Have you ever felt so consumed by life woes that you do not want to get out of bed or do anything at all? Or maybe you have experienced a traumatic event that the emotional pain is just too much for you to do anything else. You are feeling weak, stress, overwhelmed, irritable, and unmotivated. You may even start to find yourself saying, “I feel like I am about to have a nervous breakdown”.
Many of us experience nervous breakdowns when there is a drastic shift in our daily routine and life has taken a turn for the worse, leaving us feeling crushed, defeated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.
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But despite this, some of us can eventually put the pieces of our lives back together, shake off the emotional stress, and find a reason to keep on pushing and moving forward.
Moving forward maybe a bit more difficult for some of us to do when nervous breakdowns are the beginning of a bigger problem than we’ve been neglecting for too long. If professional help is not sort, nervous breakdowns can impact our lives tremendously.
Life is hard, and trying to pursue meaningful things in our lives (happiness, joy, love) becomes increasingly difficult when you feel like the world is crushing you.
WHAT IS A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN?
The term nervous breakdown is often used by people to describe a stressful and overwhelming situation where they are not able to function normally in day-to-day life. It usually occurs when life’s demands become too physically and emotionally overwhelming and you’re not able to cope. The stressor can be anything from a bad break up, death of a loved one, a divorce, becoming a new parent, financial struggles, or psychological burn-out.
A nervous breakdown is not a medical term and it does not indicate that a person has an underlying mental illness. At the same time, however, some people who say that they “feel like that are about to have a nervous breakdown” may have an underlying mental illness that would need attention.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE
When my dad suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on January 9th of 2020 the flood of emotions that came over me was extremely overwhelming. I will never forget that dreaded night. Daddy was at a friend’s house working on some cases and I received a call saying to “come quick, I think something is wrong with your father.” My sister and I rushed over there not knowing what to expect but already thought the worse. When we arrived, daddy was sitting in a chair and his entire right side was lifeless. We called him many times, “daddy, daddy, daddy, can you hear me? Please say something.” Nothing! He was trying to move his body but couldn’t and you can tell he was scared. When the ambulance drove off with him, I felt so broken and knew that things would not be the same for a very long time.
While at the hospital, daddy suffered multiple seizures and went into a coma. At this point, I was crying and an emotional wreck, but it wasn’t time to slow down and focus on my emotions because all that was on my mind was my father. I spent hours researching all that I can on strokes, care, and outcomes. The first few days were tough emotionally (I cried, didn’t eat, and stayed in bed). I took one day off of work, right after, I continued to go to work as though nothing had happened. I laughed and hanged out with friends as well. When people ask how I was, I replied with an “I’m okay or I’m good”. People who didn’t know that my father had a stroke were not able to tell, because my face and demeanor didn’t change one bit.
It was not until the beginning of April, I started to feel emotionally overwhelmed. I was becoming irritable, not sleeping, barely eating, and crying every single day. I cried so much that I woke up with headaches each day. I stayed in bed for the majority of the day and stopped exercising and eating healthy. I also started to isolate myself and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was easily annoyed at anything and anyone. I started to miss some deadlines at work where things needed to be submitted. What also added to the stress was not being able to see my father anymore due to COVID-19. I was angry, I was sad, and I was broken. These were all signs of a nervous breakdown.
Signs of a nervous breakdown will differ for everyone. What I experience may not necessarily be the same thing that you experience because our body and mind respond to stress differently. However, there are a few common signs of a nervous breakdown you can look out for.
WHAT CAUSES A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN?
There is always a reason why a person may be on the verge of experiencing a nervous breakdown. It’s not something that magically appears, and to get to the root of the cause and learn how to manage a nervous breakdown, one must understand what a nervous breakdown is, what signs to look for, and what can be done.
