Stress in the modern day world has taken the shape of a demon. Problems related to stress are plenty, starting from illness to difficult states of mind, which makes a person depressed and de-motivated. It is important to be aware of how our body reacts to stress.

The signals we use to protect ourselves from stress can help our own sense of well-being and our understanding of other-people. It has been proven that gaining a sense of control over our lives is a major step towards lowering the harmful effects of stress.

All About Stress Signals and Ways to Manage Stress

Stress Signals

Some of the body’s inner responses to stress are outwardly visible e.g. sweating, paling etc. There are other, “cut off signals” and “displacement activities, which also reveal inner conflicts. These signals can help to resolve stress. Cut off signals are generally used when we need time to think or are not happy or comfortable with what we are hearing. Alcohol abuse, drugs and also indulgence in meditation are extreme examples of coping with stresses.

In daily life generalg and oru understanding of the p our own sense of well-being and oru understanding of the ly we all employ short-term devices to regulate the amount of stimulation we are receiving through our eyes and ears.

Eyes- When we don’t want to see something, we close our eyes or remain in symbolic ignorance of what we are looking at. During conversation, someone who closes his eyes is probably trying to remember something. Children cover their face with their hands while watching fearful progammes on the TV. In between they peep through their fingers for a brief moment. Adults also do it during exams, trying to remember something. There are other subtle unconscious visual, cut off signals, which indicate withdrawal from a situation.These are:

  • Shifty eye Rapid glancing to and fro while taking gives the look as if the person is searching fro an exit or a better person to be with.
  • Shuttering eye- Here the eyes cannot decide whether to open or close their lids, which produces a nervous flicker.
  • The evasive eye- Staring into the air, or down at the ground, the person is unable to meet the gaze of another person. He seems to be in another world – so near yet so far away.

A person giving these signals indicates that the situation itself might be causing stress. We could also try to be more open and see that we receive fewer withdrawal signals from others.

Ears- There are many gestures to show that someone doesn’t want to hear what’s being said. Elderly people may pretend to be deaf so as to avoid conflict. Other such symbolic signals are rubbing the ear, pulling the earlobe, putting the finger inside the ear etc.

Also See

Board and Entrance Exam Stress on Students – Don’t Kill yourself

Studying Hard – Tips to de-stress and Improve Concentration

How to avoid Stress during Examinations ?

Stress Relief Advice

Displacement Activities

These are unconscious habits, which we perform to relieve tension. The understanding of these signals helps by providing us opportunities to strengthen our position during arguments etc. Interpretation of signals discussed ahead may help us discern the underlying truth.

Waiting- In a situation when people have to wait for something outside their control, they use displacement activities their control, they use displacement activities to lesson the tensions. People examine fingernails with concentration shake their legs, crack knuckles or bite their own nails etc when they are in the waiting rooms. The tense people perform such acts. Other than obvious distress signals like sweating, people waiting at the railway station will check and recheck their tickets etc, a highly stressed person is likely to be genuinely more thirsty and is likely to consume more liquid.

Smoking- In a habitual smoker, increase in stress often increases the number of cigarettes consumed. Nervous smoker will tap the cigarettes on an ashtray continuously. Smoker exhaling smoke in air in an upward direction is probably more confident than the one how exhaled downwards.

Yawning- A person tired of listening to an uninterested speaker starts feeling sleepy. A barely concealed theatrical yawn is used.

Other activities- Chewing the pens/pencils, twiddling thumbs, tapping feet or fidgeting unnecessarily, at times even rearranging sofa cushions etc are also ways of dispersing nervous energy. The death of a near/ dear one causes maximum stress. At times even pleasant events like holidays or achievements may prove stressful to someone who finds it difficult to relax.

Stress Management

Relieving the stress is very essential to lead a happy, healthy and normal life. Certain postures of unwinding the stress are leaning and sitting.

Leaning- It is shifting our weight from one side of the body to the other. Standing up straight demands an alert posture, which suggests respect for others despites personal discomfort. Learning while talking indicates that we are on the home ground and that we know the other person quite well.

Sitting- Defensive body posture while sitting, like sitting with legs crossed or with crossed/folded arms, may actually inhibit us from receiving beneficial knowledge. If some sits down and promptly folds their arms and legs, they are not at peace with themselves. He sends negative signal or probably is very shy. The most appealing posture to be adopted is legs side by side, with hands resting loosely in the lap.

Relaxation- Free the body from unnecessary tension; one can free mind too. Mind and body are so closely allied that they have to affect each other. Yoga and other physical exercises are effective methods for combating stress.

Sleep- Sleep is the most natural, universally available remedy against stress. We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep. Short sleepers tend to have high energy levels. The amount of sleep one should have differs from person to person. Certain sleeping postures, as per researches convey few traits as described:

Foetal Position- Those who curl up in sleep with knees drawn up to the chest and arms hugging the body, generally suffer from some sense of insecurity.

Semi-Foetal- Knees and arms loosely bent, it is relaxed position where sleeper displays that he is happy and confident.

Jekyll and Hyde- With one leg extended and the other bent, this position indicates the dual personality of a person.

Face Down- Some sleep lying face down with arms and legs stretched out. People who prefer to sleep in this position are punctual and orderly.

Flat Out- Secure, happy and confident sleepers spread out and take up a lot of space while sleeping.


After knowing about the stress related body signals it becomes important to do self-analysis. If one finds oneself displaying the same signals, he can stop and think of taking practical steps to change situation. Gaining a sense of control over our lives is a major step towards lowering the harmful effects of stress inducing stimuli.

HS Randhawa

Image Courtesy: