Are you living on the edge? Spotting signs of severe stress

The signs can really creep up on you over time and initially be difficult to identify

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We’ve all felt it. The alarm goes off signaling the start of another day on the treadmill, we hit the snooze button and pull the quilt over our head. It’s a common story, particularly at the beginning of the working week, but most people manage to drag themselves out of bed and get to it.

There will be some though, who feel as though they can’t face it. Paralyzed by anxiety and exhaustion, they are so mentally and physically defeated that the only thing they can think to do is to stay put. They’ve hit rock bottom and at this point the only thing that is going to bring them back up is to seek out professional help.

Of course, work is not only a necessary part of most people’s lives, but it does add structure and that is a very important aspect. We all expect to have to endure a certain degree of work related pressure. It’s often necessary to get stuff done and maintain a motivated workforce, yet there is a very big difference between pressure and stress. Stress is innate and develops when we feel the pressure is constant or excessive and a lot of the time, we don’t necessarily have good thermostats when it comes to measuring the levels of stress we are under.

This is a common story in the clients I treat for work related stress. The signs have been there for a long time, but they haven’t tuned into the signals, because of the pressure to keep going and a reluctance to be perceived as weak. There is still very much a taboo when it comes to acknowledging these feeling in a more public way, but I think the more we discuss them openly, the more positive the outcomes will be for both individuals and the workforce in general.

The signs can really creep up on you over time and initially be difficult to identify. You might feel a general malaise, losing that feeling of enjoyment in the pleasures of life. Feeling physically tired all the time and on the ragged edge of your emotions can also be a clear indicator that something is not right. At work, you might feel that constant gnawing feeling of nausea and lose your ability to concentrate on things, your mind carried away on the maelstrom of emotions you are experiencing.

Acknowledging that you are getting to a point where you can’t cope is key when it comes to doing something about it. This in itself is never an easy thing, and a lot of people I help have actually gone past it and hit rock bottom. Sadly, it’s this extreme stress reaction that actually forces some people to deal with how they are feeling. But it’s a turning point and I help them to realize that they have to take back control and find the balance their lives are so desperately craving. This begins with learning how to priorities certain things in their lives. Devoting time to themselves, eating well, enjoying exercise, learning how to say no, developing a positive mindset and accepting that there is only so much you can do and certain things you can’t change, is all part of helping people carve out a new way of living.

So, if you feel you’re teetering on the edge and one small thing could knock you over, it’s time to admit it and reach out for help.


Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based clinical and cognitive behavioral hypnotherapist. He can be contacted online at or via Facebook.

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