Causes And Symptoms Of Stress And 8 Tips For How You Can Effectively Reduce It

13 min read APR 08, 2023

What is stress?

Is it just feeling tense because the items on your to-do are adding up as the day’s clock hours are quickly ticking away?

Is it simply those frazzled feelings you get when the kids are crying as dinner burns on the stovetop, the phone rings, and your spouse is complaining about their long day?

Maybe you only think of stress as it pertains to the endless line of cars on the freeway as you drive in to work each morning?

Stressful feelings can arise from any of these circumstances. But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s probably safe to say that stress is hitting you from more angles than you realize.

The thing is, we all experience stress.

As far as a clinical definition, stress is simply a “state of mental tension caused by a difficult situation.”

But, as far as what takes place inside your body, feelings of stress are actually a natural response you’ve been given to deal with anything that may threaten your health and wellbeing.Though, if you’re feeling inundated by stress, words like simply or natural probably aren’t ways you’d choose to describe these feelings.

This is because a little stress can be a good thing, it prompts actions and functions within your body that keep you motivated and moving.

But, too much stress can have dire consequences, leading to a cascade of health problems, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

So, today we’d like to look at stress in three ways: what causes it, some common signs of it, and some tips for how you can reduce it, keeping you happy and healthy, enjoying life instead of drowning in a sea of stress.

What Causes Of Stress?

Stress is a common word in today’s society, but do we truly realize all of the areas of life that may be causing us stress?

In order to truly reduce stress, we must understand what causes it. So, before we begin our battle against stress, we need to know its root.

Here, we’ll discuss 5 areas that commonly cause stress, some of which you may find aren’t as well known as others.

1- Sensory Stress

Did you know you can experience stress through your senses?

When your five senses experience extremes, this can cause an internal, even negative, stress response, and experiencing this repeatedly can lead to negative health symptoms.

Frequent exposure to extreme temperatures can cause stress. This is why it is important to wear proper clothing, hydrate, and take breaks if you’re living, working, or exercising in such temperatures.

Loud noises are another sensory based cause of stress, where prolonged exposure is linked to anxiety, depression, even high blood pressure and heart disease.

Then, what about taste, smell, and sight?

Have you ever burned your tongue from sipping coffee that’s too hot? This essentially causes an injury, which initiates a stress response.

Or, what about the painful sensation of brain freeze from sipping a frozen drink too fast? This too is your body’s way of responding to stress. That sudden brain freeze headache? This is your body communicating to you, through a stress response, that you need to ease up on the slurping.

Headaches from light exposure happen as your body, here your eyes, experience too much brightness at once or over a period of time.

Regarding smell, have you ever been nauseated when exposed to adverse scents for a prolonged period of time? Once again, this is a result of your body’s stress response.

Any of these sensory stressors can activate your body’s fight or flight response. And, when experienced repeatedly, or in conjunction with one another, they can cause this natural response to push into overdrive, releasing hormones and initiating functions that, left unchecked, can lead to negative health outcomes.

2- Environmental Stress

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress refers to stress incurred through our surroundings. Certainly, the sensory stressors we listed above can fall into this category, but there are many other environmental factors at play when it comes to stress.

When you aren’t fueling your body with nutritious, healthy foods, consuming processed items or those high in sugar, these all contain toxins which can build up in your body, causing stress.

Environmental contaminants from mold growth (common in many foods), exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, even chemical contaminants in food packaging and clothing can all trigger a stress response from your body.

Cleaning products and toiletries can all contain toxic chemicals which initiate a stress response as your body encounters these dangers.

And, toxins present in our air, water, and soil, if/when they enter our bodies, can act as stressors. These can also lead to health problems which activate this stress response as well, potentially causing a double dose of stress.

3- Relationship Stress

Relationship Stress

Our lives are filled with relationships.

Family, friends, colleagues, even the cashier at the supermarket or the drivers passing by on the highway, pretty much anyone routinely in your life or those you only come into contact with momentarily, have the potential to cause stress.

These stressors can come innocently, like when your newborn cries in the night, needing to be fed, changed, comforted. This type of stress isn’t meant to harm you in any way; however, the noise from your infant’s cry and the interruption in sleep can cause stress to your body/mind.

