Stress Reactions

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You have experienced a stressful event or significant life change. The symptoms that arise after experiencing a stressful or painful event may last a few days, a few weeks or even a few months. Individual people respond in different ways.

Below are common symptoms of stress reactions. No need to be alarmed if you find yourself checking off several of these symptoms. It is normal to experience a variety of these changes in your mood, behavior, thinking, and physical condition after one or more stressful events. The list is designed to help you do a self-check on how you are doing and to begin to look at whether it is time to reach out for support. With the understanding and support of others, symptoms often pass more quickly.


Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Constant worrying
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Difficulty with problem-solving
  • Thoughts slowed or racing
  • Disoriented
  • More alert or less alert
  • More sensitive than usual
  • Normal routines seem overwhelming


Emotional Symptoms:

  • Sadness, general unhappiness
  • Frequent fluctuation in mood
  • Crying at unexpected times
  • Irritable or short temper
  • Agitation, Inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Anxiousness or worrisome
  • Guilty feeling
  • Angry
  • Numb


Physical Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest Pain or tightness
  • Rapid heartbeat or fast breathing
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue/sleepiness


Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Sleep changes/waking up in the night
  • Isolating from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to cope
  • Nervous activities (e.g. nail biting, grinding teeth, pacing)
  • Change in usual habits and activities
  • Startle easily
  • Change in sexual or intimate relationship
  • Behaving differently in relationships

If you are experiencing several of these symptoms, we encourage you to practice self-care which includes reaching out for support. If your symptoms are not subsiding over the next few weeks, you may want to reach out for professional help to learn where you may be stuck in the healing process. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To talk to a counselor and/or to schedule an appointment for your no-cost EAP sessions, please call 515-244-6090 or 800-327-4692.


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