Stress: Definition, Signs, Consequences, Causes, Ways to Cope

stress symptoms signs causes reduce stress

Posted On February 14, 2021

What is stress?

Considered to be one of the greatest scourges of modern life, stress is omnipresent with sometimes terrible consequences.

Everyone talks about stress. If you are like 80% of the population, you have probably already experienced this unpleasant feeling. However, stress is experienced differently from one person to another.

Above all, it is a body response to protect you in the face of a particular situation such as a threat, a challenge, or in the front of specific triggers. Nevertheless, it is all a matter of perception.

Stress is different from anxiety; Stress is a physiological response of the body, anxiety is a feeling linked to fear’s emotion.

Having been confronted for many years with a state of high stress, I have learned to apprehend it to understand its mechanisms throughout my life, so take a good breath and talk about stress.


Etymology and origin

The word “stress” is From Middle English destresse, itself derived from the old French estrece meaning (narrowness, oppression) and which comes from the Latin stringere (to tighten, compress).

The origin of the psychological concept dates back to the 1920s by the American physiologist of the Department of Physiology at Harvard, Walter Bradford Cannon, who studied the principle of homeostasis.

Homeostasis is a process of regulation of a system whose objective is to maintain the balance of its internal environment. Concerning the human body, its function is to adapt the different parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and many others so that they remain constant regardless of external events.

So why talk about homeostasis? Because it will be at the heart of our stress, these specific events will challenge or even disrupt your homeostatic system.

Later, Dr. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist, democratized the notion of biological stress. In 1956, he published the book Stress of Life, which introduced a new concept called “general adaption syndrome” that he later renamed “stress response.”


The positive role of stress.

Ironically, stress is useful and even vital for the human being. It serves as a warning and adaptation mechanism in an unknown, unpredictable or dangerous context.

So it’s clear that the situation is different between running for a job interview because you’re late and running away because you’ve come face to face with a bear.

Yet, the biological mechanism is similar.
Faced with an unexpected or even potentially hostile situation, stress will generate specific physiological changes to sharpen our senses and allow us to act in the most appropriate way possible, i.e., run or fight.
The goal is always the same for the brain, in other words, to survive.

However, in a completely different context, some people indicate that stress has a positive function and can induce additional motivation.
This can become stimulating because the challenge becomes a goal to be reached; this is frequently seen in elite athletes.

Nevertheless, excessive stress is dangerous and can lead to many complications and harmful consequences.


Signs and Symptoms of Stress Facts

When stress is not controlled over the long term, it can cause a large number of physical and psychological disorders. Here is a list of symptoms that should alert you to your state of stress.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sleep Disorders
  • Procrastination
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol
  • Nail-biting
  • Eating disorders
  • Difficulty in making decisions

Emotional & Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Constant anxiety
  • Feeling restless
  • Being pessimistic
  • Being easily irritable
  • Isolation/avoidance of others
  • Feeling of powerlessness
  • Depersonalization
  • Concentration disorders
  • Ruminations
  • Depression
  • Low Self-esteem

Physical Symptoms:

  • Panic attacks
  • Acne
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Low energy
  • Hypertension
  • Back pain
  • Stomach aches
  • Pain in the neck
  • Rapid heartbeat.

If you experience 5 or more of these factors, it is time to act and contact your doctor quickly.


Symptoms signs consequences of stress


What are the consequences of long-term stress?

When a feeling of stress becomes recurrent, intensifies over the long term, and does not disappear, it is called chronic stress. Your internal regulatory mechanisms are overwhelmed, and you always feel like you can no longer cope with reality.

Chronic stress will have direct consequences on your brain and disrupt its proper functioning. In particular, it will disturb GABA production, a neurotransmitter acting as a natural anxiolytic or inhibit serotonin, which is one of the hormones of well-being.

These failures will have repercussions on all of your vital systems; cardiac, immune, sexual, digestive, etc., which will potentially be impacted in their proper functioning.

Severe consequences of chronic stress:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Fertility problem
  • Faulty immune system

If you are concerned about chronic stress, don’t wait and contact your doctor to talk about it and take immediate action. Stress can be overcome, so don’t take the risk of suffering more dangerous complications. Take action now.


Understanding the causes of stress

Although we are not equal in the face of all stressful situations, there are 4 main mechanism criteria:

Control of the situation: if you have little or no control of the circumstances, it will increase tensions.

