Stress and distress are different but related emotional states. Both are uncomfortable and if left unattended they can grow into unbearable upset.
In counselling we aim to explore the roots of stress and distress and to talk about how the burden of these emotions impacts our lives. We all have pressures that pull and push us around and most of the time we react well. When stress and distress impact us negatively it can be helpful to find ways to adapt our responses.
Stress is a far more widely used term for an inability to cope with the demands life places on us whether it’s something exciting like a great new relationship or something upsetting like the loss of a pet.
When we’re in distress we suffer symptoms of depression (e.g., lost interest; sadness; hopelessness) and anxiety (e.g., restlessness; feeling tense) (Mirowsky and Ross 2002). These symptoms may be tied in with physical symptoms (e.g., insomnia; headaches; lack of energy) that are likely to vary across cultures (Kleinman 1991, Kirmayer 1989).
In both stress and distress there is a demand being made of our energy and resources. Usually we meet this demand adequately but occasionally we don’t and that’s when the conflict and struggle starts.