Signs of psychological stress

Signs of psychological stress

Dr Sonya Wallbank shares some insight into the various presentations individuals may exhibit when they feel under pressure, along with some pointers to help teams overcome trying periods of stress.


If you can start to see the stress presentations in your colleagues in yourself, you’re less likely to end up in that clinical state of burnout.

Often what you’re not going to be aware of is what lies beneath. You’re probably likely to see the behaviour, first of all. So it’s just about paying attention, finding it hard to make decisions. Some people are more indecisive than others at the best of times. But this is about struggling to make some of those really small decisions, constantly checking stuff out, especially from people who wouldn’t normally be doing that, would be very autonomous in their decision making.

The physical symptoms you’re likely to see in sickness levels, absenteeism, noticing people are unwell quite a lot. You may find yourself stomachache, nail-biting, all of that sort of presentation when it comes out in the physical body.

Avoidance, I know you may have heard me talk before about the link between avoidance and traumatic situations. Avoidance, when you’re entering into the burnout zone, is really evident. It’s this idea of whatever I’m going to do will take of me, and therefore I’d really rather not. So not having those difficult conversations with colleagues, not wanting to deal with more challenging aspects of the work, again, could be an indicator that somebody is struggling.

Anger, I don’t know about you but, I think we just all hit a brick wall at once in our team. And you can see the agitation with people, again, not assuming ill intent, to begin with, really thinking about what lies beneath that, especially for people who are not normally a bit crotchety.

Eating, drinking more, doing all of the things that we know are lovely and comforting in the short term, but long term is going to have more difficulties for us. What is it that people might be feeling or experiencing? We’ll definitely recognise the loneliness and neglectfulness of not being able to have that team space together.

People feeling overburdened, not able to cope. I mean, certainly, you know, losing a sense of humour at things that you may have been able to laugh at before, but that lonely and anxious, nervous thoughts racing again all to be watching out for.

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