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Understanding Stress Symptoms

Understanding Stress Symptoms

What is Stress?

Stress is a feeling of being tense, overwhelmed, worn out, or exhausted. A small amount of stress can be motivating, but too much stress makes even small tasks seem daunting. Symptoms can range from mild (e.g., headaches and stomach aches) to severe (e.g., anxiety and depression).

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

  • Acute stress is brief but intense. Short-term stressors—such as giving a speech, getting into an argument, or studying for an exam—cause acute stress.
  • Chronic stress, on the other hand, is long-lasting. The symptoms may not be as intense in the moment, but the long-term effects are more severe. Long-term stressors—such as a difficult job, an unhealthy relationship with frequent arguing, or financial difficulties—cause chronic stress.

The symptoms of acute stress, such as sweating, irritability, and headaches, are disruptive in the moment. The symptoms of chronic stress might go unnoticed in the moment but cause serious long-term health problems.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress causes physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. Some people will have an easy time identifying their symptoms and connecting them with stress. Others—especially those who have had chronic stress for years and years—will need more guidance before recognizing their symptoms as stress-related.


Stress management table

Stress Management Strategies

Build Resilience: This refers to the ability to handle stress when it arises, and to protect oneself against future stress. Research has shown that there are several qualities that contribute to resilience, all of which are included in the 8Wise™ model.

Social support: Using social support can help reduce stress. Social support may come from friends, family, or community organizations. Identify current and potential sources of social support.

Journaling: Positive journaling can foster optimism, which contributes to stress resilience. Positive journaling involves writing about daily positive experiences. It tends to be easy to remember negative experiences, but it takes more work to recall and appreciate positive experiences. Positive journaling is a great way to appreciate these experiences. You can get your copy of the 8Wise Journal here.

Gratitude Journal: Showing gratitude can increase self-esteem, which contributes to resilience. There are a few ways to show gratitude, including gratitude journaling, telling someone “Thank you”, and visiting someone you appreciate.

Relaxation techniques: Such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, are a fundamental part of stress management. These techniques trigger the relaxation response, which counters the body’s stress response.

Time Management: Too much to do, and too little time. Balancing responsibilities and fitting them into a busy schedule is a common stressor. Time management skills can reduce the mental burden of juggling tasks and increase the likelihood that everything gets done.

Self-Care: This refers to your favourite activities that help you relax, have fun, or feel energized. These could include talking with a friend, going for a walk, reading, listening to music, or whatever else you enjoy. The important part of self-care is not so much what you do—it’s just that you do it.

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