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Too much or too little stress? Learn to spot the early signs

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Welcome to my blog page of 2023. Throughout the year we'll focus on emotional issues that affect most of us from time to time - and see how counselling therapy can help.

For most of us, stress is a common experience. Some of us may rely on a level of stress to get us through the routine of our day; to prompt, motivate or spur us into action, whether its getting out of bed in the morning or meeting a deadline. Our stress levels vary according to environment, circumstance and stress tolerance.

It's important to note that too much or too little stress can impact our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Too little stress may lead to boredom, dissatisfaction, depression. Too much can lead to overwhelm and 'burnout' (the physical and emotional exhaustion resulting from stress).

Noticing early signs of stress can help to lower the risk of overwhelm. But we also need to remember that some levels of stress can work in our favour.

Noticing early signs of stress can help to lower the risk of overwhelm. But we also need to remember that some levels of stress can work in our favour. This is because certain hormones, that respond to stress, give us a short-term physical and emotional boost. They can also trigger the mind's automatic 'fight or flight response', should we feel under threat.

So what are the early signs of too much or too little stress?
  • Fatigue

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Headaches or stomach pains

  • Inertia or restlessness

  • Irritability

  • Lack of motivation

  • Loss of libido

  • Reduced appetite or over-eating

  • Tearfulness

  • Underwhelm or overwhelm

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

There are a broad range of factors that can contribute to stress. To understand what's causing you to feel stressed, it may help to consider the following five categories:

1. Environmental

Includes events and social conditions such as natural disasters, epidemics, identity, war, human rights issues, pollution, cost of living, housing and healthcare, employment.

2. Physical

Negative symptoms can cause aches and pains, blurred vision, breathlessness, dizziness, heart disease, hypertension, affect libido, sleep, cause stomach issues, teeth grinding, tension headaches, 'weak legs'.

3. Mental

The mind can be challenged by addiction, anxiety, depression, inability to focus, disordered eating, dissociation, irrational thoughts, night terrors, over-thinking, phobias, memory issues, suicidal ideation, unwanted behaviours.

4. Emotional

Feelings, such as anger, confidence, envy, fear, loneliness and isolation, loss, love, sadness, self-esteem, can become unmanageable or overwhelming.

5. Spiritual

Difficulties seeking connection, meaning, self-awareness, personal development or purpose.

Note that all of these categories can impact one another. For example, you may be more prone to stress if you are feeling physically unwell.

Your ability to deal with stress depends on your, stress tolerance – how stress affects you day-to-day, during particularly stressful events or periods of time and your recovery following. This is shaped by your personality, experience and circumstance (just how much you have going on).

If you are struggling with stress, you could:

  • try using self-help techniques

  • seek advice from your GP

  • consider counselling

A counsellor can help you understand what's causing you to feel stressed and support you in finding ways to cope. For more information on how to find a counsellor visit:

You may also find the following links helpful:



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