Anyone running a fast-growing company is bound to feel symptoms of stress. The most common ones include headaches, insomnia, short-temperedness, nausea, and diarrhea.

But how do you know when you are slipping from stress into distress? "You know when you are being pushed too far, pulled in too many directions, and can't focus," says Dr. Herbert Benson, director of Behavioral Medicine at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and author of The Relaxation Response. "You become afraid that you are losing control of your ability to deal with life's situations."

The symptoms develop slowly.At work, you might start trusting only yourself. You may be unable to share responsibility or to delegate. Eventually, you might become hostile at even the sound of another person's suggestion. Are you totally consumed by your job? Stressedout executives often become so focused on work that they bring their business problems home every night. No one, not even spouses and children, dares stand in the way of moving the company ahead.

To get the right kind of help, it's important to identify exactly what is bothering you. Are your stressors environmental ones, like noxious fumes, poor lighting, or loud noises? You can usually relieve these yourself. If that's not the answer, maybe you need to talk to a therapist, who can help work out so-called cognitive stressors. "What's stressful to you can only be what is meaningful to you," explains Robert McLaughlin, a human-resources consultant. "Ask yourself what you are making more meaningful than it really is." You may need help shifting your priorities.

You might think it odd that many people have to learn how to relax, but the problem is common. Executives tense up in ways they're not aware of; they get used to that frequent muscle ache or digestive problem. But chronic stress can induce serious illness. If you often feel the physical symptoms of stress, get a medical checkup. Find out where you can learn relaxation techniques. And you'll feel better if you stop smoking, watch your weight, and exercise.