Understanding stress a little better

Empathy and exposure to traumatic events – both of which most health care providers have – increases our vulnerability to stress. That means we need a concrete action plan for managing the stress in our lives, coping with the stressors that arise and a self care plan so that we can maintain – or boost – our health despite ongoing vulnerability to stress.


Stress can have a far-reaching impact on our health and wellbeing. Knowing how stress can manifest is important.

Physical symptoms:

fatigue • nausea/vomiting • chest pain • muscle tremors/twitches • difficulty breathing •thirst • teeth grinding • weakness • dizziness • profuse sweating • chills •shock symptoms • fainting • headaches • visual difficulties •increased blood pressure/heart rate                

Cognitive symptoms

blaming • inability to make decisions • confusion • poor attention or concentration • hypervigilance • memory problems • difficulty naming familiar objects • loss of sense of orientation • disturbed thinking • time warping • decreased problem solving or abstraction

Emotional symptoms

anxiety • guilt • grief • denial • severe panic • fear/uncertainty • loss of control • feeling overwhelmed • depression • inappropriate emotional response • apprehension • intense anger • irritability • agitation • crying

Behavioural symptoms

change in activity • change in speech patterns • withdrawal • outbursts • suspiciousness • inability to rest • antisocial acts • increased startle response • erratic behaviour • change in sexual functioning
• change in usual behaviour

Spiritual symptoms

faith rituals seem empty • loss of meaning and purpose in life • questioning beliefs • change in religious activities • withdraw from worship • angry at God • sense of isolation from God

Everyone has different stress triggers, based on our biology, our family history, our personality and our life experiences. What triggers one person may not trigger another. Here are triggers to be mindful of:

visual cues • sounds • scents • tastes • physical • dates/seasons • personal identification • stressful events • previous experiences • strong emotions • thoughts • behaviours • combinations • out of the blue (element of surprise)