Dignity Street

Registered Charity (CIO) in England & Wales No: 1177171

Information & Support

The purpose of the stress response (Fight or Flight) is to give you more energy as and when required. This energy can then be used to help you meet deadlines and deal with crises easily and calmly.

If stress is a normal reaction to events, why do we think it is a problem?  When we say that someone is suffering from stress what we mean is that they are under extra and excessive stress. To many demands, or to few, are being made and they feel unable to cope. It can be dangerous when it is continued for to long and functions at too high a level and interferes with the body and mind. It is rather like food – we all need to eat to stay alive, but to much or to little food both result in our becoming unwell. 

So it is with stress: to few demands may be as bad as to many.  Someone who is doing an undemanding job – on a production line perhaps – may well find that this is as stressful for them as busy executives find their work. 

The result is the same in both cases, because the body’s normal equilibrium is disturbed.  We all need a certain amount of stress to survive, but when the balance is wrong we’re in trouble.  But this does not mean that we all need the same amount or that we all respond to the same events in the same way. 

Everyone’s response will be different because we are all unique.  We are formed as a result of our genes, our experiences and our environment.  A person who is brought up to be a high achiever may find it easier to cope with the pressures of an executive role than someone whose expectations were in a different direction, and vice versa.  That’s why some of us thrive in situations which others find totally overwhelming.  What is important is the degree of adaptation we have to make to a situation which determines whether we act positively or negatively – and find ourselves going forward or failing to cope.

Stress has damaging effects in six areas of our lives.  Work, home, hobbies, exercise, sleep and diet.  There appears to be one word out of a range that is particularly apt, the ability to COPE.  Being able to COPE with the many stressful situations we are faced with each day.  You don’t have to be a high powered executive to be confronted with these situations.  In fact it has been shown that many minor incidents create greater stress than one major confrontation.  Such things as seeing the children off to school, finding the battery flat on the car, spilling milk on a freshly cleaned floor, the list could go on for ever.

Every stressful event triggers an array of reactions.  These reactions are there to help you COPE.  Nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord send messages to the core of the Adrenal Glands.  These glands send out adrenaline, chemicals that prepare the body to react (Fight of Flight). These increase the heart rate, breathing, alertness and muscle response.  It is rather like putting petrol in a car, if you increase the speed the more petrol is used and at greater cost, the body reacts in the same way, the more stress, the greater the physical and mental toil. You can now see why it is so important to manage your stress levels


 The three major causes of death in the UK are: 

Cancer, Heart Disease and Stroke. These three killers have one common factor – Stress

Stage 1

The Alarm Stage – ‘Fight or Flight’  Telltale symptoms:

Rushing through things, talking quickly, walking fast (head leading),

bolting food and drink, working at high speed for long periods without tiring.

Stage 2

The Secondary Stage Telltale symptoms:

Irritability, dyspepsia and gastric problems, heartburn, gastric ulceration,

palpitations and chest pains, tension headaches, migraines, insomnia,

loss of energy, comfort ticks, alcohol abuse, smoking, increased intake of food.

Stage 3

Exhaustion Stage Telltale symptoms:

cotton wool head, muddled thinking, memory failing, negative thoughts,

depression and anxiety, fatigue.

Stage 4

Telltale symptoms:

complete physical and mental overload, collapse, hypertension, cardiac incident,

usually leading to serious illness and quite often burnout!


Psychological signs

Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions, Memory lapses

Becoming rather vague, Easily distracted, Less intuitive & creative

Worrying, Negative thinking, Depression & anxiety

Emotional signs

Tearful, Irritable, Mood swing, Extra sensitive to criticism

Defensive, Feeling out of control, Lack of motivation, Angry

Frustrated, Lack of confidence, Lack of self-esteem

Physical signs

Aches pains & muscle tension, grinding teeth,  Allergies

Frequent colds & infections, Rashes, Skin irritations, Constipation

Heartburn, Ulcers, Irritable Bowl syndrome (IBS)

Weight loss or gain, Indigestion, Hyperventilating, Lump in the throat

 Loss of libido Sexual problems, Heart problems, High blood pressure

Pins & needle, Dizziness, Palpitations, Panic attacks, Nausea

Menstrual changes, Physical tiredness.

Behavioural signs

No time for relaxation or pleasurable activities, Prone to accidents

Forgetfulness, Increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine

Recreational or illegal drugs, Becoming a workaholic, Poor time management,

Poor standards of work, Absenteeism, Self neglect and change in appearance,

Social withdrawal, Relationship problems, Insomnia or waking tired, Nervous

Uncharacteristically lying, Reckless and aggressive anger outbursts

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Medical Advice Disclaimer:  Dignity Street Foundation is a charity whose purpose is to promote sound knowledge and best practice in promoting Stress Prevention and Wellbeing. Dignity Street Foundation advises If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention.

© David P Briscombe 2018