The novelty: facing an unknown and new situation with a lack of reference point may become stressful and challenging.

The unpredictable factor: the impossibility of knowing the outcome and how a specific event will unfold.

Ego: if your skills and ego are set in a complicated situation, the feeling of danger can become anxiety-provoking.

The more a specific situation validates these criteria, the higher the stress will be.

According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, these are the top 10 most stressful life events:

the top 10 most stressful life events:

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation from mate
  4. Detention in jail or other institution
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Major personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Being fired at work
  9. Marital reconciliation with mate
  10. Retirement from work


Of course, there are many possible sources of stress, and the modern world has brought with it many new factors adding to the pressure.

Causes of stress in Modern-day:

  • Hyperconnectivity
  • Social pressure
  • Financial problem
  • The work
  • Relationship problems
  • Isolation
  • Moving house
  • Marital life
  • Health problems


Who is affected by stress? An infographic


How to handle stress

During life, we all face crises; this is part of the circle of life. Here are some tips to help you reduce your stress.


Focus on your breath

This is not really a question of meditation, which I will talk more about at another point, but instead of a relaxation technique based on breathing.

Give yourself 5 minutes in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and stay focused on your breathing.

Sit or lie down and close your eyes. Put your hand on your stomach and breathe in through your nose. Become aware of the fresh air coming in and all the sensations it brings to your body, and exhale with this awareness of your breath.

If you wish, you can concentrate on your hand resting on your abdomen which goes up and down with the breath.

Think of it as a time to cut yourself off from the vicissitudes of everyday life.


Take a walk

It is not insignificant if it is recommended to walk 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy. Practicing walking daily can lower blood pressure, improve mood, reduce stress, maintain a stable weight, and many other benefits.

Specifically, the body produces more serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters of well-being, and limits cortisol secretion.

Of course, you can choose a physical activity other than walking, such as swimming, cycling, muscle-building sports, or generally any physical activity that you enjoy.

Regular physical activity done is one of the most effective ways to fight the effects of stress.



Numerous scientific researches have demonstrated the benefits of meditation to reduce stress effectively. A daily practice of a few minutes is enough to begin to see positive results.
Initially, it allows us to become aware of the changes and events taking place within our body and mind.

This reinforces our ability to detach ourselves from our brain’s automatic mode and take a step back from the thoughts that keep coming to us.

At the same time, it enhances your ability to let go and cultivate openness and caring, thus implicitly reducing the impact of stressful external elements.


Eat healthy

It has long been known that our nutrition has a significant impact on our brain. It is not for nothing that we call the stomach the second brain. It has more than 100 million neurons!

Some studies have shown that certain types of diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, positively impact stress and depression.
Several powerful foods can reduce the effects of stress.

Anti-stress food:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Salmon and fatty fish
  • Honey
  • Lawyer
  • Nuts and oilseeds
  • Egg
  • Banana
  • Spinach
  • Tea & Herbal Tea

These foods are rich in various vitamins, magnesium, and other good things for the nervous system’s functioning.


Make time for yourself

Take your phone away, stop doing what you’re doing and take time to remember what really makes you happy. How long has it been since you’ve taken the time to indulge your passions?

Free up some time to get back to your leisure because it’s a special time for you alone, and so you cut out external sources of distraction.

It has been scientifically demonstrated that practicing an artistic activity lowers cortisol levels in the blood. Manual activities such as DIY are also trendy.

Listening to relaxing music can improve cognitive abilities to fight stress, or you can simply read a novel.

The main thing here is to temporarily cut yourself off from the world to refocus on yourself and take time just for yourself.



A discipline dating back several millennia, the health benefits of yoga have long been proven.

It is a complete discipline that brings many benefits with the goal of harmonizing body and mind.

Several studies have shown that yoga’s regular practice can reduce symptoms related to stress, sleep disorders, and muscular tension.

There are many different types of yoga, focusing on yoga based on breathing and relaxation techniques.


Final Thoughts

In a society where everything moves so fast, where competition is omnipresent, stress has never been so present in our world.
Even of illness, a malaise source is not a fatality, and there are many solutions to overcome this bad stress and regain serenity.






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Written by Cédric Potard

I'm Cédric Potard, founder and author of this website and former 3D artist in the videogame industry. You can connect with me on my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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