Hard economic times and high cost of living are pushing people to the wall and experts warn of a wave of mental-health problems such as depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and even suicide.
However, don’t live in denial, here’s how to know you have hit maximum stress levels and seek help.
1. Your life has been extra stressful lately
Maybe you got a paycut or lost your job or you are straining financially. Or you have been diagnosed with cancer, or are going through a divorce, or lost a loved one.
None of these things necessarily mean that you are headed for a breakdown, but they do raise the risk. If you feel like stress is pushing you to the brink — perhaps you are so worried that you are hardly eating or sleeping — get professional help.
In these cases, even someone who does not usually suffer from anxiety or depression can become overwhelmed to the point that they experience a mental health crisis.
2. You can’t cope
When you get to the point where dirty dishes start piling up in the sink, emails go unread, or even brushing your teeth seems like a major effort, this is sign you have hit maximum stress levels and are in desperate need of a break in order to prevent a mental breakdown.
Even small everyday tasks begin to feel like too much to cope with, and social situations seem overwhelming.
3. Brain fog
Are you having trouble concentrating? Or just feel like you’re not thinking clearly?
There are often cognitive symptoms with a nervous breakdown, which might include anything from difficulty with problem-solving and indecisiveness to a sense of disorientation and memory loss.
4. Trouble breathing
Keep an eye out for classic signs of anxiety, such as tightness in your chest and rapid breathing. Taking quick, shallow breaths can ramp up the body’s stress response even more.
A breathing exercise designed to slow down your breath can provide fast relief. But if you experience trouble breathing on a regular basis, it’s important to address the root of the problem.
5. Changes in appetite
Maybe you are not eating, or conversely, you might be overeating. The stress hormone, cortisol can trigger cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods.
What’s more, when you’re in the middle of a breakdown, you may be less motivated to prepare healthy meals.
6. Withdrawing socially
People experiencing a nervous breakdown may withdraw from family, friends, and coworkers. It’s logical to want to isolate yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Check if you want to avoid further stimulation or anything that feels like effort. Maybe you also don’t want other people to know how you are feeling.
Do you crave throwing it all away and booking a one-way ticket to God knows where? Fantasising about going off the grid for good?
Avoidance is another coping mechanism where you try to distance yourself from your job or avoid it because you are putting in too much effort to begin with in the misguided hope that it will accelerate your success.
7. Sleeping too much, or not enough
A change in your sleep habits is another warning sign. Some people find that they go into sleep overdrive. Sleep becomes an escape.
Others may develop insomnia because their brain is in overdrive. They may lay awake at night ruminating, mentally rehearsing situations over and over again that have no solution.
Extreme tiredness could also be a clue you are stressed to the max. You might even experience body weakness.
Activities you previously handled with ease may become increasingly difficult. And things that used to bring you joy such as sex, work and hobbies, may lose their appeal.
9. Panic attacks
Prolonged feelings of anxiety can lead to overwhelming feelings of fear that seem to come out of the blue.
You may also have extreme mood swings where one minute you’re feeling good, then something small makes you snap with rage or worry incessantly.
Once you’ve had an attack, worrying about having another one can be worse for your mental health than the panic attacks themselves.
10. You feel like a failure
You may know at some level it’s not your fault, but emotionally, you feel like you have failed.
Or you could be putting a negative filter on everything and struggling to remember anything you have done well or succeeded at. Eventually, you may lose hope and experience thoughts of suicide or just feel helpless.
So you might be having a breakdown, what next? Now is the time to prioritise self-care.
Engage in healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. (Maybe exercise helps you blow off steam, for example, or your favourite hobby helps you unwind.) Talk with family members or friends you trust.
And don’t be afraid to seek professional help.