Prevent Psychological Distress by Listening to Yourself

27 March 2019


Dr. Nicolas Chevrier

Organizational Psychology


Many studies have documented it: business executives are significantly prone to psychological distress. But what exactly does this mean? And how can you develop the reflexes needed to identify the signs?

First of all, the level of distress can range from very low to very high. So, it’s important that the person in question can identify where they fall on this range before they burnout. The fable of the boiling frog hits the nail on the head perfectly. The key is being able to identify when the water gets too hot, so that you can jump out of the pot without losing your skin! Not the easiest of tasks… but not the most difficult either!

Recognizing the signs of psychological distress is a step in the right direction. As your thoughts (what you say to yourself) drive your emotions (what you feel) and your behaviours (what you do), listening to yourself is one of the most effective ways of preventing the development of psychological distress.

To help, I’ve presented the signs of psychological distress below. These are the most often encountered thoughts that should set the alarm bells ringing:

Come on, it can’t be that hard to start a meeting on time!

1. Irritability. When dealing with chronic stress, you have less patience for daily irritants. Situations that aren’t normally a source of irritation can become very frustrating. This irritability can surface at work, but also at home with your loved ones.

What did she say in her presentation?

2. Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating. You are less present in every day goings-on. Concerns caused by varying situations at work take up too much place your mind. As a result, you’re no longer cognitively present. At times, your brain no longer records information: you forget where you put your wallet or keys; you forget to call back that colleague like you promised; you forget what was on the last four pages of the report you were just reading, etc.

Another sleepless night, I’ll never get to sleep!

3. Insomnia. Insomnia is a significant sign of distress as it intensifies the vicious circle of fatigue. The more tired you become, the more you are affected by stress. The more you’re affected by stress, the more you try to find solutions to your problems by brooding on your thoughts. The more you brood, the harder it is to sleep (it’s a physiological reality!). The less you sleep, the more tired you are. And then the cycle starts again!


I can’t believe I put the supplier in cc on that email! What on Earth was I thinking?!

4. Making mistakes. You notice that the quality of your work has reduced, and you’re not sure why. People point out mistakes that you don’t normally make, and you can’t understand why you have made them. You feel like you’re working just as much and just as hard as before, but for some reason, you keep making mistakes.

I don’t know why this commercial is making me cry!

5. Emotional liability. You’re more emotional in everyday situations. Events seem to be affecting you more than usual. Whenever a situation makes you feel the least bit of emotion, you get a lump in your throat and almost feel like you want to cry.

That’s it! I’m jacking it all in and opening a bakery!

6. Hopelessness. This is the feeling you get when you feel like you’ll never get to where you want to be. You feel like you’ve been stuck where you are forever and the only way to move on is to give up and do something else, to flee and start anew. You try to manage the feeling of hopelessness with a very ineffective stress management strategy: running away.

When you work on stress management skills, the first big one you should develop is being able to identify these signs. Identifying them enables you to quickly intervene and make the adjustments you need to plan for some time off. Don’t forget, over 12 weeks have passed since Christmas, so it’s time for you to take a break if you want to remain productive until the summer!

About the author

Nicolas Chevrier

About Nicolas Chevrier


Dr. Nicolas Chevrier, psychologist, holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Occupational and Organizational Psychology, in which he focused on the impact organizational factors can have on the development of burnout.