The human body responds to stress in three stages. The first is Alarm, in which there is a triggering of the fight-or-flight response as a threat or stressor is first identified. Next, Resistance occurs (if the stressor persists) as the body tries to adapt to the strains or demands of the environment. The body cannot keep this up indefinitely though, so its resources are gradually depleted. This leads to the final stage, Exhaustion. At this point the body’s immune system function and all other resources are significantly impaired, and can result in more obvious disease processes.

Signs of stress physiology can be cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral and can include poor judgment, a general negative outlook, excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely, isolated or depressed, aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough, sleeping too much or not enough, social withdrawal, procrastination or neglect of responsibilities, increased alcohol, nicotine or drug consumption, and nervous habits such as pacing about, nail-biting and neck pain. Stress physiology makes it difficult to make healthier lifestyle choices, difficult for the body to make effective structural changes and difficult to perceive, process, or verbalize body sense or emotion. It is also difficult to experience passion for life, to be in the “zone,” or to be internally confident or empowered.

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