What is Stress? What Does Stress Feel like?

There are a lot of different ways to talk about stress, but what is it, really?

It might be easiest to think of stress as our response to pressure. Simply stated, it’s a method of reacting to the challenge we are facing. 

So here’s the classic example: you are facing a saber tooth tiger. Your best response? Run. Run very, very fast.

Welcome to your fight-or-flight nervous system. Its sole design purpose is to keep you alive when the going gets tough. The problem is, our world has modernized so quickly in evolutionary terms, that normal day-to-day occurrences trigger our fight-or-flight nervous system. In other words, our stress response system is in overdrive day in and day out.

Just what are these daily triggers? Rushing to get out the door on time, meeting deadlines at work, paying bills, and beating rush-hour gridlock – just to name a few.

A little bit of stress actually helps us grow into stronger people, both physically and mentally; but sadly, most of us are so used to being chronically stressed out we fail to recognize when we’re overwhelmed and burnt out: our fuse shortens and we snap at the people we love, we catch a cold every time someone sneezes, or worse yet, we may be overcome by anxiety or depression.

Did I mention coffee?

That’s right. Morning rituals across the globe start with a cup of perfectly brewed black gold. And guess what that does to your stress response system? You are forced into fight-or-flight whether you want it or not; and it’s one of the main causes of “middle body spread,” and I know you don’t want that. (More on how to avoid middle body spread coming soon.)

So while you’re sipping your morning coffee, think about this: we have a biological need for balance. Our bodies are only designed to handle small amounts of stress a little at a time. So this world we’ve created for ourselves that’s filled with one stressful trigger after another, systematically wears us down physically and emotionally.

Chronic stress, or a prolonged state of tension, is capable of causing any number of symptoms in the body and takes a much more significant toll on the body as compared to acute stress. For multiple reasons, we all handle stress differently, and should always discuss what we’re feeling with our physicians, as some of these symptoms could be caused by other medical conditions.

Here’s a quick run-down of common stress symptoms. If anything here feels familiar, be sure to sign up below for the newsletter and be first to receive stress solutions in your inbox!

  • Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or excessively worrying
  • Increasing agitation, frustration, feeling moody or broody
  • Difficulties quieting the mind – stressed out people have a hard time “changing the channel” and thinking about something other than what’s totally stressing them
  • Feeling like you’re losing control of the situation or like you need to take control
  • Seeing the glass half empty or looking for the negative
  • A sense of low energy, lowered self-esteem, avoiding others or even depression
  • Tummy upset, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation (everyone deals differently)
  • Changes in appetite - either greatly increased or decreased
  • Nervous shaking, cold or sweaty hands and feet, or ringing in the ear
  • Nail biting, fidgeting, or pacing
  • Muscle tension, headaches, jaw clenching, or teeth grinding
  • Feeling tired but having difficulty sleeping – also called “tired but wired” because you may feel exhausted but can’t relax enough to fall asleep
  • Increased infections like colds, flus and longer healing time
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of interest in daily activities – like your partner (or your poodle)
  • Inability to focus, forgetfulness, disorganization, poor judgment
  • Avoidance behavior like procrastination or avoiding responsibilities or duties
  • Increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Increased heartbeat or chest pain (get checked out by your doctor!)

Want to learn more about how to overcome stress? Get my FREE GUIDE and learn how to use specific supplements, focus on the right foods, and which daily habits will have you feeling like yourself again.

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