30 Metaphors for Stress + Quiz

Stress is an all-too-familiar companion in our modern lives, lurking around every corner and sometimes hitting us like a ton of bricks.

It’s an emotion that can be challenging to put into words, but metaphors provide a creative and vivid way to convey the complex experience of stress.

In this article, we will dive into various metaphors for stress, each shedding light on different facets of this emotional turmoil.

metaphors for stress

What is a Metaphor for Stress?

Before we delve into the intriguing world of metaphors for stress, let’s clarify what a metaphor is and why it’s such a powerful tool for expressing our feelings.

0 votes, 0 avg
Created by Dr. Julia Rossi

English Language Level Placement Test – (TEFL)

Can you pass our Language Test?

Pass and receive an “English Language Level Placement” certificate.

1 / 20

What is a simile?

2 / 20

Identify the simile in the following sentence: “She swims like a fish.”

3 / 20

What is a metaphor?

4 / 20

Which of the following is a metaphor?

5 / 20

What is an idiom?

6 / 20

What does the idiom “break the ice” mean?

7 / 20

What is an adjective?

8 / 20

Choose the adjective in the following sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

9 / 20

What is an abbreviation?

10 / 20

What does the abbreviation “e.g.” stand for?

11 / 20

What is a verb?

12 / 20

Identify the verb in the following sentence: “The cat sleeps on the sofa.”

13 / 20

“Out of the frying pan into the fire” is an example of:

14 / 20

Which of the following is an adjective?

15 / 20

The abbreviation “NASA” stands for:

16 / 20

Choose the metaphor in the following sentence: “Time is a thief.”

17 / 20

What does the idiom “hit the books” mean?

18 / 20

Which of the following sentences contains a simile?

19 / 20

“LOL” is an abbreviation for:

20 / 20

Identify the verb in this sentence: “They whispered secrets into the night.”

Enter your name and email to receive your certificate.

Your score is

The average score is 12%


Metaphors are figures of speech that compare one thing to another, suggesting that they are alike in some way. They go beyond literal language and use one concept or object to represent another, often creating a deeper and more relatable understanding of the subject at hand.

When it comes to stress, metaphors can paint a vivid picture of the emotional and physical sensations it brings.

Weight on Your ShouldersFeeling burdened and overwhelmed by responsibilities.
Pressure CookerA situation where stress builds up and intensifies.
Ticking Time BombA sense that stress is accumulating and may explode.
Breaking PointThe moment when stress becomes too much to handle.
Walking on a TightropeNavigating a precarious situation with caution.
Sinking ShipFeeling like your situation is deteriorating.
Heavy BurdenA weighty and oppressive feeling.
Crushing LoadOverwhelmed by responsibilities or problems.
Mounting TensionA gradual increase in stress over time.
Hair-PullingFrustration and stress so intense it’s maddening.
Burning the Candle…Pushing yourself to the limits, risking burnout.
Running on EmptyFeeling depleted physically and emotionally.
Nervous WreckExtreme anxiety and agitation due to stress.
Straw That Broke…The final, triggering event after a series of stressors.
A Storm BrewingSensing impending trouble or conflict.
Back Against the WallFeeling trapped or cornered by stress.
Up Against the RopesIn a difficult situation with limited options.
Walking on EggshellsNavigating a situation cautiously to avoid conflict.
Battling DemonsStruggling with inner turmoil and personal issues.
Racing HeartRapid heartbeats due to anxiety or tension.
Juggling Too Many BallsManaging numerous responsibilities simultaneously.
Drowning in…Overwhelmed by a multitude of duties.
Walking Through…Navigating a high-risk situation with caution.
Hanging by a ThreadIn a vulnerable position, fearing things may fall apart.
Running in CirclesEngaging in unproductive activities or thoughts.
Hammer and AnvilFeeling caught between opposing forces.
Swamped with WorkOverwhelmed by a large volume of tasks.
Stuck in QuicksandFeeling trapped and unable to make progress.
Balancing ActMaintaining equilibrium amidst competing demands.

Stress is like a heavy weight pressing down on your shoulders, making every step feel burdensome. For more similes related to stress, you can check out this resource: Similes for Stress. Additionally, if you’re interested in idioms associated with stress, you can explore them here: Idioms for Stress.

Metaphors for Stress

1. Weight on Your Shoulders

Meaning: Feeling burdened and overwhelmed by responsibilities or problems.

In a Sentence: The impending deadline at work felt like a heavy weight on my shoulders, making it hard to breathe.

2. Pressure Cooker

Meaning: A situation where stress builds up and intensifies until it becomes unbearable.

In a Sentence: The constant demands of family, work, and life created a pressure cooker environment that I couldn’t escape.

3. Ticking Time Bomb

Meaning: A sense that stress is accumulating and may explode into a crisis at any moment.