What about work? The light amounts of stress at your job can serve as motivators, even improving cognitive abilities as you work out your mind and hone your career craft.

But, as we’re all human, we can also experience negative stress within our job when dealing with colleagues if kindness and respect aren’t present in our dealings.

Friendships can clash at times, resulting in added life stress. And, sometimes these friend and colleague complications can even spill over into spousal relationships, which can contain enough stressors in and of themselves.

And, thus far we’ve not even covered the deep, even traumatic, stressors that can occur in adult relationships such as the death of a loved one, infidelity, difficulties with finances, loss of work, frequent arguments, divorce, and more.

From the seemingly small and insignificant, to the more personal and lasting, every relationship contains stressors, large and small, and each of these can lead to negative health problems when not dealt with or when experienced frequently.

4- Physical Stress

Physical Stress

Physical stress can come from many areas.

Viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections? These all cause stress to your body.

Any injury you incur, from minor things like cuts and bruises, to major surgery, a broken bone, torn ligaments, and disease, these all cause stress to your body.

If you aren’t getting adequate, restful sleep each night, this causes stress, actually initiating a vicious cycle whereby lack of sleep causes stress and stress leads to a lack of restful sleep.

Even exercise, something meant to bring great health to your body, can cause stress if you overdo it.

Of course, we’re in no way advocating for omitting exercise from your life, but consider the following:

A healthy amount of exercise pushes your body, prompting small amounts of stress that result in gains for respiratory, cardiovascular, even muscle and skeletal health.

But, if you push past what your body can handle, you can experience setbacks due to too much stress being imposed on your body at once. Even working out in extreme temperatures can have detrimental effects due to stress.

Improper hydration, poor nutrition, and poor sleep, this can all be root causes when it comes to physical stress. 

5- Behavioral Stress 

These types of stress are generally those you have control over. Several of these fall under the categories we’ve listed above, so we’ll keep this brief. But, it’s important to note when dealing with stress, there are some items we can control.

Netflix binging, late night work sessions, bedtime phone scrolling, and more are all behaviors that can keep us from sleep, each stressor here being easily controlled by behavior modifications.

Drinking alcohol, smoking, or using recreational drugs are all things that cause a stress response, each of which are behaviors we can control.

The food choices we make, also within our control, greatly affect stress levels in the body.

Whether or not we exercise is another behavioral choice, one which can cause stress by overdoing it or not doing it at all.

Choosing to put off a work or school task can lead to stress when attempting to accomplish that task at a later, more rushed, date.

Even our relationships, in some cases, are within our control, whereby we can make the choice to surround ourselves with positive, kind, and respectful people, knowing those folks bent on negativity and disrespect will only cause greater amounts of stress in our lives. 

Symptoms Of Stress

Knowing the signs and symptoms of stress can seem like an easy thing. I mean, we all experience stress, so why wouldn’t we know what that feels like?

The thing is, while we all experience stress, we don’t all experience stress in the same way.

And, these symptoms can creep up on us, wreaking havoc on our health underneath the surface before we even realize there’s a problem.

Left unchecked, stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.

This is why it’s of paramount importance that we not only know what causes stress, but know how to identify signs of it personally.

1- Physical Symptoms Of Stress

Since your body’s natural stress response involves the production and release of hormones as well as the activation of your central nervous system, these signs can be evidenced physically all throughout your body.

If ignored, these symptoms can worsen, leading to long-term, even severe or life-threatening, health problems.

The effects of stress can lead to the experience of any of the following physical symptoms:

  • Blurry vision
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn, indigestion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Skin rashes, itchy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Sweating
  • Worsening of pre-existing medical conditions

2- Behavioral Signs Of Stress

Some would consider behavioral signs of stress precursors to the physical symptoms we listed above, and while this can be true in some circumstances, the following can be experienced alongside physical symptoms as well.

If you notice any of these behaviors in your life, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing excessive stress and need to find ways to manage it before becoming overwhelmed.

