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Stages of Stress

Stress is a common occurrence. While you can’t remove every single stressor from your life, it’s possible to manage stress and maintain your health. This is important because stress can cause mental fatigue, irritability, and insomnia.

One of the core principles of Kinesiology is to work with the 3 stages of stress. 

What is general adaptation syndrome (GAS)? It is the three-stage process that describes the physiological changes the body goes through when under stress. Hans Selye, a medical doctor and researcher, came up with the theory of GAS.

1. Alarm reaction stage
The alarm reaction stage refers to the initial symptoms the body experiences when under stress, known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This natural reaction prepares you to either flee or protect yourself in dangerous situations. Your heart rate increases, your adrenal gland releases cortisol (a stress hormone), and you receive a boost of adrenaline, which increases energy.

2. Resistance stage
After the initial shock of a stressful event and having a fight-or-flight response, the body begins to repair itself. It releases a lower amount of cortisol, and your heart rate and blood pressure begin to normalize. Although your body enters this recovery phase, it remains on high alert for a while. If you overcome stress and the situation is no longer an issue, your body continues to repair itself until your hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure reach a pre-stress state.

If you don’t resolve the stress and your body remains on high alert, it eventually adapts and learns how to live with a higher stress level.

Signs of the resistance stage include:

  • irritability

  • frustration

  • poor concentration


3. Exhaustion stage
This stage is the result of prolonged or chronic stress. Struggling with stress for long periods can drain your physical, emotional, and mental resources to the point where your body no longer has strength to fight stress. You may give up or feel your situation is hopeless.

Signs of exhaustion include:

  • fatigue

  • burnout

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • decreased stress tolerance

The physical effects of this stage also weaken your immune system and put you at risk for stress-related illnesses.

GAS can occur with any type of stress. Stressful events can include:

  • a job loss

  • medical problems

  • financial troubles

  • family breakdown

  • trauma

But while stress is unpleasant, the upside is that GAS improves how your body responds to stressors, particularly in the alarm stage.

The fight-or-flight response that occurs in the alarm stage is for your protection. A higher hormone level during this stage benefits you. It gives you more energy and improves your concentration so you can focus and tackle the situation. When stress is short-term or short-lived, the alarm stage isn’t harmful.


This isn’t the case with prolonged stress. The longer you deal with stress, the more harmful it is to your health. You also don’t want to remain in the resistance stage for too long and risk entering the exhaustion stage. Once you’re in the exhaustion stage, prolonged stress raises the risk for chronic high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and depression. You also have a higher risk for infections and cancer due to a weaker immune system.


For more information, visit https://www.healthline.com/health/general-adaptation-syndrome