Physical Indicators of Stress

There are definite physical indicators related to stress and well-being. Our physical health provides a strong measure of our level of emotional and mental wellness. If we fail to focus on our habits and lifestyle, it will most likely at some time lead to illness. Physical indicators of stress will show up in our body some time if we live an unhealthy lifestyle.

Life currently is characterised for many by fast paced living. There is little time to sit and think about the quality of our lifestyle or to tune into what our body is trying to tell us. We stay on the run, often not eating healthily.  Many of us just take our body and health for granted. There is a tendency often for us to look to quick fixes to solve health issues instead of adapting our lifestyle and habits.

The substances that are most misused these days are alcohol, coffee, tobacco, antidepressants, tranquillisers, sugared or caffeinated drinks and of course, drugs. Some of these substances may be a quick energiser when we feel a slump in our day and will give us a quick energy burst. Over time they deplete our immune system and impact on our mental abilities. Substances lead to mood swings, exhaustion and may even lead to addiction and physical disease. Addictions of various kinds have increased dramatically in recent years as a means of trying to maintain good feelings and to cope with the stresses of daily living.

Over the past decade there has been a distinct increase in obesity. With this has been a massive increase in Type 2 diabetes. A large number of my executive clients suffer from Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately most of them have managed to control their diabetes through changing their eating habits. There is a direct connection between heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Smoking is one of the highest contributors to heart disease as it causes narrowing of the blood vessels and expands blood clots. When blood flow to the heart is reduced, you are at risk for a heart attack. If blood flow to the brain is reduced, then you are at risk for a stroke.

Too much alcohol impairs memory and affects one’s judgement over time. The daily limit is 125ml wine or 1 tot of 25mls of spirits for a woman and 250ml wine or 2 beers or 2 X 25ml tots of spirits for a man. How are you doing?

Many tranquillisers are addictive. Drugs impair co-ordination and lead to mood swings.

Excessive tea and coffee can lead to increased risk of heart attacks, irritability, insomnia and dehydration.

So let us look at some important indicators that will show how healthy we are and the extent to which we are at risk health-wise:

BMI (Body Mass Index):

Our body mass index (BMI) is a clear indicator of our health (24 or below is the ideal score). Our BMI indicates how much excessive fat we are carrying and if we are at risk for heart disease and diabetes. A high BMI score  is a physical indicator of stress in our body. You calculate your BMI as follows:

BMI = Your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared:

  • BMI of 18.5 – 25      : Healthy level
  • BMI of 25 – 30         : Overweight (health risk)
  • BMI of over 30         : Obese (serious health risk)

If your BMI score is too high, then consult with a dietician to learn to manage your food intake better. 

Cholesterol Levels

It is important to know what your good and bad cholesterol levels are. Have this tested at your local clinic or with you doctor to see if you need to change your diet or take medication. High bad cholestrol levels are a physical indicator of stress  in our body.

Homocysteine Levels

High homocysteine levels in the body do the following: speed up the aging process, damage arteries and make blood clot more easily, weaken the immune system, damage the brain and lowers IQ, raise the risk of serious chronic illnesses eg cancer

  • 16+         : Very high risk for disease
  • 9-15        : High risk
  • 6-9          : Moderate risk
  • Below 6  : Low risk

Homocysteine levels can be assessed through a blood test. There are various supplements you can take to reduce your homocysteine levels as well as changes you can make to your diet. Many doctors will say there is nothing you can do about your homocysteine levels. This is not true. With diet and the correct supplements you can most certainly reduce your homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels are a physical indicator of stress. Patrick Holford has written a book with Dr James Braly called The H Factor Diet.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure puts you at greater risk for heart disease. Lowering your salt intake and limiting it to 1 teaspoon a day will assist you to control your blood pressure. Are you at risk?

  • 120/80 to 129/84      : Normal
  • 130/85 to 139/89      : High normal
  • Above 140/90            : High


Smoking trebles the risk of heart disease. If you quit, the risk of a heart attack and stroke decreases within 24 hours! Yes, this is true!


Being good to your body

Passive and indoor life styles contribute to heart disease and obesity. It is advisable to fit in some form of exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. 5 times a week would be preferable. Exercise strengthens the heart and increases the “good” cholesterol. When we exercise, our body produces the “feel good” hormone, serotonin, which keeps us mentally and emotionally in balance. Exercise also provides a valuable diversion from work and the daily stresses we face.

It is important to follow a good health regime for 80 – 90% of the time. We place ourselves at risk if we follow an unhealthy lifestyle for an extended period of time. It places so much more pressure on our body and immune system to function effectively.

Take preventative action to take care of your body. After all it works for you 24/7! If you would like to discuss the impact of stress on your health you would benefit from some one-on-one coaching sessions.


Posted in Stress, Work-life balance.