top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Julia

When Does Stress Become a Problem

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Stressed, overwhelmed, irritated, sleepless, and exhausted? You are not the only one. Did you know that high stress is likely culprit? Yep, that’s right. All these things happen when stress becomes a problem, is chronic, or negatively interferes in our life.

Causes health problems. Zaps our energy and productivity. Makes us snappy and irritable with our partners or kids. Ugh.

Don’t worry, by the end of the article, you will have all the information on how to know when high stress becomes a problem and chronic so you can stop it from running your life.

Hello energy, good mood, and productivity! Read on to take charge.

Physical Clues of High Stress

When stressed, the body will always respond with a physiological change due to the stress response in the body, or the fight or flight response.

This can cause a lot of physical symptoms that may mimic medical conditions and symptoms, like high blood pressure, neck, shoulder, and jaw tension, increased heart rate, chest tightness, changes in breathing (fast, shallow, rapid), tummy troubles (you know what I’m talking about), and more.

Wait, you’re saying that my neck tension, digestive issues, and chronic headaches could be due to stress??

Yep, all those symptoms can be caused by stress that is too high, poorly managed or too frequent.

Now, because these symptoms can mimic actual medical conditions, *always run them by your doctor to rule out any medical conditions.*

Once you’re in the clear and still experiencing these symptoms, there’s a pretty big chance they’re due to stress becoming a problem in your life.

Behavioral Clues of High Stress

When stressed out, we will also experience clues related to changes in our behavior. You might notice a change in your activity or lifestyle, sleep, appetite, and other behavioral clues.

Sleep Problems

Can't sleep? Trouble falling and staying asleep are classic symptoms of high stress and anxiety. How frustrating is it when we dream about our bed and a good night's sleep, and instead toss and turn, stare at the wall, or can't shut off our racing thoughts?

Because stress causes muscle tension, this can make it hard for the body and mind to relax to fall asleep. Hello low energy, crankiness, and irritability in the morning. When we have a lot on our mind, this can also cause the mind to race, which also makes it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep at times. SO FRUSTRATING.

Appetite Changes

Changes in appetite is another clue that stress is starting to get high. This might include a low appetite due to digestive issues or feeling too stressed, overeating, or endless snacking due to high stress. Pay attention to how your appetite or eating habits change when you're high stress. Do you eat more? Eat less?

Pay attention so you can catch appetite changes clues early.


Procrastination is another key that we are starting to feel overwhelmed by too high of stress. When we feel stressed, we tend to put things off. However, this only further increases our stress and avoidance of them, since the more we avoid or put off tasks, the harder they feel to do.

Not only do we avoid these tasks, but we still think about them in the back of our mind which makes it hard to focus on whatever else we are doing. Lose-Lose.


When stress is too high, we tend to be more irritable, snappy with others, and get angry faster. This can cause interference in our productivity, distract us from our tasks, and also cause problems in relationships.

Because stress can make it hard to get quality sleep, poor sleep can also increase irritability. Couple poor sleep with high stress......irritated city.

Cognitive Clues

Changes in thinking can also tell us stress has become a problem. When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to focus on negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios that tend to only escalate stress and anxiety, and can lead to the physical and behavioral symptoms mentioned above.

If we are distracted by racing and negative thoughts, our attention, concentration, and productivity are going to be decreased. Hello distractibility.

Finding yourself distracted easily, unproductive, and foggy? High stress is likely the culprit.

The higher your stress, the more your cognitive abilities decrease-your thinking, attention, concentration, and problem-solving abilities will all go down.

This goes back to the stress response that is designed to protect us. In a moment of true danger, we don’t have a lot of thinking and problem-solving time. Instead, we need to react quickly to protect ourselves, so that is why our thinking abilities go down as the stress response gets more activated.

Awesome for productivity and focus....NOT.

How Stress Symptoms Get in the Way

As you can imagine, the physical, behavioral, and cognitive clues of stress can interfere in significant ways in our life. As you see, it can make us more irritable and snappy with others, cause us to procrastinate and put off tasks we need to do, it zaps our attention and concentration, and makes it harder to sleep, among many other things. Let’s put it all together in an example.

Let’s say you have a really stressful day at work and don’t really do much to manage or decrease it. Well, now when you’re trying to sleep at night, your mind is racing with your work stressors and focused on the fact that you’re not sleeping.

Because you didn’t sleep well, this is going to cause you to feel more irritable the next day, have lower energy, and be easily distracted. Not quite the winning combination for productivity.

So, stress doesn’t just interfere-it interferes in a major way. Removing the stress roadblocks getting in your way is the key to *taking charge of your life* and accomplishing all the goals stress has prevented you from achieving.

How to Reduce Stress and Experience Stress Relief

Pay Attention to the Early Stress Clues

We tend to only do something about high stress when it gives us no choice and causes a variety of the symptoms mentioned above.

So, pay attention to the ones that apply to you. Which ones happen first? What are the earliest clues that tell you stress is about to majorly get in your way? The earlier you manage stress, the less negative effects of it you will experience.

Engage in Preventive Stress Relief

Stress management when feeling stressed and experiencing a lot of anxiety is important. However, even more important is doing regular things to manage stress. This means having daily, weekly, and monthly activities that you do for stress prevention, no matter what is going on.

Evaluate your stress relief activities. Are these regular things, or when feeling super stressed?

When Stress Becomes a Problem Summary

Stress becomes a problem when it is experienced too often, too intensely, or starts to negatively interfere in our life.

Notice the physical, behavioral, and cognitive stress symptoms that serve as clues to tell you that stress is becoming a problem in your life. Take action sooner rather than later and engage in preventive stress relief activities to keep high stress from running your life.


Ready to stop letting stress run your life? I'll be your partner in mastering stress and removing the stress roadblocks getting in the way of your goals, once and for all.

Book a discovery call so we can talk about how. I can't wait to help you take control of your life and accomplish all your goals!

-----About Dr. Julia

Hi! I'm Dr. Julia. Health psychologist, stress and sleep expert, and creator of the Master Stress Method.

I have worked with thousands of individuals in major hospitals, university medical centers, and primary care settings to improve their stress levels, sleep, and overall emotional and physical well being.

My current focus is helping busy professionals prevent and manage the high stress that is getting in the way of their productivity, mood, sleep, and their ability to reach their full potential.

My 8-week, 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of stressed out, overwhelmed, and burned out clients significantly reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their sleep, and maximize their productivity, in just 8 short weeks.

I can't wait to help you stop the struggle with stress, for good. Let's chat :)


bottom of page