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What Are The 3 Stages Of Stress And How To Relax At Work

I think we can all agree that today's world is a lot more fast-paced. People face tough competition at every step. And all these can be stressful. Whether you are stressing about something at work or for something personal, this guide will take you through the three stages of stress and also how to manage them.

One thing that might particularly surprise you is that all stress is not bad. That got your attention, right? Well, let me tell you something, you are in for a ride. And after reading this, how you view and deal with stress might change forever.

General Adaptation Syndrome and Its 3 Stages

In general, stress has 3 stages. To be more technical, it is called General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS. GAS is basically how your body reacts to stress. Stress in itself is not all negative. It can be both positive and negative. But more on that a bit later.

What you need to know is that there are three stage of stress:

  • Alarm Stage
  • Resistance Stage
  • Exhaustion Stage

Stage 1: The Alarm Stage

The very first stage is the alarm stage. Basically, in this stage, your central nervous system is triggered. Or you can say that it is 'awakened'. This is the stage where you go into the fight or flight response.

So, you decide whether to fight it or run. Of course, I do not mean literally run away – you cannot do that for stress, now can you? You will experience an increase in heart rate. You will get a boost of adrenaline and your adrenal gland will release a chemical called cortisol. This chemical is called the stress hormone.

Stage 2: The Resistance Stage

The second stage is sort of a repairing stage. After you are first exposed to something that stresses you out, your body goes into recovery and starts to repair itself from the initial shock. Now, here is the thing, your body does not completely rule out what stressed it out in the first place.

Your heart rate will slowly start to come down and so will your cortisol levels. But the body will still be in high alert mode. In the case you actually overcome the stressful situation, your body will slowly take the heart rate and cortisol levels to a normal level. Even the blood pressure slowly starts to come down to pre-stress levels.

However, as I said already, your body remains on high alert. The body still does continue to release cortisol. This is the case when the stress continues. Sometimes you may think that you are doing a pretty good job in managing stress, but your body's physiology may tell a different story.

There are some signs of the resistance stage. The usual ones are frustration, a general lack of concentration and irritability.

Stage 3: The Exhaustion Stage

The final stage is the exhaustion stage. Whenever someone goes through stress for prolonged periods or has chronic stress, it can have a massive impact on your body. It can take a toll on yourphysical, mental and emotional well-being.

This is where your body calls it quits. And you may feel like there is no end to the stress and you feel like giving up. Your body has no energy left to fight off stress. The exhaustion stage also has some clear indicators.

Things like fatigue, depression, anxiety, feeling burnout are all signs of the exhaustion stage. You will just have a lower tolerance for stress too.

stress screens breathingai

Are All Stress Bad?

Pay attention here, this bit is important. The question I want to ask is are all kinds of stress bad? The surprising answer is no. Believe it or not, there is something called positive stress. How does that work? Well, in some cases, people might see ‘stress’ as a productivity hack.

It can cause them to be motivated. They feel excited about new challenges. The world challenge is key here. Positive stress is called Eustress. And without it, you might get bored. In the worst-case scenario, it can cause you to go into depression as well.

When it comes to stress, perspective is everything. Let me introduce another term – stressors. A stressor can be an event, condition or any external stimuli. How we see certain stressors in our lives is important.

If something is seen as a threat, your body will respond to it more vigorously. On the other hand, when something is seen as a challenge, you might feel completely different. Even your body's response will change. It actually is pretty interesting stuff.

When something is seen as a challenge, it can be exciting and maybe even be enjoyable when you finally overcome it. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment which has a host of other benefits itself. So, there is a double-win.

Challenges are opportunities and a way to become more self-aware. They can tell you vital things about yourself and what you can achieve. They can even break your preconceived notions about your capabilities which might be limiting you.

That is why perspective is so important. Excess levels of stress can still be damaging though. This leads me perfectly to my next point. Which is how to manage and reduce stress.

Reducing and Managing Stress

Everyone will be stressed out at some point in their lives. It is not something you can avoid completely. It is a part of life and being a grown-up. What you can do though is learn to manage and reduce it.

One is to change your perspective and see it as a challenge. Now, that might not work for every kind of stress. Here are some more tips:

Pay Attention to Stress Signals

Paying attention to the stress signals is one of the best things you can do. Acknowledgment is important and the first stress management tool. When you know you are being stressed out, do not just brush it off. Accept it.

You can get a physical assessment if required. Pay attention to whether your behavior is changing or not. Are you being easily irritated and things like these?

Breathe and Use Simple Relaxation Techniques

Calming down your nerves a bit and doing breathing exercises can also help. Simple techniques for relaxing like walking or watching your favorite show can also help you deal with stress. Anything you do to relax yourself is a good idea.

Practicing mindfulness can also help. It is when you observe your thoughts and experience without necessarily judging them.

Talk to Your Manager

If something is stressing you out in your work, you should talk to your managers or supervisors. Try to talk it out with your supervisor and be open about it. What particular things are stressing you out?

Do not get me wrong though. The main reason for this is not to be whiny or to just complain. This is so that you can make an effective plan on how to deal with the stressors. You can improve other skills like time management to give yourself more ammunition to fight off stress.

Use Apps

There are some pretty cool stress management and relaxing apps you can use too! Your phones and computers are tools. So, why not make use of them? Turn them into your very own personal wellness assistant.

It will help you and the best part is since it is something you can do by yourself; you will stick to the routine as well. You can check out an excellent app called that can help alleviate stress through breathing exercises, guided meditation and soothing music specially created for stress relief.

Ask For Help

Lastly, you just cannot ignore how crucial it is for you to ask for help. Help and support are the best way to deal with and manage excessive stress. If the stress is something personal, you can ask a friend or family member.

If it is something work-related, employers have stress management resources for their employees. The idea is to keep in mind that asking for help from someone you trust does work wonders.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it. Now you know the three stages of stress and better yet, how to deal with and manage it. All stress is not bad. So, keep in mind that perspective is very important. How you see some stressors in your life is the key.

And never be afraid of asking for help. Everyone feels stressed at some point. How you deal with it is what will make you different.

- Rosch, P. J. (1998, January). Reminiscences of Hans Selye and the birth of “stress.” Stress Medicine, 14, 1-6. -   Selye, H. (1950, June 17). Stress and the general adaptation syndrome. British Medical Journal, 1(4667), 1383-1392 -   Selye, H. (1936, July 4). A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents. Nature, 138, 32.Retrieved from -   Szabo, S., Tache, Y., Somogyi, A. (2012, September). The legacy of Hans Selye and the origins of stress research: A retrospective 75 years after his landmark brief “Letter” to the Editor of Nature. Stress, 15(5), 472-478 -   Waude, A. (2016, March 5). General adaptation syndrome