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Brain fog
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth
  • Nail biting
  • Continual feelings of worry or dread
  • Difficulties in decision making
  • Overeating or not eating enough
  • Restlessness
  • Crying more often
  • Withdrawal (from people and situations)
  • Lack of motivation to exercise
  • Exercising excessively
  • Excessive smoking, drinking, or using recreational drugs
  • Sexual problems (including a loss of interest in sex)
  • Sleeping too much
  • Difficulty adapting to change

3- Emotional Signs Of Stress

There’s a reason stress is often described as an emotion. While, technically, stress describes a bodily response, when we experience stressors repeatedly, the warning signs of this often present themselves in an emotional manner.

Even some of the behaviors listed above can be emotionally linked.

And, as with the behavioral signs associated with stress, the following emotional signals can be present alongside, or precursing, more serious physical health problems.

  • Lack of patience
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Overwhelming feelings
  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Excessive worry
  • Loss of a sense of humor
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Loneliness
  • Fear
  • Nervousness
  • Worsening symptoms of pre-existing mental health problems

8 Ways To Reduce Stress

I get it, so far we’ve painted a gloomy picture. It seems like everything around us can cause stress.

And, the symptoms listed in those three sections above can be alarming, even causing a measure of stress.

Thankfully, there are multiple, simple, highly effective, ways to reduce the stress you may be experiencing in your life!

1- Daily Gratitude

Did you know that the simple task of writing down, each day, a few things you’re thankful for can not only improve stress levels but can help you sleep better, boost your mood, and improve immunity?

Start with three things. Each morning, night, or any time in between, and make it a priority to write or type out the things you’re grateful for.

  • A beautiful sunrise
  • Walking my dog this afternoon
  • A hug from my son

2- Deep Breathing

Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose from your tummy, not your chest, for 4 counts. Gently hold that breath for 4 counts, now breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts. Hold this for 4 counts, then breathe in again through your nose.

Repeat this process and notice how your entire body calms.

Practice this daily to relieve and prevent stress or to promote calmness before bed or during stressful situations.

Even better, add deep breathing to yoga or meditation to enhance these stress relievers as well.

3- Listen To Music

Upbeat music is proven to bring feelings of positivity, and slower tempos can promote relaxation. But, both types of music can effectively reduce stress and anxiety.

When you’re feeling stressed or tense, listen to your favorite tunes, slow or upbeat, something that truly resonates with you, and you'll relieve that stress while improving your mental and emotional outlook.

4- Journal

Getting your thoughts down onto paper, or online, through journaling is a proven stress relief practice.

This process helps you to sort out emotions, detail your thoughts, and better see a situation for what it truly is. In some instances, journaling can be as effective as therapy for relieving stress.

5- Move Your Body

If you already enjoy working out on a regular basis, yet you’re feeling stressed, a simple walk around the block can effectively reset your body and mind, relieving stress.

If you aren’t regularly working out, moving your body, even just a few minutes a day, can greatly relieve stress.

Dance, walk your dog, go for a run on your lunch break, ride your bike to work, join a fitness class, lift weights…each of these, and more, can help you reduce stress.

6- Laugh

Life is sometimes too serious. And, all this seriousness can become a weight, overwhelming our body, mind, and spirit with stress.

Take the time, and find the occasion, to laugh.

Laughter lessons stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s even proven to improve self-esteem and simply make you happier.

7- Help Others

Stress can draw us inward, even disconnecting us from others. Then, focusing solely on our own problems can make those issues seem bigger than they are, creating more stress.

Reaching out to help others, whether lending a hand to a friend in need or volunteering within your local community, shifts our focus, helps us gain perspective, and yes…it lowers stress levels.

The simple act of volunteering produces feelings of relaxation, promotes meaningfulness, and releases dopamine which reduces anxiety and stress.

8- Talk To Someone

Whether it’s a therapist, your physician, a trusted friend, family member, or colleague, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing many of the stress symptoms we’ve talked about here today, consider finding someone you can talk to.

Talking about problems can make those issues more manageable, and the practice alone is proven to reduce stress, improve health, and bring healing.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Optimist Light Roast.

Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.


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This was so good thank you such simple things to catch for stress very good thank you again