stress through more sleep, rest, physical activity and some way to unwind.

When you decide to try and do something about the situation, there is a lot you can do yourself to handle the stress as well as possible. Trying to understand your own stress is an important first step.

If stress is caused by something like a neighbor’s death, abuse, financial difficulties or any other crisis, you may need to seek care or other professional help.

Take control

If you can gain control of what is stressful, you also have greater opportunity to influence and change. Many things can not be influenced or controlled, but, for example, you probably experience less stress over their finances if there is a budget and a plan for each month. Then bills do not come as unpleasant surprises.

Are the demands too high?

Consider which situations are stressful. Does it require someone else to do or do it more about your own expectations? What requirements do you experience in your life? What expectations have family and friends? What are the expectations at work, at school or elsewhere? Perhaps there are any own requirements and expectations to do something about?

Do a bit at a time

Many may be stressed by feeling that they would have to stress a little less to feel good again. It’s about changing habits, and maybe getting new ones, and it may take time. Therefore, try to be a little patient and forgiving yourself. Is there anything you came up with that you want to finish or start with to feel better? Try changing one or two things to begin with, maybe want to make your own health plan to get support to start a new habit? Then try something else if it does not help.

Find out how stressed you are

There are different ways to find out if you are at risk of harmful stress. One way is to fill in various questionnaires designed to measure your stress and assess whether you are on the way to fatigue. By answering the questions, you can find out what your situation looks like.

If work is stressing

Ask for help if you feel stressed at work. The pace of working life is often high today and many are experiencing a strong pressure on the job. If you have a job that takes energy and power without giving enough back, it may be good to try and change the situation.

Everyone has different possibilities. Some can control how workdays will look, while others can not affect their working conditions at all.

If you can not change the situation on your own, it may be good to work with your supervisor to find a way of working that makes you less stressed. You can also try to talk with your coworkers about what can be done to improve the working environment.

Your own explanation for stress

Think about what requirements are reasonable to put on yourself. What can you do to start solving the problems? There are many different things in privacy that can stress us. Poor economics, divorce and unemployment are things that stress the vast majority of people experiencing it.

Many may also worry about the relationship with their partner, or be stressed by the fact that they and the family have so many booked activities. As long as you enjoy and feel good, it’s not bad to be active. But if you feel that the balance is over and over stress, lack of time and worry and too little recovery, it may be time to think a bit. Keep in mind that even lack of activity can cause stress. What can you do about it?

Exercise to say no

Do you need to practice saying no? Those who easily take on more tasks or often set up to help others, without thinking about what it means to themselves, may need to practice answering when someone asks for something. One way to pray is to wait a response when you are asked about different things. Instead, you may want to think about it and leave a message later. Then there is a chance to think about whether it is a good idea or not, if the will exists or not. You can say no in a friendly manner.

Turn off the computer and unplug the phone

Being constantly accessible and connected to different social media can also be a source of stress. Then it may be good to allow not always to have the phone on or off, or to turn off the computer sometimes.

Write a list of what is stressful

Write a list of situations or things that stress you. Many stressed people feel that their thoughts are just spinning in their heads and it’s hard to grasp what it’s bad for. One way to get more views may be to sit down and write a list of things that are stressful.

By collecting thoughts, thinking and putting words on what you feel and thinking, it becomes more clear what is feeling hard. Then it will also be easier to try to find ways to avoid stress or solve the problem.

Take care of the body

In order to more easily protect yourself from stress it is important to take care of yourself and your health. There are many different ways for you to take care of your body. Varied and healthy food, preferably with a lot of vegetables and fruits, will bring you all the nutrients needed to live an active life. It is also good to have proper meals at regular intervals. Start your day with a nice breakfast.

If you move and stay fit, you become stronger and more energy, both physically and mentally. Those who have a good fitness are less sensitive to stress.

Physical activity strengthens its own defense against stress, because a trained body “withstands” a stress reaction with palpitations and elevated blood pressure better than an untrained body. This is because you train the system “on real”, for example during a jogging round or a jeep pass.


Your resistance to stress increases dramatically if you move for at least half an hour a day. Time can be divided into two quarters if it fits better.

When stressed, it’s easy to choose physical activities to save time, but it’s just under stressful periods that it’s extra good to take care of the body and move as much as possible.

It’s also important to reduce the time of sedentary sitting if you have a sedentary job, sit and study or live a quiet life. For example, you can take a leg stretcher once per hour.

Try to get physical activity or movement to become part of everyday life. It can be simple things like walking or cycling at work, or getting off the bus or parking the car a bit from work and walking the last bit. You can also try to take the habit of taking the stairs instead of the lift, which can give many opportunities for extra exercise and everything matters.

