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When you feel stress, your body is actually reacting to a threat, challenge or demand – any change, really. 


The demands that can cause stress are called stressors. They can be external or internal.

  • External stressors are things that come from outside you, such as a busy schedule in school, work issues, after-school activities or changes in your relationships with friends or family.
  • Internal stressors might be the demands or challenges from inside you, such as the desire to do well in school or fit in with your peers or concerns about your health.

When we think of stress, we might think about something really big, serious and overwhelming. But often stress can be caused by little things such as a project, a missed bus, a bad night’s sleep, a fight with a friend or family member or dealings with a teacher. These little things can add up!

What does stress feel like?

When we are stressed, our bodies may show physical signs of tension. Sometimes irritation, anger, nervousness or sadness can be a clue you are feeling stressed. You may also have difficulty concentrating or feel like you can’t stop worrying about something.

Signs of stress in your body

Here is a list of signs of stress in your body. If you have been affected by any of these, why not make a note in a notebook or journal?

  • Cold or sweaty hands and skin
  • Upset stomach (butterflies or feeling of nausea)
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Skipped heartbeats
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Tight muscles that cannot relax in your face, neck or back
  • Legs or hands that want to move all the time
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Headaches or stomach aches
  • Low energy or feeling tired for no good reason
  • Biting nails
  • Feeling shaky.

Signs of emotional stress

Teen boy sitting on steps with head in his hands

Here is a list of possible feelings when you are stressed. Again, if some of them are familiar to you, why not write them in a notebook or journal?

  • Moodiness
  • Easily irritated
  • Feeling on edge
  • Nervous, jumpy or restless
  • Worried or anxious
  • Racing or obsessive thoughts
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Scared
  • Unhappy, sad, hopeless or depressed
  • Grumpy
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate or make decisions
  • Wanting to escape or run away.

Common stressors after a transplant

We all deal with challenges and obstacles. There are many things that may worry or cause you stress as a transplant patient. Check out some examples below.

Possible stressorsSpecific stress-related thoughts
Missing school because of hospital stays or not feeling well“I don’t want to fall behind or have to make up that test or project!”
Your health“How will I ever remember to take my medicine every day?!”
“How will I make sure that I don’t get a bad infection?”
“I worry I will let people down if I don’t get better and stay better.”
“What if I need another transplant?”
“I sometimes worry about dying.”
Feeling different from friends who haven’t had a transplant“Will people think I’m weird if they know I have a transplant?”
“I have to think about what I eat and drink more often than my friends do.”
“I have to think about what sports I can play.”
“I just want to be like everyone else.”
Telling new friends, boyfriends or girlfriends about my transplant“How do I tell them?”
“What will they think of me?”
“Will they still want to hang out with me?”
Your donor“Who was my donor?”
“Sometimes I feel guilty.”
“Does my living donor expect me to be perfect? Will they be disappointed in me if my transplant fails?”
Your family“My parents won’t let me go out with my friends.”
“My parents keep nagging me about my drinking and my diet.”
“My parents won’t let me manage my own medicines.”

Understanding your response to stres is one of the first steps in learning how to manage your emotions. You cannot always control the stressors in your life, but you can control how you react to them.

It is important to learn to recognize the signs of stress and take action to deal with them. Otherwise, you can get caught up in a cycle of stress and your symptoms can get worse. You can learn more in the page on managing stress after a transplant.

Last updated: November 30th 2017