Psychological stress: A mental breakdown (also known as a nervous breakdown) is a temporary acute mental status that is associated with stress and a decrease in normal functioning. A mental breakdown can produce symptoms similar to anxiety and depression. It is important to note that the term mental or nervous breakdown is not a medical or psychological term and does not indicate any particular disorder. Stress management and self-care are the keys to reducing stress and preventing an acute reaction to stress.
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Recognize things in your life that are out of your control. Try to differentiate between controllable and uncontrollable things. Feeling as though you have no control over your life is stressful, so try to acknowledge what you cannot change and focus on what you can change instead. Doing so should help you feel more in control and make it easier to cope with your stress.
- Try asking yourself a few of these questions: Is this situation avoidable? Which parts of this situation can I control? Is there a part of the situation that I need to accept for now because I cannot control it? What is my plan for controlling the aspects of the situation that I can control?
- Try to look at the big picture and ask yourself if this situation will matter in a year or five years? Will this one situation determine other things in your life? How important is controlling this one situation?
Pay attention to your emotions, worries, and reactions and share them with others. Keep your eyes open to how you react and to how you express your feelings and emotions. Your feelings and emotions need a safe passage. We all have emotional moments, especially when we encounter stressful events, but it is important to realize that not dealing with these emotions add more stress.
- Try journaling about how stress is affecting your emotions. Journaling has many health benefits including promoting mental well-being, improving self-esteem, and decreasing stress. Write about what you have been bottling up throughout the day and use your journal as a way to release that emotional tension.
- Talk to someone you trust who will listen to you and be supportive. Social support is important because it can help you feel loved and cared for, which helps relieve stress.
Be more flexible with your expectations. Being obsessed with perfection may lead to a mental breakdown. Are you being too tough on yourself or pushing yourself harder than you can manage? Some people are too hard on themselves because they feel like they need to be perfect.
- Try to practice self-compassion and allow yourself to be enough and to have done enough in one day, even if you don’t accomplish everything on your to-do list.
- Keep in mind that no matter what you do or how you do it, there is always room for improvement.
Learn how to say ‘no’. Our over-commitments, our tendency to avoid offending others by never saying “no” can push us towards a mental breakdown. Saying ‘yes’ without realizing our limits or without setting boundaries can wreak havoc in our lives. It can also ruin our productivity by making it harder to focus on our primary tasks, activities, and responsibilities. Learning how to say “no” is the first step towards saving yourself, your productivity and your sanity.
- Remember, saying no is not selfish. It just means that you care enough about your well-being to maintain a healthy boundary for yourself. Saying no also means that you care about others and want to ensure that you will have the energy and mental capacity for your other obligations.
- Keep your answers direct and simple. You do not have to offer excuses, but a simple, “No – I’m sorry, I have too many commitments this week. I’ll have to take a rain check,” will do.
- Participation in hobbies and leisure activates reduces stress by giving you a break from everyday stress, by offering a means of relaxation, and by acting as a buffer or a protection against the effects of stress.
- Laughing has huge stress relieving properties because it releases endorphins into the brain. These endorphins relax the body and these effects can last for up to 45 minutes after one laugh!
- Laughter strengthens your immune system and can also reduce pain, both of which are very important to relieve stress.
- Laughing has also been shown to boost mood and reduce anxiety.
Think about the things you are grateful for. Make sure you count your blessings, be it your wonderful family, supportive friends, the job you love, the difference you make to others lives etc. Research has shown that gratitude increases self-esteem, reduces stress by increasing mental resilience, and promotes feelings of happiness. Reminding yourself from time to time what you are thankful for can reduce stress and prevent further stress buildup.
- Try keeping a gratitude journal to remind yourself of the things you are grateful for every day.
- Try taking a group class that teaches the basics of meditation or find free resources online such as guided meditation recordings. There are also some meditation apps that offer guided meditations with specific topics and lengths of time.
Seek help from a mental health professional. Make an appointment to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. These professionals are trained to help people who feel they are headed for a mental breakdown. They can give you the tools to feel better before you get too overwhelmed.
- A type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to help stop negative thought patterns and help you feel more in control.
- In certain cases, medication may help. Talk to a psychiatrist about whether taking an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication could be called for in your situation.
Exercise to help your body create stress-reducing endorphins. When a person is on the verge of a mental breakdown the number of cells in the region of the brain called hippocampus get fewer and fewer. But when a body is exposed to physical exercise the number of cells in the hippocampus goes up. What’s more, the levels of endorphins (feel good hormones) increases, too.
- Exercise produces endorphins and restricts the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are often responsible for a mental breakdown.
- When you are involved in physical activity your focus tends to shift away from tasks, events, and situations that are creating stress in you, which provides time for your mind to recover from stress.
Get plenty of sleep each night. When you are in a high state of stress, you may experience sleep-related problems, including insomnia. A lack of sleep will make stress even worse and could lead to a mental breakdown.
- Try to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night. Sleep needs vary from person to person, so you may need more or less sleep depending on your activity level, age, and other factors.
