We all find ways to cope with the difficulties of life. We have relationships to deal with – good and bad and we have no control over the behaviour of others. Working as a mental health professional has allowed me to see the sorry state that many people are in. We all have incredible amounts of stress to cope with yet we have to keep carrying on. Sink or swim.
It got me thinking about how we can self soothe and help ourselves to return from breaking point. Breaking point is when you are on the brink – where you feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. It’s a place where you feel you can’t take one more thing and you will snap. A precarious place to be. When our mental health is struggling we often chastise ourselves and feel we should cope better. Mental health is tricky because it isn’t the same as a physical ailment. There is no question that you need intervention if you break an arm or leg and everyone would agree. When it comes to mental health, you need to recognise that you are at breaking point and then do something effective to lower that emotional intensity.
Know your pattern of behaviour
I know when I am reaching breaking point because I have a low tolerance for frustration. I will cry because there are no tomatoes in the fridge whereas when I am feeling strong and mentally well this won’t have me in floods of tears. I also develop road rage and have very little patience. I also feel more tired and want to sleep more. These are all signs that I am ascending to breaking point..time for an intervention.
Stop looking after others – put yourself first
This is when you absolutely HAVE to be selfish. Instead of worrying about carrying on as normal and meeting your usual expectations – put yourself first. Take a day off work if you need it, don;t cook dinner for your partner if you don’t have the energy. Get rid of the “musts and shoulds” in your life until you feel stronger. This is recovery time.
You can’t be a good parent, partner, employee, etc if you are running on empty. Self care is critical to maintain a healthy mind. It’s important to take time out for yourself. You aren;t a robot and you need time to look after and nurture yourself. Whether that means taking time out to see a friend, take a nap, go for a massage, or read a book, know what ‘fills your tank’. Work-life balance is important too. You don’t want to look back at your life and wonder why you spent so much time doing something that completely drained you. No one ever looked back on their life and thought “I wish I’d worked more”.
Speak to someone
Let someone in. We tend to self isolate when we are low and work as hard as we can to get back on track because that is what is ‘expected of us’. We are conditioned to be active members of society that work hard, don’t shirk responsibilities and pay our taxes. We aren’t supposed to be self serving and ‘loafing’ as far as society is concerned. Speaking to someone can help you feel less lonely and help you share that intense emotional burden. We all face troubled times in life – welcome to the human race.
Make a plan
This is where you need to problem solve. What is causing the intense anxiety in your life? Is it your job, your relationship, finances, feeling lonely and isolated, not liking yourself?? When we are feeling low we might not have the emotional strength to deal with the big issues but you can start to think about what you need in your life to return from breaking point. You could statrt with a 2 day break somewhere. Being somewhere new can help with a fresh perspective. You could start looking for a new job. Just this action can life your mood psychologically. Leave the tough bit of actually applying or going for an interview for a time on the future.
If it’s your relationship would couple counselling help? Are you communicating your needs and wishes to your partner? There are many options.
Often when we are at breaking point we can’t see a way out. We are unable to generate solutions and this adds to our terror and anxiety. Accept that right now you are vulnerable and need to be treated gently – by yourself and others.
Prolonged stress alters the chemicals in our brains making it even harder to cope and think rationally. Time out is essential. Take a few days off, create a plan and spend the rest of the time regaining your strength – take naps, eat well and distract yourself with things you enjoy – I enjoy watching standup comedy but others enjoy adult colouring in, painting, knitting, listening to podcasts or inspirational Ted talks.
You won’t feel this way forever – initially, be kind to yourself but then put a plan in place to reduce the cause of stress. There will always be options and people to help you.