Distress? De-stress for success!

Healthy stress that encourages us to stretch and achieve something worthwhile, maybe to learn or to succeed at something new, is sensible.


It is also true that those who have suffered a trauma may experience debilitating post-traumatic stress.

Between the two extremes, and often debilitating too, is 'distress'’, which is that sense that we are overwhelmed with angst and just can’t cope.

Unhealthy and personal angst-inducing factors or 'stressors' include;

  • relationships
  • redundancy
  • retraining
  • ill-health
  • traffic jams

The more world focused stressors might include;

  • wars
  • natural disasters
  • political discord

Much of this we may feel unable to influence. What is clear is that stressful situations are likely to be inevitable and probably a consistent part of our lives. We best be good at combatting them.

Why? Because as equally serious as the stressors are the negative impacts unhealthy stress can have on your emotional, mental, social, and physical health. Anger, temper tantrums, anxiety, depression, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems all form part of the negative impacts that follow on from unmanaged stress.

The 10 most common indications of being stressed

1. Poor time management, meaning that you arrive late to appointments or miss important deadlines (which is why traffic jams tend to be so awful).

2. Being frequently irritated and bad-tempered, and breathing in the top of your chest.

3. Lacking confidence in your ability to achieve the things that you need to do, and feeling caught in a negative cycle of failure.

4. More to do than the perceived resources available to you (normally defined as time, money, and the spare emotional, mental, and physical capacity).

5. No incentive to take time for yourself, you know, to do all those things you have read that are good for managing stress (try breathing lower in your belly rather than chest).

6. Feeling too tense to be able to focus on what you should be doing, and becoming frustrated with your efforts (or lack of them).

7. Being in regular conflict with those around you and not being able to make yourself fully understood (because they just do not get it!).

8. Having a pessimistic and bleak outlook on the future, of your ability to influence matters. Suspicious about the intentions of those around you.

9. Physically exhausted (or to use the buzz phrase 'burned out') such that you simply cannot be bothered to get motivated (make that breathing follow a seven-11 pattern - breathe-in to a comfortable count of seven and out to eleven, into your belly).

10. Lonely and isolated and not making enough high-quality connections with those who are normally supportive (see point eight).

If so, take time to complete a stress test and consider an emotional needs audit (ENA) too.

These, especially if talked through with a sensible and crucial person, like a counsellor or coach, can help you make sure that;

  • there is no unaddressed trauma (which may easily be resolved)
  • you understand why this is happening (get some psychoeducation)
  • you make a plan that you are held to gentle account for

You may then find that goals are easier to set, and you can move towards success, using healthy managed stress (called eustress).

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stevenage SG1 & London W1G
Written by Keith Abrahams, MBA, MHGDip
Stevenage SG1 & London W1G

Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in various psychological models. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma. He lectures in business and leadership for professional development organisations.

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