Schedule regular check-ups to make sure that you are not deficient in any nutrients. Sometimes stress may be aggravated by medical conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies. Common vitamin deficiencies include vitamin D, B6, and B12. Being deficient in these nutrients could add to your stress and lead to a mental breakdown.
- If you have not had an appointment with your doctor in a while, schedule a routine check-up to make sure that you are healthy and that you are getting all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
- To enjoy the benefits of amino acids, follow a diet rich in proteins such as milk, dairy products, eggs, poultry, meat, peas, beans, legumes, and grains.
- Dopamine is a product of an amino acid called tyrosine while serotonin is a product of tryptophan. Insufficient synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain is associated with bad mood and mood swings. This holds greater significance if the transmitters are dopamine and serotonin.
- High intake of sugar and carbohydrates leads to excessive release of insulin that can also trigger hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia in turn causes the brain to release glutamate in the brain in levels that are both alarming and that can cause symptoms that are indicative of mental breakdown such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks
- Avoid or limit foods such as processed foods and foods rich in sugars and gluten. They can be dangerous to an already stressed body and may speed up the process of mental breakdown
Up your intake of folic acid. A deficiency in folic acid may also contribute to a stress response. Please be aware that a folic acid deficiency can only be diagnosed by a physician, and any supplements taken should be under a physician’s direction and supervision. A folic acid deficiency may lead to neurological problems such as depression. Having an adequate amount of folic acid in the body also improves the effectiveness of antidepressants.
- To get more folic acid from food, include spinach and citrus fruits, like oranges, in your diet.
Try eating more B-vitamin foods. Foods with B-vitamins may help protect your mental breakdowns. B complex vitamins and especially B1, B2, and B6 vitamins show promising results when it comes to improving mood. Foods rich in B-vitamins include:
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Red meat
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Green peas
- Lentils, nuts such as pecans and almonds
- Milk, yogurt, cheese
- Poultry and eggs
- Legumes and peanuts
Get more zinc to stay stress-free. There is ample research to show that zinc levels are often quite low in people who show symptoms of stress, depression, or who are on the verge of a mental breakdown. Also having an adequate amount of zinc in your body either through diet or oral supplements can improve the effectiveness of any medications that you take for depression and other mental related problems. Foods rich in zinc include:
- Wheat germ
- Pumpkin seeds
Eat foods rich in iron, iodine, and chromium. Iodine, Iron and chromium play a very important role in preventing mental breakdown. Deficiency in these vital minerals may lead to fatigue, depression, and mood swings.
- Foods rich in Iron: red meat, dark leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, dried fruits (raisins, prunes), poultry, beans, lentils, artichokes.
- Foods rich in iodine: cow’s milk, yogurt, strawberry, sea vegetables, eggs, soy milk, saltwater fish and cheese.
- Foods rich in chromium: whole grains, meat, brown rice, seafood, broccoli, mushrooms, beans, dairy products, eggs, cheese, milk, poultry, corn, potatoes, fish, tomatoes, barley, oats, herbs.
Practice deep breathing exercises. Practice deep breathing relaxation exercises. Deep breathing expands your diaphragm and triggers a calming response in your body. As part of this response, your blood pressure and cortisol levels will drop.
- Practice deep breathing by taking in a slow, deep breath so that you fill up your entire lung. As you do so, allow your belly to expand, and then slowly exhale.
- You can also practice deep breathing while you meditate or practice yoga.
Try to live in the present moment by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the technique of living in the present moment and taking your focus away from regrets about the past and fears about the future. Mindfulness can be incorporated into every aspect of your daily life. You can practice mindfulness when you are exercising, eating, working, talking, or reading. Mindfulness research has shown that this practice reduces stress by decreasing rumination. Mindfulness also improves memory, focus, and satisfaction in relationships.
- To practice mindfulness, focus on your senses and let worries or thoughts about obligations float in and then out of your awareness. Do not linger on any one thought. Instead, try to observe them and then let them pass.
Give yoga a try. Practicing yoga religiously changes the chemical patterns in the body and triggers natural relaxation responses by the body. Yoga promotes a state of biochemical relaxation in the body meaning there is ample oxygen available in the body and heart rate and blood pressure are normal. Apart from physical benefits, yoga also helps in the elimination of toxins from the body. Yoga breathing techniques also have a profound impact on both physical and mental well-being. They help clean up our system to restore balance in our thoughts and emotions.
- Try taking a beginner yoga class at a local yoga studio or buy a DVD to practice yoga in the comfort of your home.
- Peppermint essential oil can provide relief from headaches caused by stress and it can even help with nausea and stomach upset, which is also associated with stress. Mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a carrier oil such as almond oil and rub a small amount onto your temples and forehead. Breathe deeply as your rub in the oil to help you relax.
- In a small study, essential oils such as lavender oil and lemon oil have been shown to improve mood.
If you think that you are on the verge of a mental breakdown, talk to someone who can help you, such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or doctor.