Four Stages of Stress

It might be helpful to look at the four stages of stress:

Stage 1 – NO LIGHT

  1. Insufficient Stress.
  2. No motivation to move responsibly.
  3. When there is insufficient stress to move responsibly, you will find that the person:
    1. avoids responsibility
    2. has poor relationships
    3. is not productive
    4. has no energy
    5. experiences depression
    6. has no purpose
    7. lacks perspective on life


  1. Positive Stress.
  2. Motivation to move responsibly.
  3. When there is positive stress, you will see that the person:
    1. faces responsibility
    2. has responsible relationships
    3. is productive
    4. is energetic
    5. is enthusiastic
    6. has fulfillment of purpose
    7. has a positive perspective


  1. Negative Stress.
  2. Motivational warning signs to slow down movement.
  3. The warning signs of stress are like the amber lights on a traffic signal: They caution you to be on the alert, to slow down and to be prepared for upcoming change. The physical warning signs of stress can be:
    1. tension headaches
    2. muscle aches
    3. heavy sighing
    4. high blood pressure
    5. ulcers
    6. hyper-alertness
    7. loss of sleep/excessive sleep
    8. lack of concentration
    9. indecisiveness
    10. irritability

Stage 4 – RED LIGHT

  1. Burnout.
  2. Movement is stopped and repair is necessary.
  3. Burnout is certainly not God’s will for us. It may actually mean that we have not processed the stresses of life in a godly way. Instead of living at Stage 2, we become:
    1. overwhelmed by responsibility
    2. withdrawn from relationships
    3. minimally productive
    4. depressed (lack of enthusiasm)
    5. purposeless
    6. without perspective
    7. easily fatigued
    8. lacking the ability to concentrate
    9. indecisive
    10. irritable

If your car begins to clunk and smoke pours from the hood, you would search for the nearest station and a competent mechanic. The first phrase you hear is, “Let’s take a look under the hood.” Unfortunately, many of us may be more concerned about the distressing condition of our car than the condition of our physical bodies. Are you sensitive to the warnings of your emotional engine? Your physical symptoms could register that you’re on the brink of burnout. “A man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones” (Job 33:19).

Checklist for Burnout:

  • I have difficulty relaxing.
  • I have lower back pain.
  • I feel tired and lifeless most of the time.
  • I have frequent severe headaches.
  • I get indigestion often.
  • I often have diarrhea or constipation.
  • I could be getting an ulcer.
  • I have trouble sleeping at night.
  • I grind my teeth at night.
  • I am susceptible to every cold and virus.
  • I have allergies or asthma.
  • I eat and snack excessively.
  • I have lost a lot of weight.
  • I often have cold hands and sweating palms.
  • I have shortness of breath.
  • I have a rapid pulse.
  • I generally feel nervous and unsettled.

No one will experience all these symptoms, but if you checked four or more, you may need to evaluate how you are responding to the pressures in your life. Are you releasing your heavy load to the Lord and allowing His peace to permeate your heart? “A heart at peace gives life to the body” (Proverbs 14:30).

[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]

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