stress symptoms

Stress symptoms: When the body goes on strike

Not only the psyche suffers from permanent stress. We show which symptoms indicate chronic stress and how you can avoid them.

Stress begins in the head - as a neural and biochemical process that drives your body to perform at its best, but harms it in the long run. So if you feel stressed, have a headache after a long day at work, and feel like throwing up before a difficult presentation, that's a body's defense.

How does the body react to stress?

Stress awakens ancient instincts in humans: Flight or fight, retreat or attack. Both instincts were essential for survival for Stone Age man in the face of imminent danger. Today, these instincts and the associated reactions help us to complete a to-do in a short time, to achieve top performance in sport or to ensure survival in extreme situations such as severe pain.

Time and performance pressure, NoisePhysical pain and emotional stress are referred to as stress factors or stressors. They function as triggers and set the neuronal and biochemical reactions in progress.

Noradrenaline and adrenaline for a quick energy kick

Sensory organs register information from the corresponding stressors and send it to the brain. If there is a threat, the neurotransmitter noradrenaline comes into play. It functions as a messenger substance and activates the Sympathetic. This part of the brain comes into play when you are in a threatening or stressful situation.

With the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the medulla of the adrenal gland releases adrenaline. Norepinephrine and epinephrine constrict the blood vessels, increase blood pressure and thus the pulse and respiratory rate. This process provides the body and brain with an extra dose of oxygen. Muscles are activated, thinking performance improves.

With the subsequent relaxation, the body also sets Dopamine free. The Lucky hormone makes you feel relieved and motivated after a completed task. So short-term stress is perfectly fine. It gives you an energy kick and provides you with an extra portion of happiness hormones.

Cortisol for a constant energy level

If the stressful state lasts longer than ten minutes, the sympathetic nervous system continues to activate noradrenaline. Instead of adrenaline, however, the adrenal gland now releases cortisol, a hormone and neurotransmitter that stimulates your Performance increased in the long term.

If you have an important task to complete, an exam that takes several hours or a marathon to run, cortisol keeps the energy level constant. The hormone also controls the distribution of resources. Energy is therefore made available exactly where you need it. - whether it's in the brain or the muscles.

At a glance: How the body reacts to stress

  • Sensory organs register stress factors and send information to the brain
  • The messenger substance Noradrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the brain is activated when there is a threat or a stressful situation.
  • Is the Sympathetic activated, the medulla of the adrenal cortex releases adrenaline.
  • Adrenaline constricts the blood vessels, increases blood pressure and thus the heart and respiratory rate
  • If the stress situation lasts longer than 10 - 15 minutes, the adrenal cortex instead of adrenaline, the stress hormone Cortisol free
  • Cortisol maintains the effect of adrenaline and provides for long-term performance

When cortisol harms the body: typical stress symptoms

In addition to supplying your body with the necessary resources, cortisol activates the Immune defense. This requires a lot of energy, which is taken from the body elsewhere. If you are permanently in such a state, you will lose weight in the long run. Your body reacts to the permanent strain with typical stress symptoms.

Inner restlessness and sleep disorders

Cortisol maintains the effect of adrenaline and puts you, so to speak. on constant alert. Thereby it inhibits the production of Melatoninwhich is also known as the sleep hormone. Melatonin ensures that you become calm and tired as soon as it gets dark. Chronic stress inhibits this response and causes Insomnia.


In addition, excess cortisol causes high blood pressure, which leads to inner turmoil. Nervousness and poor sleep affect the psyche. In the long term, this can lead to diseases such as Burnout, depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ...and the next...

Difficulty concentrating

Adrenaline and noradrenaline provide the brain with an extra portion of oxygen in a fraction of a second and ensure a better performance for a short time. This positive effect of stress is especially beneficial in situations such as an exam, a job interview or in important meetings.

However, if the brain is chronic stress exposed, this can lead to concentration difficulties and thought blockages. In the worst case, an excess of cortisol can permanently damage individual brain regions. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to memory loss or chronic headaches lead.

Weakened immune system

Colds often come when we least need them, at the weekend and when we finally have the chance to relax. At the weekend, on holiday and when we finally have the opportunity to really relax.While the immune system works at full speed in stressful phases, the immune defense shuts down as soon as the body relaxes.

In addition to colds, the risk of inflammation in the body increases. Further stress symptoms can then for example bad skin with acne or Herpes be.

Gastritis and digestive problems

Nausea, abdominal cramps up to diarrhoea and vomiting: the body can react to prolonged stress with stress symptoms that put you out of action for several hours or even days.

Especially people with Irritable bowel syndrome react to stress with increased intestinal activity in the form of abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Inflammation of the stomach lining with belching, nausea and vomiting can also indicate chronic stress.


After a stressful day at work, our head is often buzzing - an unpleasant feeling of tension or even a regular throbbing spreads. Stress is considered a frequent cause of Migraine, tension or cluster headaches.

For a short period of time, the inner and outer cephalic veins change and press on the brain a consequence of overload, for example due to prolonged high blood pressure.

No desire for sex

Nothing going on in bed? Even then, a excess cortisol could be the culprit. Because the stress hormone inhibits the limbic system. The emotional center of the brain processes, among other things, sexual stimuli and thus triggers the formation of sex hormones. The formation of dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA for short, is also due to the stress hormone cortisol.

Besides estrogen and testosterone, it activates the so-called Pleasure hormones serotonin and oxytocin. The latter ensure that the body comes to orgasm. An excess of cortisol disrupts this complex process, causing loss of potency in men and reduced libido in women.

Lowering cortisol levels: This is how it works

If you also suffer from one or more of the symptoms mentioned, it is high time to do something about it. In order to prevent burnout and other stress-related illnesses, it is important to to rethink everyday routines and, if necessary, to change them fundamentally.

Sport - but not too much!

Exercise not only helps you lose a kilo or two, but also supports your body in the process, relieve stress. Endurance sports like Run, hiking or cycling, but also Yoga or tai chi are particularly suitable for lowering cortisol levels. It is important to exercise regularly, but never to overdo it. overload.


Eat right

If you want to permanently lower your cortisol levels, you should follow these three rules when it comes to diet:

  • Reduce sugar consumption: When eating gummy bears, chocolate, sweet luggage or even processed foods, the blood sugar rises rapidly. In addition to insulin, the body also secretes more cortisol to regulate the blood sugar level again.
  • Give up fried food: In addition to blood sugar, cortisol is also responsible for the regulation of cholesterol levels in the body. Foods with so-called trans fats, such as croissants, biscuits, pizza or even dry soups increase the cholesterol - and thus also the cortisol level. Food with healthy fats on the other hand, provide the body and brain with an extra portion of energy in stressful times.
  • Green tea instead of coffee and energy drinks: The caffeine in coffee and energy drinks stimulates the adrenal cortex, which then releases cortisol. Green tea is better: the amino acid L-theanine inhibits the release of the stress hormone.

Mindful in everyday life

In order to reduce physical as well as psychological stress in the long term Mindfulness in everyday life a significant factor. Simplified, mindfulness means to consciously experience the present and the moment. The problem: Many people find exactly THAT particularly difficult.

The feeling of having to do several things at the same time in order to move faster makes it almost impossible to get out of the to get out of permanent stress. In this case, it may help to start with simple Mindfulness Exercises as a fixed ritual in everyday life. These deliberate time-outs help the body to become regenerate and lower the stress level.

Stress Management

Stress is also sometimes a matter of attitude. Stress management is generally understood as methods and strategies to reduce both physical and mental stress. On you will find numerous Tips around stress and time management and Inspirations for a decelerated everyday life.

Text: Natalie Grolig