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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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

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 April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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