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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of a Nervous Breakdown (And How to Survive It)

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Signs of a Nervous Breakdown (And How to Survive It)

Life is full of contrast, which means that up’s and downs are a given. Although when the lows get to a point where there’s an inability to function and getting through the day is questionable, attention to your mental wellness is much needed.

Whether you feel like you’ve come close to breaking down completely or not, this article can help you identify symptoms that frequent negative mental states. With awareness, you can learn about symptoms and gain knowledge about self care practices in order to help boost your energy and get you back on your feet when you feel like falling apart.

With that said, it’s important to realize that we all need help at one time or another in life. It’s unfortunate that a lot of us walk around carrying large amounts of stress and worry that we keep to ourselves because we have created the story that “we should” be able to handle things on our own. That could not be the furthest thing from the truth.

I believe and have seen for myself that a strong and successful person knows when to get and ask for help.

As you’ve probably heard before, everything in life has a process and takes time, as does getting to the point where you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Little ways of not listening to your needs and self care eventually lead to huge cracks that become apparent within your mood and the overall state of your life. Not functioning properly is a sign that you’re off and out of balance. To what degree is what determines how close you are to breaking down completely emotionally.

However, being on the verge of a nervous breakdown is a severe state of mind and body. It deserves and demands serious attention.

Signs of a Nervous Breakdown

Awareness is always the first step toward helping yourself, therefore here are some tell tale signs that your attention to your self care and wellness is needed, like STAT.

1. You Feel Totally Out of Balance

When your mental, physical and spiritual self is out of balance, you will not be functioning well.

Being off balance will effect and show up in all ares of your life: relationships, work, health, etc.

Some of us can feel “off” for a day or so and then find our footing. Even if your “off” lasts for weeks and months at a time, this can be a sign that there’s a bigger issue to address.

2. Your Self Care Is Close to Zero

The energy that you give toward your self care acts as the foundation of how you show up in your life. When you’re struggling emotionally, often, self care is the first thing to go.

Forgetting to eat, eating too much, sleeping too much or sleeping too little. Eating unhealthy foods, not exercising and moving your body properly and not connecting socially with others. These are all ways that you neglect taking good care of yourself, which eventually will have a major consequence.

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3. You Lost Your Joy

When you lose your excitement and curiosity for life, it’s hard to feel and be happy.

Note to self: Nothing is worth losing your joy over.

Living to others expectations, doing for everyone other than yourself, feeling unheard in your relationships and feeling lost in your life are all ways that joy can get depleted.

Feeling joy is what living a good life is all about, so when it’s gone that’s a huge red flag.

4. Your Physical Body Is Doing All Sorts of Strange & Unhealthy Things

Your physical body holds your hard emotions, which is why stress that stays stuck in the physical body, often turns into illness.

Your body is always communicating with you via your symptoms. Your body is and will always be talking to you, sometimes screaming if you don’t listen initially.

When you’re nearing a nervous breakdown, here are some physical signs that you can experience:

  • Tight muscles
  • Sleep disturbance
  • High Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite or increase
  • Reaching for substances/activities to cope or fill a void whether it be alcohol, drugs, food, sex, etc.
  • Scattered energy, going to fast, fight or flight energy
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression, extreme sadness
  • Mood swings

Pay attention to your body because it’s always talking to you through your physical sensations and symptoms.

5. You Have Thoughts of Self Harm

Thoughts of self harm and getting to a point where you’re seriously thinking about taking your own life is a serious matter. This state of mind needs professional attention and is a clear tale sign that you’ve hit the bottom and need help getting back up.

Now that you have some awareness around what entails the brewing and growth of living at a mentally unbalanced level, it can be life changing for you to have tools to get yourself back into balance, back into your body and back into a more peaceful state of mind.

How to Deal with a Nervous Breakdown

Here are some ways to get your good vibes to start flowing again:

1. Press the Pause Button

Learning, universally, to go slower in your life will be to your advantage.

Take time to do the little things that bring you joy because, guess what, it’s usually a combination of all the little things lumped together that elevate your level of happy.

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Another side effect of going slower in your life is the ability to see, hear and view things from another perspective. When you’re walking the path of life vs. sprinting, your eye has more time to observe and retain information presented.

Looking at your life and taking the time to slow and pause long enough to catch your breath, and make sure that you’re going in a direction that you want to go is so important.

When we pause long enough, we turn off that “auto pilot” function from within which lets us see if what we’ve been doing “just because it’s what we do” is serving us.

When in doubt: Pause and then proceed

2. Remember That Less is More

There’s a false message in our world that more is better and it’s just not so.

Quality over quantity, friends.