In a Sentence: His anger issues were like a ticking time bomb, and any small setback could trigger an explosive reaction.

4. Breaking Point

Meaning: The moment when stress becomes too much to handle, leading to emotional or physical breakdown.

In a Sentence: I reached my breaking point after weeks of non-stop work, and I knew I needed a break.

5. Walking on a Tightrope

Meaning: Navigating a precarious situation with extreme caution, fearing any misstep might lead to disaster.

In a Sentence: Balancing my job and personal life felt like walking on a tightrope, where any wrong move could result in a fall.

6. Sinking Ship

Meaning: A metaphor for feeling like your life or situation is gradually deteriorating and there’s no way to stop it.

In a Sentence: His financial troubles made him feel like he was on a sinking ship, desperately bailing water but never making progress.

7. Heavy Burden

Meaning: A weighty and oppressive feeling, as if you are carrying a load that’s too much for you to bear.

In a Sentence: The loss of a loved one left me with a heavy burden of grief that seemed impossible to shake.

8. Crushing Load

Meaning: A sensation of being overwhelmed by responsibilities, obligations, or problems, to the point of feeling physically crushed.

In a Sentence: The demands of caring for three kids while working a full-time job were a crushing load that left me exhausted.

9. Mounting Tension

Meaning: A gradual increase in stress and anxiety over time, creating a sense of impending crisis.

In a Sentence: The mounting tension in the office was palpable as the project deadline drew near.

10. Hair-Pulling

Meaning: An expression of frustration and stress so intense that it makes you want to physically pull out your hair.

In a Sentence: Dealing with my stubborn computer issues had me at the point of hair-pulling frustration.

11. Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Meaning: Pushing yourself to the limits, often by working excessively or neglecting self-care, which can lead to burnout.

In a Sentence: She was burning the candle at both ends, working late nights and early mornings, until she collapsed from exhaustion.

12. Running on Empty

Meaning: Feeling depleted, both physically and emotionally, due to prolonged stress or overexertion.

In a Sentence: After weeks of constant stress, I felt like I was running on empty, with no energy left for anything else.

13. Nervous Wreck

Meaning: Being in a state of extreme anxiety and agitation, often due to overwhelming stress.

In a Sentence: The thought of giving a public speech had me feeling like a nervous wreck, my heart racing and palms sweating.

14. Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Meaning: Referring to the final, seemingly insignificant, event or stressor that triggers a breakdown after a series of stressful experiences.

In a Sentence: It wasn’t the big issues that got to him; it was the small, daily annoyances that became the straw that broke the camel’s back.

15. A Storm Brewing

Meaning: Sensing impending trouble or conflict, like a gathering storm on the horizon.

In a Sentence: The tension between the two coworkers was palpable, like a storm brewing in the office.

16. Back Against the Wall

Meaning: Feeling trapped or cornered by stressful circumstances, with no easy way out.

In a Sentence: With bills piling up and no job prospects, he felt like his back was against the wall.

17. Up Against the Ropes

Meaning: Being in a difficult and challenging situation, often with limited options or resources.

In a Sentence: Trying to manage a demanding job and ailing parents had me feeling like I was up against the ropes.

18. Walking on Eggshells

Meaning: Navigating a situation delicately and cautiously, as any misstep could lead to conflict or disaster.

In a Sentence: After their argument, the family was walking on eggshells, afraid to bring up any sensitive topics.

19. Battling Demons

Meaning: Struggling with inner turmoil, negative thoughts, or personal issues that create stress and emotional distress.

In a Sentence: Her battle with self-doubt and anxiety felt like a constant war against inner demons.

20. Racing Heart

Meaning: A physical symptom of stress, where the heart beats rapidly due to anxiety or tension.

In a Sentence: As I stepped onto the stage, my racing heart threatened to drown out my voice.

21. Juggling Too Many Balls

Meaning: Trying to manage numerous responsibilities or tasks simultaneously, which can lead to stress and overwhelm.

In a Sentence: Between work, family, and volunteer commitments, I felt like I was juggling too many balls and dropping some in the process.

22. Drowning in Responsibilities

Meaning: Feeling overwhelmed by a multitude of duties, obligations, or tasks.

In a Sentence: With a full-time job, school, and household chores, I often felt like I was drowning in responsibilities.

23. Walking Through a Minefield

Meaning: Navigating a situation where the potential for problems or conflicts is high, requiring extreme caution.

In a Sentence: Discussing politics at the family dinner table felt like walking through a minefield, with explosive arguments lurking everywhere.

24. Hanging by a Thread

Meaning: Being in a precarious and vulnerable position, with a sense that things could fall apart at any moment.

In a Sentence: His fragile mental state had him feeling like he was hanging by a thread, desperately holding on to his sanity.

