12 Signs Your Stress Has Reached The Highway To The Danger Zone

Stress is at an all-time high and showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it is reaching epidemic proportions and it’s time we pay attention before we reach the highway to the danger zone. Stats Canada’s  2012 report on Perceived Life Stress found that up to 30% of the population, aged 14-64, is experiencing high levels of stress. The Sunlife Canadian Health Index research found that as many as 77% have of the people they surveyed had at least one source of stress that is either at an uncomfortable level or excessive. The index showed that we experience stress for a variety of reasons including financial pressures, relationship issues, pressure to achieve in our studies, workload demands, health issues and not having enough time the day to do everything that needs doing.

In one scene of the movie Top Gun (1986)1 Tom cruise tells him mate, Anthony Edwards: “I feel the need for speed”.  The two guys climb in their aircraft, fly at top speeds and carry out various maneuvers to the Kenny Loggins song:  Highway to the Danger Zone. Their spirits are flying high as they blow enemy planes out of the sky. One might easily assume by watching this movie that the danger zone is an exhilarating, fun and stress free place to be. Then again movies are quite different from the realities of everyday life, aren’t they?

While a certain amount of stress is healthy and needed to perform effectively, the problem arises when stress reaches the point where it begins to affect your physical, psychological, social and intellectual well-being.  The twelve signs below are sure indicators that your stress levels are too high and that you are heading towards the danger zone. Trip Out West May 2011 123

  1. Your energy is much lower than normal and you have more unexplained aches and pains.
  2. You’re not eating well and the guilt is mounting.
  3. You’re sleeping more than usual because it’s the only way to unplug.
  4. You find yourself withdrawing from social situations and have an increased desire to be alone.
  5. You have no energy for your friends and family or for romantic relationships.
  6. You feel emotionally spent most of the day.
  7. You’re losing your sense of self.  You look in the mirror and ask: Who is this person?
  8. You feel disconnected from your community.
  9. You have trouble feeling and showing empathy for others.
  10. You’re finding it difficult to concentrate and process basic information.
  11. You see your grades or performance at work slipping.
  12. You feel confused and forgetful, more than usual.

If you found yourself checking off a number of these symptoms, you may have unknowingly drifted onto the highway and reached the danger zone where your stress levels are too high.  These warning signs are there to tell you to slow down and pay attention to what’s going on in your life.  You can start by eliminating the activities that are nice to do but not critical.  You can also

  • Pay attention to your physical symptoms and take action to deal with them before they become debilitating.  Start by taking small steps to deal with the symptoms instead of trying to change too many things at one.  You’ll accomplish more and feel less stressed.
  • Reconnect with your friends and family or rekindle romantic flames, even if it’s only for a short period of time at first. Start with one or two connections each week and add others as you begin to feel more social.
  • Find an organization where you can volunteer a couple of hours each month. Giving back to others provides a fresh perspective on what’s truly important and increases your level of empathy of others.  Writing down what you’re grateful for to recognize what's positive in your life.
  • Take time to unplug intellectually, to shut down your busy self-talk.  Find the place where you feel most relaxed and begin a daily practice of 5-10 minutes of complete silence.  Add a few minutes each week until you reach 20-30 minutes.  Use this time to allow your mind to relax and gain clarity at the same time.

Paying attention to your stress levels when the danger warnings are present is the best investment you can make in your well-being. If you need help getting started, you can work with a coach to clarify your goals and identify steps to manage your busy life more effectively. But if you find that your level of stress are increasing and coping is become difficult, seek professional help before you reach the point of burnout. With stress now a constant in our lives, managing it has become as critical to our well-being as feeding our bodies with healthy foods and staying active.

  1.  Top Gun was produced by Paramount Pictures in 1986, directed by Tony Scott and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.


Written by

Dianne Gaudet is a certified Coach who is passionate about helping her clients manage the dynamics of continual life transitions as they reach new heights of personal and professional success. Helping Boomers create rich and inspired lifestyle plans for the retirement life they want is one of her greatest joys. Dianne is the author of a new book, If There Are No Limits... A guide to living with passion, purpose and possibilities. She is also a motivational speaker, teacher and world traveller.