Stress and trauma

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. Stress is a normal part of life and our bodies respond physically, emotionally, and psychologically. We experience stress as a result of both positive and negative events in our life. Positive stress (i.e. when someone gets married, has a baby, or gets a promotion), is called “eustress” and can serve to keep us energized, motivated, and alert. We also experience stress due to demands and painful life events. When we have prolonged exposure to this kind of stress, without relief, we experience “distress”. This chronic state of distress takes a toll on the body.

The Stress Response

Our body’s reaction to stress

The “fight or flight” response is our physiological reaction to extremely stressful events or experiences. It is an automatic innate survival response that helps us react quickly to life-threatening situations. The hormonal and physiological changes in the brain and body, equip the body with increased energy, heightened sensitivity and acuity to either fight the threat or flee to safety. This survival mechanism is meant to be a short –term reaction which is followed by the body’s return to equilibrium and restoration. However, traumatic experiences and/or chronic stress can activate our “fight or flight” continuously disrupting our mental, physical, physiological, emotional, and spiritual functioning. This chronic state of discomfort or dis-ease is at the root of physical and mental illness.

Effects of Stress on Mood, Body, and Behavior:


  • Increased anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased motivation
  • Increased irritability/hostility
  • Increased sadness/depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed


  • Muscle tension (headaches, backaches, pain)
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain (nausea, indigestion, heartburn, ulcers)
  • Bowel issues (irritable bowel, diarrhea, constipation)
  • Heart palpitations, chest pains
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Skin conditions (eczema, acne)
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Decreased libido
  • Dysfunction of the reproductive system
  • Endocrine system issues (high blood sugar/diabetes)


  • Isolating or social withdrawal
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs
  • Anger outbursts/ difficulty controlling temper
  • Impulsivity or procrastination
  • Eating disturbances (over or under eating)
  • Reduced physical activity