Have you ever had a morning that starts off with the realization that you are very, very late waking up? In your rush to get ready for work, you spill coffee on your white shirt, which means you have to return to your closet to find something clean to wear. Your stress level rises as you realize you will be late to this morning’s meeting. Your heartbeat quickens, sending extra blood to your arms and legs in the alarm stage of stress, also known as the fight-or-flight response.
The Three Stages of Stress
What you just experienced was the first stage of stress, part of what can be a three-stage response to stressful events in our lives. This response is known as general adaptation syndrome, and was first theorized by Hans Selye, a Hungarian scientist who studied the effects of stress on the human body. Understanding the different stages of stress and how our bodies respond to them can help us identify symptoms of chronic stress in ourselves before they cause permanent damage. Let’s return to our example to consider the next two stages.
After your hectic morning, you get to work and find that your mind is racing and you are having difficulty focusing on your tasks. In the morning meeting, you realize that you have missed the deadline for an important project and must complete it today. Since your body really hasn’t had a chance to recover from the morning, it remains on high alert. Your blood pressure and heart rate stay elevated, and your body releases stress hormones. If the stress continues for a prolonged period of time, your body will adapt and learn to live with the higher stress level – also known as the resistance stage.
On the drive home, you become stuck in traffic. By the time you arrive back at home, you are fatigued and frustrated. You feel physically and emotionally overwhelmed, and just want to go to bed. This is known as the exhaustion stage.
Symptoms of Stress Exhaustion
This scenario is a simple example of the levels of stress some people endure on an ongoing basis. Stress can build up in many ways, whether through life events such as a divorce or job loss, or simply becoming overwhelmed by daily challenges. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of the exhaustion state before they cause stress overload – the point where our bodies can no longer cope with stress, resulting in a physical and mental breakdown.
Decreased stress tolerance
Learn to Cope With Sound Mind Therapy
We all endure times of stress in our lives, but it’s important to manage the prolonged stress that can result in health problems and depression. If you find yourself overwhelmed and exhausted by all the challenges in your life, give Sound Mind Therapy a call for innovative counseling services from the heart. We offer individual counseling to help you learn how to manage stress and thrive again. Call us today at (314) 499-9144 or complete our online request form to schedule an appointment. From our office in Creve Coeur, we serve residents of St. Louis, St. Charles and surrounding suburbs.