You need to sleep

It can be easier said than done, but try to sleep properly. Sleep is needed for the body and the brain to rest, recover and process impressions.

Most people need to sleep seven hours a night, but many need more sleep than that, some are doing well less. Trying to catch more by sleeping less is not a good idea. You lose quickly in efficiency and energy if you are not exhausted and then work, studies or other things take longer. If you sleep for a little night after night, it will eventually make you feel good.

Learning different ways to relax can be good if you have trouble falling asleep and easy to wake up during the night. Regular bedtime, get in bed on time, cool and dark bedrooms are some ways to facilitate good sleep.

Alcohol can make you more sensitive to stress

Keep calm with alcohol If you feel tired and tense, it may be tempting to drink alcohol to make it easier to relax. Alcohol may seem relaxing temporarily, but on the contrary, you can become more sensitive to stress. If you notice that you need to drink alcohol to relax, you may want to think about some other options. Perhaps you can find something better and more effective way to relax? Contact a healthcare center for assistance. If you have an employer who is affiliated with the occupational health services, it is often possible to get help there.

Relax in your way

Try to find your own way to relax and feel peace and quiet. What works for a person may not fit a different one at all. Try to set aside time for what you enjoy doing, which makes you happy. Here are some suggestions:

  • Relaxation Exercise. Learning to relax is often a good way to cure thoughts that spin and calm stress in the body.
    Leisure activity, such as reading, listening to music, gardening, singing or playing games.
  • Physical activity, or motion, is an effective way to suppress worrying thoughts while at the same time increasing the body’s resistance to stress in the longer term. Gym, ball games, dance?
  • Being in nature, or walking, is calming for many.
  • Getting massage usually calms down.
  • Joining with people you like can make it easier to unwind.

Exercise on behavior that calms down

Those who are stressed are often in a hurry to catch up with everything and therefore increase the pace. Soon it can be the pace that stresses the most. Then it can reduce stress to try to make things slower again. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try to go, talk and eat slowly, especially those times there is no direct reason to fool. Maybe there at the dining table for a while after the meal.
  • Speak slower and with lower voice.
  • Stand in a long queue and think it takes time to take it depends on others.
  • Learn some kind of relaxation exercise or breathing break, use it to break off when you feel stressed.

Conscious presence

A conscious presence, or mindfulness, as it is also called, is about living in greater awareness about oneself and what is present in this moment, in the present. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to think off and get stuck in planning or worrying about the future. Or i guess about something that has already happened.

Then it can help try to train their ability to let go of thoughts and instead consciously direct the attention to what is happening right now.

Keep in touch

When life feels demanding, you may need a lot of time for yourself and sometimes you simply can not spend time with someone. But even if it feels difficult, it’s good to not completely lose contact with relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Knowing support and cohesion with others is important, if and when you have the opportunity. It’s only good if the environment gets to know that you feel bad from stress, then it’s easier to understand. Sometimes you do not have to meet, but it is enough to make a call and talk for a while.

For some, community in associations, parishes or in forums can be an opportunity for support and co-operation with others.

Help and Support if  you have stress

Depending on what makes you feel stressed, you may need different types of help and support to feel better. For example, you may need to be out of work completely or partially to rest and recuperate. Changed tasks, temporary or long term, can also be a way to avoid getting sick, or getting worse, from stress.

If there is something in your privacy that causes you to be, or at risk of being sick of stress, you can get help with finding out how your life could work better with your doctor, curator or psychologist at the healthcare center. Perhaps it is necessary to take a break or take a break from something that takes a lot of time and effort, or try to help.

What can the employer do?

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that you as an employee do not receive physical or mental disorders of your work. The working environment should be designed in a way that prevents stress and stress-related illnesses in the staff.

Every workplace should also have a policy on how to rehabilitate sick leave and to return to working life. If the employer is affiliated with occupational healthcare, the staff can contribute to work for a good working environment.

It is the manager, as a work environment manager, who will say to management when the work environment can be harmful. As an employee, you have a responsibility to tell your boss if you feel bad because of your work situation. If your boss does not respond you can talk to the security officer, who should be in every workplace.

Advice for related parties

When someone in your environment is getting sick of stress, or has already become – child or adult – it’s important to understand that it can be a serious condition. Try to relieve and help if it goes. For example, you may be able to match children, cook, shop or make other matters.

By learning more about stress and what it can lead to, you can also more easily understand what’s happening, what’s sick and how that person can respond.

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