25. Running in Circles

Meaning: Engaging in frantic and unproductive activities or thoughts, often due to stress or confusion.

In a Sentence: Instead of solving the problem, I found myself running in circles, going over the same issues without making any progress.

26. Hammer and Anvil

Meaning: Feeling caught between two opposing forces or situations, resulting in stress and pressure.

In a Sentence: Caught between the demands of work and family, she felt like she was being crushed between a hammer and anvil.

27. Swamped with Work

Meaning: Overwhelmed by a large volume of tasks or assignments, often leading to stress and exhaustion.

In a Sentence: The project deadline was approaching, and I was swamped with work, trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

28. Stuck in Quicksand

Meaning: Feeling trapped and unable to make progress, as if every effort only sinks you deeper into a difficult situation.

In a Sentence: The more I tried to improve my financial situation, the more I felt like I was stuck in quicksand, unable to escape my debts.

29. Balancing Act

Meaning: Trying to maintain equilibrium and manage competing demands or priorities, often leading to stress.

In a Sentence: Balancing work, family, and personal time was a constant juggling act that left me feeling stressed.

Here are 10 quiz questions related to the metaphors mentioned in the article:

  1. Question: What does the metaphor “Running on Empty” signify in the context of stress?
    • A) Feeling physically and emotionally depleted due to stress.
    • B) Running a marathon to relieve stress.
    • C) Having an excess of energy during stressful times.
  2. Question: Which metaphor refers to navigating a situation delicately, as any misstep could lead to conflict or disaster?
    • A) Heavy Burden
    • B) Walking on a Tightrope
    • C) Swamped with Work
  3. Question: The metaphor “Ticking Time Bomb” suggests:
    • A) A feeling of calm and serenity.
    • B) Stress accumulating and possibly erupting into a crisis.
    • C) Enjoying a leisurely vacation.
  4. Question: What does the metaphor “Sinking Ship” represent in terms of stress?
    • A) Feeling relaxed and at ease.
    • B) Gradual deterioration of a situation with no way to stop it.
    • C) Achieving great success.
  5. Question: Which metaphor is used to describe the sensation of being overwhelmed by responsibilities, obligations, or problems?
    • A) Battling Demons
    • B) Crushing Load
    • C) Hanging by a Thread
  6. Question: In the phrase “Burning the Candle at Both Ends,” what does “burning the candle” symbolize regarding stress?
    • A) Managing stress effectively.
    • B) Pushing oneself to the limits, risking burnout.
    • C) Being well-rested and relaxed.
  7. Question: The metaphor “Walking on Eggshells” implies:
    • A) A carefree and lighthearted approach to life.
    • B) Navigating a situation delicately to avoid conflict or disaster.
    • C) Dancing gracefully on a stage.
  8. Question: What does the metaphor “Mounting Tension” suggest in the context of stress?
    • A) A sense of relaxation and calm.
    • B) A gradual increase in stress and anxiety over time.
    • C) Complete freedom from stress.
  9. Question: The phrase “Hammer and Anvil” represents:
    • A) A sense of peace and tranquility.
    • B) Feeling caught between opposing forces or situations.
    • C) A creative and artistic endeavor.
  10. Question: Which metaphor describes the feeling of navigating a situation where potential problems or conflicts are high and extreme caution is required?
  • A) Sinking Ship
  • B) Running in Circles
  • C) Walking through a Minefield


  1. A) Feeling physically and emotionally depleted due to stress.
  2. B) Walking on a Tightrope
  3. B) Stress accumulating and possibly erupting into a crisis.
  4. B) Gradual deterioration of a situation with no way to stop it.
  5. B) Crushing Load
  6. B) Pushing oneself to the limits, risking burnout.
  7. B) Navigating a situation delicately to avoid conflict or disaster.
  8. B) A gradual increase in stress and anxiety over time.
  9. B) Feeling caught between opposing forces or situations.
  10. C) Walking through a Minefield


Metaphors for stress provide a unique and relatable way to convey the emotional and physical toll that stress can take on our lives.

Whether you feel like you’re carrying a heavy burden, walking on eggshells, or battling inner demons, these metaphors capture the essence of stress in all its complexity.

Cite this entry:

Phrasesdirectory.com. “,” Retrieved from Phrases Directory – Accessed

About the author

Latest posts

  • 25 Metaphors For Love

    25 Metaphors For Love

    Love, a complex and multifaceted emotion, has been a timeless subject of exploration and expression. One way humans have sought to understand and convey the nuances of love is through…

    Read more

  • 17 Metaphors For Life + Quiz

    17 Metaphors For Life + Quiz

    Navigating the complexities of life often requires a metaphorical lens through which we can view our experiences. Metaphors for life provide a rich tapestry of imagery that encapsulates the essence…

    Read more