What is stress?

The Role of Stress in Health and Illness

The Nature and Importance of Mind-Body Relationships

Stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms that differ for each of us. Things that are distressful for some individuals can be pleasurable for others. We also respond to stress differently. Some people blush, some eat more while others grow pale or eat less.
In addition, stress is not always a synonym for distress. Situations like a steep roller coaster ride that cause fear and anxiety for some can prove highly pleasurable for others. Winning a race or election may be more stressful than losing but this is good stress.
Increased stress increases productivity – up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate, and that level also differs for each of us. It’s much like the stress or tension on a violin string. Not enough produces a dull raspy sound and too much an irritating screech or snaps the string – but just the correct degree of stress creates a beautiful tone.
Similarly, we all have to find the right amount of stress that permits us to make pleasant music in our daily lives. You can learn how to utilize and transform stress so that it will make you more productive and less self- destructive.

There are numerous physical as well as emotional responses as illustrated by the following list of some 50 common signs and symptoms of stress.

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Gritting, grinding teeth
  • Stuttering or stammering
  • Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Lightheadedness, faintness, dizziness
  • Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds
  • Frequent blushing or sweating
  • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
  • Dry mouth, problems with swallowing
  • Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
  • Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
  • Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  • Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
  • Excess belching, flatulence
  • Constipation, diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, sighing
  • Sudden attacks of panic
  • Chest pain, palpitations, heart fluttering
  • Frequent Urination
  • Poor sexual desire or performance
  • Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
  • Increased anger, frustration, hostility
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Trouble learning new information
  • Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
  • Frequent crying spell or suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
  • Little interest in appearance, punctuality
  • Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
  • Overreaction to petty annoyances
  • Increased number of minor accidents
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  • Reduced work efficiency or productivity
  • Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
  • Rapid or mumbled speech
  • Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
  • Problems in communication, sharing
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
  • Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
  • Weight gain or loss without dieting
  • Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
  • Excessive gambling or impulse buying

Equally important but often less appreciated are effects on various systems, organs and tissues all over the body, as listed below:


  • Hair loss and forms of baldness
  • Spasmodic pains in the neck and shoulders, musculoskeletal aches, lower back pain, and various minor muscular twitches and nervous tics are more noticeable under stress.
  • Forgetfulness, brain fog, depression, mood swings and irritability
  • Mouth ulcers and excessive dryness
  • Hypertension and cardiovascular diseases
  • Asthmatic conditions
  • Diminished digestive tract function that can lead to acid reflux, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, duodenal and stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel
  • Skin outbreaks such as rashes, eczema or psoriasis, hives
  • Menstrual disorders such as infertility, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis,amenorrhea, recurrent vaginal infection in women and impotence and
    premature ejaculation in men
  • Rapid heart rate and anxiousness
  • Light sensitivity, dry eyes or frequent tearing
  • Over sensitivity to touch

Three are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress – in fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected.