Earlier in this series we’ve defined several types of stress which originate from similarly related events or stressors. Likewise, there are varied overlapping stages which constitute what we call stress. In a nutshell, the stages of stress denote the responses to the various stressful events an individual may undergo, and the accumulative effect of such responses. For this purpose, we’ve devised three stages: mobilisation of energy, exhaustion or consuming energy, and draining energy stores.

Stage 1: Mobilisation of Energy

All bodily activity is increase in response to a stressor that is frightening, such as a near ca accident. This starts the body’s ‘fight or flight’ reaction, causing the release of adrenalin. You feel your heart pounding and your palms feel sweaty (I’m sure this is a common picture for anyone reading this). This is called primary stress. Such stress could also be the result of a situation where you choose to put yourself under stress (e.g. the night before your wedding). This is called secondary stress.

Regular symptoms: increased heart rate and blood pressure; rapid breathing; seating; decreased digestion rate (“butterflies in the stomach”).

Stage 2: Exhaustion or Consuming Energy

If there is no escape from Stage 1 (that is, an immediate situation which would not represent danger), the body will begin to release stored sugars and fats, using up its bodily resources.

Regular symptoms: feeling driven; feeling pressured; tiredness and fatigue; anxiety; memory loss; acute illnesses such as colds and flu.

Stage 3: Draining Energy Stores

If the stressful situation is not resolved, you may become chronically stressed. The body’s need for energy resources exceeds its ability to produce them. Like previously state, the human body was not ‘designed’ to maintain high stress levels over an extended period of time. This is the stress ‘degrading’ period.

Regular symptoms: heart disease; ulcers; mental illness; insomnia; errors in judgement; personality changes.

Stress is linked with neurochemical reactions in the brain which are extremely relevant to the individual’s behaviour and habitual activities. Thus, recognising early changes in stress levels, and undertaking the necessary measurements to control it, is a constant need in order to maintain a healthy, balanced and productive lifestyle.

Are any of these stages familiar to you?