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How Is Stress Activated?

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Below is a modern stress model. How is stress activated? It effectively gives us a clear picture of how stress is stirred up:

How is stress activated

How Is Stress Activated?

Phase 1: Mental and Emotional Triggers Engaged. The person experiences an event or situation and regards it as stressful.

Phase 2: Psychological Stress Engaged. If that person does not let go of his emotions and negative thinking, that situation can cause psychological stress.

Phase 3: Physiological Stress or “Fight or Flight” Response: Unadulterated psychological stress leads to physiological stress.

In the instinctual “fight or flight” response, a person will experience an immediate jolt of adrenaline which increases a person’s speed, strength, and stamina.

The person’s breathing speeds up and their pulse rate increases, to prepare for sudden physical activity – such as running away from danger.


When the danger passes, stress levels abate. This instinctual response was useful thousands of years ago when our ancestors who were hunter-gatherers, often had to fight fierce animals and one another just to survive.

It is believed that this stress adaptation was the result of the threats and dangers experienced by our ancestors on a constant basis.

How to identify when a person is stressed

When a person is stressed, the physical symptoms below become prominent:

Hand and arm tremorsHow to identify when a person is stressed
Feeling of nervousness and anxiety
Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
Acute headaches that hinder work or functionality at home
Increase heart rate when not performing physical activities
Facial tics
Shallow chest breathing
Minor muscle pain
Consuming different substances (i.e., alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and other drugs)
Perspiring of the hands and feet

There are also other mental symptoms that show up in the midst of extreme stress:

Distracted thinking
Decrease in productivity
Short temper
Short-term memory loss
A decrease in sexual desire
Feeling angry all the time
Mood swings
Feeling isolated and helpless

The impact of stress on the psyche

Psychological evidence of stress usually doesn’t manifest until the person has been stressed for a long period of time. It is evidence of the mind trying to get away from the stress however possible.

Often, stressed workers are less productive in the office environment.

Stressed-out workers get to a point where they are so worn out from the natural stress response, that their thought patterns are askew and prevent them from focusing on the tasks at hand.

The same kind of thing can happen to students at a university who become so overwhelmed by the volume of assignments they have to take on in order to pass their courses.

Stress-related symptoms and the general population

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 90% of all doctor visits are associated with chronic stress-related symptoms. Over 400 million people take a medication just to mitigate these symptoms.

We are beginning to realize that medicating the symptom is not addressing the main problem. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

However, we should recognize that symptoms mentioned earlier are also signs and symptoms of other health issues, and should not be assumed to be stress. Consult with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms for a definitive diagnosis.

How is stress harmful to the mind and the body?

Medical doctors have warned people about the implications of poor stress management for many years now.

Yet there are many who still don’t believe stress affects the body in adverse ways. They say that it is “just a state of mind.” Yet, what they don’t realize is that the body’s stress response is a psychological event.

In short, the impact of stress has not, nor has it ever been, limited to just our minds. When a person is experiencing stress, their entire body feels it too. So to consider stress as only being in the mind is a dangerous way to look at it.

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The person who endures chronic stress for many years is at a heightened risk of making health conditions like hypertension, much worse. You have to comprehend how stress impacts the body if you want to be physically healthier.

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