Think about the things in life that really matter. You can have thousands of “friends” on social media, but when you’re in the mist of a major life struggle, who do you call?

Value what really matters. Take the time to trim the fat out of your life that is just created noise, not joy.

3. Clean House

Once you’ve gone over the reality of what you’re giving your time too with a fine toothed comb, it’s time to clear out and rid of what’s not serving you. I’m referring to both an internal and external level clean out.

Look at your living space, work space, and internal world. I recommend starting with cleaning out external objects as often it’s easier for us to work with things we can see, touch and feel.

Clean out items and rid of objects that are simply just taking up space. A great book to read to inspire and help you navigate this task is: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

4. Clean Up Your Mind Space

After you’ve cleared your external space, you might feel and have more of a knowing for where to begin with your internal mind space, as they are connected.

I would point you toward looking at your habits, your relationships and generally speaking, how you spend the hours of your life. What you spend your precious time doing is what creates your reality. Change your habits and you will change your life.

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Pay attention to the internal thoughts and voice that is playing constantly in your head. Get in tune with what this voice is saying, as if it’s separate from you, an inner roommate, if you will.

Spend time evaluating if this is a negative or positive roommate. If you notice that the messages and words from this voice are critical, that’s great information for you to become aware of. If you notice that your internal voice happens to be bringing you down, you can work on changing the tape to something way more uplifting.

A thorough look at your core beliefs can also be of great benefit. What we believe to be true about ourselves dictates our thoughts, which influences our actions and creates our reality.

Our beliefs are really that big of a deal. They have the power to make or break us, therefore, make sure you have laid down some pretty solid beliefs for yourself.

5. Get in Nature Baby

I cannot express this enough. Getting out where you’re exposing yourself to the natural rhythm of the life cycle and breathing in fresh air offers a huge reset.

Making a point to get in nature as much as possible, especially for those of you working in tight, closed office environments is beyond important for your health and mood.

Being in natural elements is healing: Straight up. Consistently giving yourself the gift of being in nature will help elevate your mood and enhance your level of functioning. It’s the best thing for the health of your body, mind and spirit.

6. Move Your Body

If you’re not moving your body in some shape or form regularly, that can be a huge reason why your mind and body feel so unstable.

Getting your blood pumping and releasing toxins and negative energy greatly strengthens your life force.

Beyond inviting you to go to a gym (Go for it if that’s your jam), I invite you to tap into an activity that you really connect to and enjoy.

Best case scenario is that this activity is outside, so you can get a two for one with exposing yourself to nature as you do something healthy for your physical body.

Walk the beach, skateboard, take a mountain trip to ski or snowboard, go surf, paddle board, kayak, go hike, do yoga, dance, bike ride, etc. The options are endless, but my biggest encouragement is for you to find an activity that you feel connected too.

Moving your physical body is a key component to being a healthy person.

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7. Trust Life

Often we become very stressed, fearful and full of anxiety, all things that can lead to a complete mental break, when we’re living in a doubtful and lack mindset.

Believing that we have to be the ones to figure everything out is a substantial amount of pressure for us to put on ourselves.

Let me invite you for a minute to think about a situation in your life that was a really amazing, exciting and special moment. I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you if you had to do anything to create that moment? Or, did the moment just come and go without your need to direct it, orchestrate it and make it be?

My point with asking you this is that, often, the unexpected and special moments of life are not planned. As much as we’re conditioned in this life to plan in order to succeed, I want to offer you the perspective that whatever is meant to be with you will find its way to you. This doesn’t involve you having to stress or work for it to come. Sometimes, the reason we are struggling so intensely is because we’re holding on too tight and trying to control.

With that said, I’m not suggesting that all you have to do is just sit, do nothing and get what you want. Nope. Your “work” is to do your best to take care of yourself and honor where your curiosity and happiness are pointing.

By attending to yourself, doing good things for yourself, making good choices for yourself, you will naturally be lead to more positive and fruitful opportunities and people that will continue to improve the quality of your life.

Final Thoughts

To sum this all up, if you’re struggling currently with your emotional state and have enough awareness to be reading this article, you also have the opportunity to start doing things to help turn your situation around.

Like now.

Acknowledging what’s happening to you and seeking help, while slowly chipping away and letting go of the habits and ways of thinking that are holding you back will help you gain the momentum to start improving your life.

Remember, little by little. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself toward creating a better state of mind. Start slow and begin to do one small thing that’s supporting your growth, rather than taking from it. Begin there.

Cheers to you creating consistent and healthy new habits that will help change the quality of your life and mind, which will ultimately help you to feel relief in a time of heavy emotional pain.

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kim Egel

Kim Egel is a licensed therapist whose private practice is centered around the concepts of the mind, body & soul connection.

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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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).

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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