When stress tips over the edge

It’s a big part of our lives - how often do we hear people say they feel stressed? They have too much going on, too much to do?

Stress is the body’s response to the life and demands made on us. Sometimes it’s positive, helping us to perform in an interview for example, or study for an exam, or get through a to do list.

It can however tip over the edge, often without us realising and we all have different thresholds and ways of coping. Sometimes these coping strategies aren’t as helpful as we initially thought. We may find we stop enjoying our lives or being with the people we care about, lose our sense of humour, reach for food or alcohol to cope.

More and more often people are finding that the stresses in life are not short term and a few days grows into weeks and before we know it its just that way it is.

Apart from the physical symptoms there’s the behavioural and emotional symptoms - irritation, anger, crying, distracted and unable to focus. We can get annoyed at the slightest thing, find ourselves arguing with people we care about, or unable to work or concentrate at things that matter or we need to do. Our relationships suffer, our social lives become more effort, our work becomes more challenging, and as we try harder to do things to compensate for not coping we pile on the stress on ourselves even more, putting pressure on ourselves to deal with it and get on with it.

Life events can be stressful - new job, exams, a new relationship or a change in relationship, new boss, moving house, an illness. Again they might be manageable in the short term but pile them on top of each other or when we don’t feel we have a choice or are in control of them, then the stress can turn into something quite debilitating and have long-term impact on the quality of our lives.

Take a look at some of these symptoms and ask yourself if the stress you feel today is at a manageable level, short term or directly related to something you are having to deal with just now.


  • Low energy.
  • Reduced motivation.
  • Living life too fast - always on the go, unable to stop.
  • Headaches.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Poor sleep or over sleep.
  • Clenching teeth.
  • Tight jaw.
  • Frequent virus or bugs.


  • Agitated.
  • Fearful.
  • Crying.
  • Angry or irritated.
  • Withdrawing.
  • Low motivation.


  • Cancelling or not making arrangements
  • Drinking more than usual.
  • Eating - not eating or comfort eating.
  • Hard to focus or talk to people.
  • Sleeping too much or having difficulty sleeping.

Talking about stress is the first step to getting some insight and understanding what’s going on. When we start to see how we respond to our experiences and better understand ourselves, we can then help ourselves to find new ways of living and coping better with our lives and our relationships. We can learn to spot the signs and look at what we can do for ourselves so that stress does not become the overwhelming norm in our lives. Giving yourself time to stop and process is a great gift to our own wellbeing, relationships and our life choices.

It is possible to find new and more beneficial ways to manage stress more holistically once you have increased insight to how you respond to your triggers.

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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Glasgow, G41 3PP
Written by Christine King, (MBACP)
Glasgow, G41 3PP

Christine is a person centred counsellor in Glasgow, working with individuals and couples as well as online counselling. She works across a wide range of difficulty with an interest in how we build better, more sustaining and enhancing relationships with ourselves and others as the foundation of well-being.

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