The Four Stages of Stress

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Which One Are You In and How Can You Get Out?

Whether it’s the upcoming winter activities for your kids, tax season, or everyday work worries ailing you, anytime can be stress season.  And that can mean trouble for your health.

Stress can cause a host of immediate physical symptoms, everything from headaches and indigestion to fatigue and weight gain.  Stress is also the number one enemy of your immune system and can leave you more vulnerable to colds, flu and even more serious conditions–yes, you can worry yourself to death!  For most of us, stress is an unavoidable part of our daily routines; however, learning to manage your stress load is critical to your mental and physical well being.  So how can your prevail over the pressures in your life?  First, you must learn to recognize the stages of stress.

Many people do not know how to recognize signs of stress until it is already at a stage where it is taking a physiological toll on your body and possibly affecting your health.  Fortunately, you can track your stress levels by familiarizing yourself with the signs of stress cycles.  Knowing when you are in a productive state and when you need to take a few minutes to relax is key to keeping your stress levels under control, and some of the signals may be surprising.


Level I is the body’s first signal that it needs a break, and it manifests through subtle signals.  You start to get fidgety, wanting to stretch and move; you start yawning and sighing, or wanting a snack.  You may also notice an inability to concentrate as well as before and find yourself searching for words or taking a few extra seconds to recall familiar facts.

These signs are so subtle that many people are not aware that they are the body’s first way of signaling that you are experiencing stress.  Driven by the demands of the moment, we often ignore level I signals and push on in our activities, unaware that we have given our brain the clear message that external needs are more important than keeping our bodies functioning smoothly.  We have turned on the stress response system and put ourselves into a stress cycle.


The second stress level is deceptive in that it does not feel at all like stress.  In level II, we experience a surge of endorphins that make us feel good, energized, and highly alert.  We experience renewed energy, our “second wind,” even though we are actually in a state of stress.  This is the body’s natural stress response system.  It reacts to signs of stress by releasing energizing chemicals into the body.  The problem is that many of us allow our bodies to repeat this cycle several times throughout the day, depleting resources and impairing normal physiological functions.


Although you may feel invigorated during level III of the stress cycle, your body is running out of steam.  You have ignored your body’s signals to replenish essential resources and begin to notice more obvious signs of stress than those in level I:  Your memory, performance, and critical thinking falters; you begin to feel physically and mentally fatigued, making errors in judgment and experiencing moodiness, clumsiness, and forgetfulness.  Losing your sharpness is a sure sign of level III stress.  We all know these symptoms; but we often fail to realize that they are caused by ignoring earlier signs of stress.


Level IV stress is the danger zone we enter after being continually in a state of level III stress. The body becomes overwhelmed, and reacts chemically with a flood of powerful, damaging stress chemicals.  The effects of poorly functioning systems take their toll on our overall health.  Beyond physical and mental exhaustion, symptoms progress to more serious stress-related disorders including insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, immune system dysfunction, depression, anxiety, breakdown and a shortened lifespan.

How can you beat stress before it beats you?

The simplest way is to set aside time to relax when you notice you are entering into a stress cycle (at level I, ideally), so that you avoid the body’s progression into higher levels of stress.  Studies have shown that when the body is in a relaxed state, all the physiological events associated with stress are actually reversed:  Your breathing and heart rate slow, your blood pressure falls, and muscles relax.  As little as 20 minutes of relaxation once or twice per day can create significant benefits by neutralizing the effects of stress on your body.  Make sure you set aside time for some peace and quiet, exercise, and relaxed, nutritious meals.

Has stress made a mess of your life?

Here are five easy ways to bring your mental and physical health back into focus.

Eat well. Chemical additives, unhealthy fats and sugar stress you out on a nutritional level. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats, including nuts and seeds.

Drink water. Soda pop, sugary juice drinks, teas and “power” drinks with artificial sweeteners and synthetic vitamins barely hydrate you, let alone provide any true value. Drink eight to ten glasses of

filtered water each day instead.

Exercise. Regular exercise not only relieves stress, it also releases feel-good hormones and increases your energy level.

Set aside time for daily prayer, meditation, or reflection. Learn the simple art of deep breathing. Take time to have some fun with friends and family. Schedule a monthly massage.

Supplement. Include It’s Vital™ advanced formula multivitamin, mineral, and antioxidant supplement as a general basis for good health.  Another great product from It Works is Confianza™, which specifically helps your body deal with the stresses of everyday life.


The proprietary formula in Confianza™ is a blend of herbs that have adaptogenic properties―that is, they actually help your body’s natural ability to respond and react to stress and fatigue.

The herbs in Confianza’s formulation also can help enhance your short- and long-term memory and increase your attention span.  This helps you avoid stress.  When your mind is on point, the details of your daily life fall into place with more ease.  How many times have you been wracked by stress because you simply lost your keys or cell phone?

Another plus: Confianza™ can increase your physical endurance and enhance muscle recovery after exercise so that you have the energy you need to keep your exercise commitment and the muscle recovery that gives you incentive to exercise again tomorrow.

Facial Applicator™

The Facial Applicator™ is the perfect 45-minute escape from a stressful day.  Taking the time to run a bath, roll a towel up behind your neck, lie back, and relax while the herbal mask delivers intense anti-aging benefits into your skin can be simply blissful.