A nervous breakdown can be caused by many external factors such as:
- Chronic stress in the workplace
- A recent traumatic event
- Major financial problems
- A major life change
- Not being able to relax or sleep
- A chronic or life-threatening medical condition
- Underlying mental illnesses
COMMON SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Extended periods of stress can eventually affect your ability to function normally each day. High levels of stress, over a long period, can have psychological effects in the long run. The earlier you can notice these warning signs, and take appropriate action, the better your outcome will be.
You are experiencing extreme mood swings
You have a sudden outburst of emotions during the day that you may not be able to explain. One minute you are fine, the next you are happy, the next angry. You may also have difficulty tolerating people.
You are sleeping too much or too little
You are sleeping more than 8 hours a day or taking frequent naps throughout the day. On the other hand, you may have difficulty falling or staying asleep, because your thoughts are racing.
You are tired all the time
Our bodies are not equipt to endure constant overwhelming stress. Continuous distress can drain our cognitive energy that we start to feel drained and tired that we are not able to do anything.
You start to self- isolate
You start to ignore calls and text messages. You want to stay in and not be around others, so you make up excuses. Your communication with others diminishes or becomes non-existent.
Your brain feels “foggy”
You have difficulty concentrating, focusing, and/or completing tasks. You also have difficulty with memory, planning, and making decisions.
Changes in appetite
You are eating too much, too little, or not at all. Also, you may not be taking the time to prep and eat healthy meals. The stress hormone cortisol is known to trigger cravings for foods high in fat and sugar.
You may notice that you are getting constant headaches (either migraine or tension headaches). Stress is also known to cause digestive problems such as stomach aches, diarrhea, or even GERD.
You may start to experience panic attacks
This is an intense wave of fear characterized by sudden and immobilizing intensity. You have troubling breathing, you become dizzy, and your heart pounds so much that you feel like you’re going to die.
HOW CAN I RECOVER AND PREVENT ANOTHER NERVOUS BREAKDOWN?
- Start to exercise regularly. 30 minutes a day goes a long way and it will help to relax your muscles and decrease tension in the body.
- Engage in a favorite hobby or activities to help you unwind and relax
- Make an effort to take a break at least once a week to focus on you. Have a “ME DAY”.
- Talk with a family member or friend that you trust
- Practice meditation and yoga
- Start journaling. Write your thoughts and feelings down
- Practice positive self talk
- Set a schedule so you can get 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night
- Keep a routine and try to stick to it
- Listen to your body
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, caffeine and other stress-inducing substances
- Incorporate deep breathing daily. Do at least three times a day
- Practice healthy eating habits
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance
WHEN SHOULD I SEEK HELP PROFESSIONALLY?
It’s not uncommon for people to feel as though they are not able to cope with life’s demand. But if stressors of life are preventing you from functioning, completing your daily tasks, and it has been going on for a prolonged period, then you are not coping with stress well. This is a sign that it may be time to seek help professionally.Even though a nervous breakdown is not considered a medical term, it can be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder. More commonly, it may be an underlying condition of anxiety disorder or depression because they are known to trigger nervous breakdowns.
If these underlying conditions are not addressed you will continue to have difficulty coping and will continue to have frequent nervous breakdowns. These breakdowns will start to prevent you from pursuing your goals in life and will drain any happiness that you have inside of you.
Your primary care doctor can help address any physical symptoms you have been experiencing, and also refer you to a therapist who can treat your emotional, mental, and behavioral symptoms. With a therapist, you will be able to look at all the stressors (internal and external) in your life, better understand what you are experiencing, and ultimately learn healthy coping mechanisms and strategies that can prevent another nervous breakdown.
Just because you have experienced a nervous breakdown doesn’t mean that you need help professionally. We must take time out to listen to our bodies so we can observe warning signs that something may be wrong or something is about to happen.
Our minds are so remarkable and resilient that it can adapt to many unpleasant situations.
RESOURCES FOR GETTING HELP
- Health Direct (2019). Signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/signs-and-symptoms-of-a-nervous-breakdown
- Mayo Clinic (2020). Nervous breakdown: what does it mean? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/nervous-breakdown/faq-20057830