Why Are You So Stressed Out?

by Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC


Many people wonder if the amount of stress they are experiencing is “normal”. They look to the person next to them and think “hmm, that guy looks pretty happy…am I happy enough? Should I be more worried about the fact that I’m not as happy as that guy?” Before they know it, they begin to stress about stress.

Stress is an inevitable part of human life. It even serves a healthy function when it motivates us to work toward important goals and avoid dangerous situations. But how can we tell when this healthy stress (eustress) turns to unhealthy stress (distress)?

Distress occurs over time, when we experience continuous amounts of stress with no periods of relaxation or reprieve.  This negative stress builds and builds, eventually throwing our equilibrium into an out-of-sync state and causing a variety of emotional, mental and physical symptoms.

Emotional signs of distress:

  • decreased motivation
  • low frustration tolerance
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • short temper

Mental signs of distress:

  • decreased focus and concentration
  • racing thoughts
  • difficulty retaining or recalling information
  • feeling “out of it”

Physical signs of distress:

  • exhaustion
  • general muscle tension and pain (headache, stomachache, muscle pain)
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • disrupted sleep

How to prevent distress

As mentioned before, experiencing stress is evitable and generally harmless. The important thing is monitoring symptoms and taking preemptive steps to manage that stress before it turns to burnout (once you’re in an emotionally exhausted state, it will be more difficult to bounce back.)

Listed below are simple ways to prevent distress:

  • accept what you cannot control. Acknowledge negative experiences instead of avoiding or ruminating on them
  • manage time effectively by setting realistic expectations
  • set boundaries by saying “no” to obligations that will create excess stress
  • express feelings and opinions instead of holding them inside
  • practice self-compassion



Seeking Mental Health Support

If you feel that your stress is becoming unmanageable, it may be time to speak with a professional. Scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center may be the first step in making your mental health a priority in the new year. Meet our team to learn more!


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