How to identify Dangerous Stress Triggers by @Barbclifford

How to identify Dangerous Stress Triggers by Barbara Clifford

People seek the total elimination of stress like Nirvana, yet this will always be an unrealistic aspiration as stress is essential for us to survive.

Many forget that Stress is vital in the function of flight or fight. In fact Hans Selye, an endocrinologist was one of the pioneers in identifying stress and came up with four classifications.

The Four Classifications of Stress


Eustress is positive stress. It’s the stress we intentionally put ourselves under to motivate us into action for a positive outcome, to meet challenges, such as exercising.  It provides with benefits that physical, mental or spiritual.

Under Stress

Boredom is typical of under stress.  It is experienced when we don’t have direction or certainty.  When we feel undervalued or under appreciated.  Waiting, solitary confinement can be stressful. If you’ve ever been caught in a traffic jam, you’ll understand this feeling.


This is where we go beyond our limits, pushing ourselves into excess and forcing our body to perpetuate hormones like cortisol and adrenalin to keep us going, with little time for the body to recover.


Typically, we experience this with unresolved or out of control emotions and feelings such as anxiety or fear.  Distress will also trigger the flight or fight response.

What causes the stress response?


When we feel time poor, when we are hit with situations that create an emergency, a race against time, we are responding to time stress. Likewise, stress can be generated from working long hours or we lead busy family and work lives with little down time.


If we have an unknown future, if we have no sense of an “end to it all” we are creating stress by anticipation. Typically people who have a stress response triggered by this will worry a lot, and be caught up in the “what-if”s. They will become anxious and contemplate all the possible things that can go wrong.


A stress response triggered by the situation is typical of the environment.  That is people will feel stress that stems from embarrassment, scary/uncomfortable situations, new/unknown situations or where they are in a tense, negative environment that may be stimulating conflict.


Typically working mothers will experience a stress response with the overwhelming demand for interaction.  The feeling is “everyone wants a piece of me”.  When a person becomes drained from constantly having to interact with people, often too many people, they feel drained and worn out.  It can also be dealing with difficult or traumatic situations.

What are the warning signs?

While we don’t want to eliminate stress completely from our lives, (as we need the good stress to function), we do need to control the stress by monitoring and managing the triggers.  If the stress response is continuous and prolonged, the side effects can be harmful to our health.  It means our body will constantly producing adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol is the is the primary stress hormone. It is the body’s armour. it shuts down or curbs functions that do not help us in survival mode. For example, your immune system, reproductive system and digestive system are not necessary when fighting off an attacker.  Typically, it will shut down once the perceived threat has gone, however, if stressors are always present, the body will be over producing these hormones.

These are some common warning signs to be aware of:


You may unconsciously tense muscles such as your jaw, neck or shoulders which can lead to unexplained pain. It can also lead to upset stomach, over production of acid or headaches.


Some people may overeat or be lethargic as a stress response while others may lose their appetite. It is not uncommon for people to gain weight, particularly around the middle. Increased cortisol can make you crave unhealthy foods, as the stress response is seeking energy generating foods for the flight or fight.  Cortisol raises your blood sugar.

High glucose levels then bump up your insulin levels, that then drop your blood sugar which in turn makes you crave sugary fatty food.


When the stress is constant, some may feel a sense of hopelessness or powerlessness.


A common sensation of stress is a churning stomach, butterflies, rapid breathing, tapping feet, sweating or sweating palms or increased heart rate.  Many associate this as a stress response.


With too much adrenalin and cortisol pumping through your system, you might find it difficult to sleep. Or, when you do sleep, you still wake up feeling tired.

What can we do to manage the stress?

Kelly McGonical in her TED talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend” talks about the scientific research that shows we can alter our bodies response to stress.  She says that if we can view signs of stress as empowering rather than as a sign of anxiety, our body responds differently and in much healthier way.

Schedule down time

By scheduling your down time, setting alarms for turning computer’s off or sunset meditations, you will find yourself more disciplined to take time for yourself.

Relax before sleep

Don’t bring your phone into the bedroom and properly wind down before bed time.  Listen to a meditation or take a relaxing bath.

Connect with people

Kelly McGonical also talks about research that shows people become more resilient when they create meaningful connections. It increases the good hormones.

Consider life coaching or stress management coaching. Sometimes someone providing you with objective insight can help you to identify triggers or stressors that were not apparent.  When we are in “Stress Storms” things are not always clear.


Barbara Clifford Featured Contributor Bio Barbara Clifford Contributor

Barbara Clifford – The Time Tamer – Time Management & Stress Management Enthusiast

Barbara Clifford (a.k.a The Time Tamer) has spent over 20 years working in stressful and time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order out of chaos. Barbara assists people to find clarity in their environment, control of their time and alleviate stress. From gay bars to cruise ships, Barbara’s professional experience has been diverse,  including contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services to name a few. Find out more at

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