Top Ten Stressful Life Events

StressSigns and symptoms of stress overload

The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. A little here a little there, you get used to it. It starts to feels familiar, commonplace even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. It is important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control.

Top Ten Stressful Life Events

  1. Spouse’s death
  2. Divorce
  3. Marriage separation
  4. Jail term
  5. Death of a close relative
  6. Injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Fired from job
  9. Marriage reconciliation
  10. Retirement

Source: Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory

Signs and symptoms of stress overload

Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently. You need to be alert because the signs and symptoms of stress overload can be almost anything.

How do you respond to stress?

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:

Foot on the gas An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.

Foot on the brake A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.

Foot on both A tense and frozen stress response. You ‚ freeze under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

Stress Overload

Below are some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms

Cognitive Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)


Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it is important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.

Dealing with stress and its symptoms

There are many things you can do to reduce the impact of stress and cope with symptoms. If left unchecked stress is definitely damaging to your body, health and wellbeing,

Learn how to manage stress

Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems.

Stress management involves:

  • Changing a stressful situation when at all possible
  • Change your reaction to the situation if you are unable to change the situation
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Making time for rest, relaxation and some pampering

You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, you can always control the way you respond.

Strengthen your relationships

The greatest protection against stress is a strong support network. When you have good and trusted friends and loving family members you know you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying relationships. Spend time with the people you love and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life and some fun. You deserve it!

A few thoughts on reaching out and building relationships:

  • Help someone else by volunteering.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a co-worker.
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Take a class or join a club.

Learn how to relax

It is not realistic or possible to completely eliminate stress from your life. However, you can control how it affects you. Consider using relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activates the body’s relaxation response. A state of restfulness is the opposite of the stress response. If you practice this on a regular, these activities can lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of happiness and tranquility. For some most importantly, they increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

Invest in your emotional health

People with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from stress and adversity. This ability is called resilience. Unfortunately, most people ignore their emotional health which in many cases will create problems. Think of it in these terms, it requires time and energy to build or maintain your physical health, your emotional well-being is no different. The more you put in to it, the stronger it will be. The stronger your emotional health the greater your ability to remain focused, flexible, and positive in bad times as well as good. Although at times it may seem like there is no hope, there are many steps you can take to build your resilience and your overall emotional health.

Bottom line

Invest in yourself. Take time to do the things you enjoy. Learn to relax and have fun again. If you are so far down the stress path that you do not remember what you enjoy, think back about the times you have had fun, you were relaxed and give it another try. Although it may seem awkward at first keep at it. If it does not come natural do not despair, keep at it, it will come back. After all it is you mental and physical health and well being at stake. If you do not take this seriously it may have a devastating impact on you over time.

Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it is important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.


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