Advertising

Last Updated on January 20, 2021

How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

Advertising
How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

The death of a loved one is, unfortunately, something most of us have experienced or will experience at some point in our lives, but grief and loss are not felt only when someone passes away. You may move through the stages of grief quickly or slowly, and you may even find yourself moving back to a stage you thought you had passed. People grieve differently, and there is no correct way to grieve in any situation.

A close friend or family member moving away, a divorce or breakup, loss of a job, as well as a number of other life experiences can cause feelings of grief or loss. Coping with loss is one of the most stressful and difficult things we have to deal with in life, but it is an experience everyone can relate to.

What Are the Stages of Grief?

The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are related to the common emotions we go through when we experience loss. This grief model was identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969[1].

However, because everyone is different, there is no “standard” way to react to grief and loss.[2]

Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeves and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try not to judge how a person experiences grief, as each person will experience it differently.

Advertising

Stages of grief

    Stage 1: Denial

    The feeling of shock when you first find out about a loss can lead to thinking, “This isn’t real.” This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion and a defense mechanism for your mind.[3]

    Stage 2: Anger

    Feelings of frustration and helplessness take hold during this stage. Thoughts like “It’s not fair” can be common. Even being angry at your loved one who died for “leaving you behind” is natural. This anger can spill over into your close relationships, and you can find yourself getting angry at those around you for no apparent reason.

    Stage 3: Bargaining

    During this stage, you are constantly thinking about what you could have done to prevent the loss. Thoughts of “What if…” and “If only…” replay in the mind. You might also try to bargain with a higher power in hopes of reversing the loss.

    Stage 4: Depression

    This stage brings the deep sadness you feel as you realize the loss is irreversible. You think about how your life will be affected by the loss. Crying, loss of appetite, feelings of loneliness, and unusual sleeping patterns are all signs of depression.

    Stage 5: Acceptance

    You accept the loss, and although you’re still sad, you slowly start to move on with your life and settle in to your new reality.

    Advertising

    The stages of grief don’t have to be in this order, and you might not experience all stages. There is also no set time period for grieving, and some people take longer to heal than others.

    How to Heal From Grief and Loss

    When you’re experiencing those heartbreaking feelings and the stages of grief, it’s hard to believe that you’ll eventually heal, but you really will. Here are some ways to help the healing process:

    1. Confront the Painful Emotions

    Try not to bottle up your emotions. Allow yourself to express how you feel. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.[4]

    If you’re not ready to get together with friends and family to talk about how you’re feeling, you can work with your emotions through mindful meditation, which can help create space for you to take a look at what you’re feeling and why.

    2. Talk About It

    When you’re ready and have entered the final stages of grief, talking to someone about the way you are feeling can be very helpful in starting the healing process. Often, people want to isolate themselves while grieving, but being around friends and family can help. Talking can also help you to confront your emotions if you have been unable to.

    Advertising

    3. Keep up With Your Routine

    Loss can make you feel like your world has been turned upside down. As you move through the stages of grief, getting through your daily routine may feel more difficult, which can cause you to put self-care to the side. Keeping up with your routine can help bring back some normality and ensure you are showing yourself love and consideration.

    4. Take Care of Yourself

    When you are grieving and depressed, simple things like eating become an afterthought, and sleeping may become difficult. Taking care of yourself and your health will help with the healing process.

    While you may not do everything you were doing before your loss, try to do one act of self-care each day. It can be taking a long bath, going for a walk, making a nice meal, or even practicing a hobby once you feel ready. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it just needs to be something that makes you feel good.

    5. Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

    Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions.[5] Try to postpone making any big decisions for a while or get guidance from close friends or family if you can’t put it off.

    Grief may also make you feel like making major changes to your life, such as quitting a job or ending a relationship. Try to remember that now is not the best time to make these changes, and hold off further consideration until you have moved through all of the stages of grief.

    Advertising

    The Bottom Line

    It is important to heal after a loss so that you can get on with life. There is no set time period for grieving, but if you feel that your grief isn’t getting better, and you are unable to accept the loss, it might be time to seek advice from a mental health professional.

    In the meantime, accept that now is a difficult time, but that it will get better. Time will inevitably help and make the pain less powerful. One day, you will wake up and realize the pain is simply a small echo in the back of your mind and that you have successfully moved through each of the stages of grief. It’s time to get back to your life.

    More on Dealing With the Stages of Grief

    Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Sheena Vincent

    Sheena is a passionate writer who shares communication and life tips on Lifehack.

    stages of grief How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss Why Lying Becomes Second Nature for Some People How to Outperform in a Panel Interview Without Breaking a Sweat You Won’t Believe These Pasta Dishes Are All Under 500 Calories!

    Trending in Mental Wellness

    1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on October 15, 2021

    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

    Advertising
    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

    When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

    After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

    Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

    1. Stress Hormone Overload

    Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

    When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

    The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

    Advertising

    You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

    2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

    Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

    Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

    Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

    3. Negative Mindset

    Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

    Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

    Advertising

    Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

    4. Digestive Issues

    It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

    The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

    GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

    You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

    5. Depression

    Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

    Advertising

    Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

    Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

    Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

    6. Breathing Problems

    Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

    This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

    End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

    Advertising

    There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

    7. Sleep Issues

    Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

    Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

    One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

    You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

    Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

    Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

    Advertising

    More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

    Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next