My burn-out
My burn-out

Symptoms and effects of stress on the body?

Our body talks to us… It sends us lots of messages that result in all sorts of symptoms and effects when it is faced with a stressful situation.

Stress has a big impact on our life, our body, our mind. The signals that stress sends us, also called symptoms, can intensify with an increasing level of stress.

Symptoms of stress fall into three categories:

  • Physical symptoms
  • Psychological symptoms
  • Cognitive symptoms

Physical symptoms of stress

I think, therefore I am.

Rene descartes

In sophrology this translates into “I feel, therefore I am”.

In our western cultures, the intellect, the mind, is considered of paramount importance. It tends to be more highly-valued than the body, and is generally thought to prevail over the body.

And yet, what could we do without our body? Our body speaks to us, it tells us about us, about how we fare… It is madness and highly risky to disregard our body. On the contrary, learning to listen to our body, to decode its messages, is to get to know ourselves down to our finest complexities, to better understand our limits and therefore to act accordingly.

Constant tiredness

One of the consequences of stress is significant fatigue with impaired sleep.

Everyone knows that stress often leads to insomnia, restless nights or difficulty falling asleep.

However, very few people know that stress can also cause hypersomnia. The individual then sleeps a lot and deeply. Even so, under severe stress, he may feel that he is still tired and that he cannot pull himself together, regain his energy whether in body or mind, although he sleeps a lot.

More risk of pain and illness

Stress exhausts our body. With a weak immune system, we are more vulnerable to disease, but also to pain. It is often during the holidays, when the body and the mind relax, that people will get sick.

Stress manifests itself differently in everyone. For some people stress will result in headaches, migraines, stomach ache or cramp with difficulty to digest. Indeed, in case of danger, digestion is no longer a priority.

For others, stress will manifest as chest pain, laboured breathing, lump in the throat, back pain, dizziness. For women, stress can disrupt menstrual cycles…. Subjected for millennia to an energy shortage, the body has learnt to stash its resources: fat for the muscles, sugar for the brain. In the event of a threat, all the available energy is concentrated on the organs necessary for flight or fight… The rest can wait!

Heart palpitations

Faced with stress, the ANS (Autonomous Nervous System) prepares the body to flee, to fight or to remain still. This then results in a set of hormonal reactions which lead to an acceleration of the heart rate, which can for some lead to palpitations. The muscles are tight, our breathing is short and high in the chest to bring oxygen more quickly, the pupils are dilated, the hairs bristle.


To make up for or relieve stress, some people develop addictions. For some, it will be practising sport, for others, smoking, drinking, eating chocolate… This dependence gives the individual the impression that he can relieve the pressure, that he can escape it, master it, soothe the feelings related to stress. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Indeed, these addictions also cause stress and the person becomes even more trapped in a vicious circle.

More effects of stress can be found in hair loss, weight loss or gain, skin disease, teeth grinding…

Psychological symptoms of stress

A permanent feeling of tension

When faced with stress, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it’s a normal chemical reaction.

But if you pay attention to your bodily reactions, you will see that your body contracts, especially in the muscles and joints.

Let’s take an example: if stress goes on over a long period, your body will be under tension for an equally long period until it no longer really knows when it can relax… This can result in dental problems when people have clenched their jaws too much, or other people may have their shoulders at the level of their ears…

Your mind cannot rest, your thoughts are constantly racing. Your body and mind get tired from this constant state of alertness.

It is this type of condition which, if prolonged over time and in high intensity, can lead to burnout.

Uncontrollable thoughts

Stress keeps us permanently active with an alert body and mind ready to respond to all external threats.

Neuroscience works a lot on these subjects but it has been shown that stress influences our thoughts. Sometimes the same thoughts keep churning around in your head, and you feel like a hamster spinning in a wheel or a rat on a treadmill. In short, you rehash the same thoughts endlessly.


When you are overworked or stressed out, it is often difficult to remain calm and react with discriminating intelligence. You tend to get angry, to lose patience even with people who are not responsible for this state of stress.

For example, you come back home after a stressful day and, the minute your spouse or children make a tiny request, all hell breaks loose. It’s often a way for you to relieve tension, but for those around you, it’s difficult to accept in the long run.

Fits of tears

It is not necessarily through shouting or intense and numerous sports sessions that you will relieve your tension. Some, overwhelmed by their stress, have bouts of crying. We are all different and we all react in our own way.

Alas, rather than seeing in these all too frequent bouts of crying a means of releasing the overflow of stress, some will develop a feeling of guilt which will only reinforce it.

Missing out moments of happiness

In periods of intense stress, several symptoms arise. They are often disruptive because we find it difficult to understand and accept them.

The person may isolate himself or herself to think, to rest, to take a break to try to recover.

How many times have we canceled pleasant meetings with family or friends because we did not have the mental availability to participate?

This is how we let slip our little pleasures which are nevertheless essential to our well-being. Stress can deprive you of what you like best!

Diminished self-confidence

Faced with stress and its consequences, people tend to run themselves down.

They begin to feel less efficient, and despair at times before the mass of work that awaits them. They no longer see how they can make it and this feeling of failure is often accompanied by guilt that is a source of aggression or helplessness.

Cognitive symptoms of stress

From a cognitive point of view, stress tires our body and our mind. This often leads to a multiplication of errors of judgment and appreciation.

Concentration problems

Stress leads to memory and concentration problems. In response to stress, the body will produce a significant amount of cortisol, which overloads certain areas of the brain and reduces their receptivity.

Difficulties of analysis

Faced with chronic stress, people get muddled and tend to find it difficult to analyse a situation and find solutions. The hamster is spinning on its wheel. Our restless brain rehashes the same thoughts again and again, and those sterile ruminations cause a loss of confidence in the self and in its capacities. Sometimes it becomes difficult for us to make decisions.

Véronique About


An entrepreneur and sophrologist, I graduated from CEAS in Paris and from the Sophrology Academy in Ashford, which is a member of FEPS (the Federation of Sophrology Centers), I specialized in issues of stress and burn-out. Do not hesitate to contact me, for any questions or request for support in sophrology.

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