Help to recover from a nervous breakdown (or avoid it)

Question: What is a nervous breakdown?

Answer: It depends on who you are and if you’re susceptibility to stress, worry, pressure, depression, anxiety and the effects of reacting to things that are out of your control.

Anyone could find themselves on the verge of a nervous breakdown or be experiencing the horrible symptoms of a breakdown if their lives have been placed under a certain amount of pressure, trauma and stress, another less used name for a collapse is called Adrenal Fatigue.

In simple terms, a nervous breakdown is the unconscious bodies way of telling you that “enough is enough” and that it needs a rest from the external pressures of life and the internal pressures of worry and constant internal dialogue. It’s like your unconscious mind takes over your thoughts and your emotions and as much as you consciously try to take back control it seems impossible. When this is coupled with overwhelming emotions that may be scary or inappropriate (or your feelings being turned off / numbed down), then everything begins to feel confusing and perhaps you may feel out of control.

For a person who has never (knowingly) had fear, anxiety or depression it can seem as if you are losing your mind or going mad because it makes no sense – and seemingly you have no control over what is emotionally happening to you. Equally, those who have lived with manic depression or anxiety say “oh yes, I know what you mean, it’s horrible isn’t it?”

I think that it is likely that more people are on the verge of a nervous breakdown than would like to admit it! Because there seems to be a stigma attached to it (along with the phrase “mental illness”) so much so, that some people (men!) won’t even seek help.

What are the symptoms of a nervous breakdown?

Our body and mind are a series of systems that all link together to make the whole – respiratory, endocrine, circulatory, immune, muscular, nervous, urinary, brain etc.  – much like all the pipework, pumps, valves, sensors and computers that combine to make a complex factory or power station. All these systems have a function and they all influence each other, that is why an engineer can look at the data or explore the ‘symptoms’ and understand where the real problem resides.

So although we may not understand why we have these unwanted symptoms that lead to a nervous breakdown, usually they can be explained and can be understood when observed from the point of view of the whole system (especially as it has intelligence, however, consider, we are talking about unconscious intelligence not logical, rational conscious intelligence!)

Here is a list of the symptoms of a nervous breakdown:

  • Feeling run down and tired
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns
  • Loss of memory or trouble concentrating
  • Stomach cramps, diarrhoea (IBS symptoms)
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Feeling panicky, anxious and fearful
  • Night terrors or nightmares
  • Feeling depressed
  • Morbid or suicidal thoughts
  • A lack of interest in anything
  • Numbed emotions (things don’t feel good or enjoyable)
  • Eczema, blotchy or spotty skin
  • Feelings of paranoia or repetitive compulsions
  • May become easily emotionally overwhelmed (shaking & crying)
  • Racing mind
  • Trouble making decisions and staying focused
  • Racing heart and fearful of health
  • Feeling that you are losing your mind
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • headaches and migraine headaches

Of course, there are more symptoms of a nervous breakdown, and any individual may experience only a handful of these ailments (or if you are unlucky, all of them!)

As uncomfortable (and seemingly) out of your control, these are all normal symptoms, when observed from the body as a whole and the external stressors that may have been putting you under strain for many months or years. Stressors such as; money, working too hard, relationship issues, raising young families, raising teenagers, trauma, grief, illness or just, continuously disliking yourself  (it takes a lot of energy to hate yourself).

Your emotional energy is running on empty…

Metaphorically speaking, it seems to me that there are two types of ‘energy’ within us; physical energy that allows us to move around, work and play, you might say that this is the energy that fuels our muscles and physically mobilises us. Then there is a second form of energy that I call emotional energy, which is the energy that fuels our thoughts, feelings, emotions and moods.

For example; we may wake up feeling low and down and sigh “I just can’t be asked to do anything today…” followed by another despairing sigh.. In reality, we don’t want to get up or go to work, but we do – and we move around and use or physical energy. When our emotional energy is depleted, this is how we feel. We still have physical energy, however, our immune system becomes compromised and we are susceptible to a whole range of diseases and unconscious mental interventions that are trying to stop us so we can recharge.

If we look at this from another more scientific angle – the combination of our brain and central nervous system (which is basically emotional energy) occupies about 4% of our body mass, yet consumes about 22% of our calories as it processes it from food to electrical energy that sends all the signals (thoughts) all around our bodies. Therefore, regaining our emotional energy is a large part of the nervous breakdown recovery program.

Top tips – Six steps to nervous breakdown recovery

Step One – Recognise that your unconscious mind has hijacked you for a reason. It is emotionally exhausted and wants you to recover. If the breakdown doesn’t stop you then the next tool the unconscious mind will use will be illness or disease.

Step Two – Recognise that although we have many external commitments, our health (99% of the time) must come first. I know that logic says otherwise! “I need to keep working to feed my family…” However, you are no use to them as a gibbering wreck,  or, worse still, dead!

Step Three – The breakdown is a wake-up call. Use this natural phenomenon effectively, by making the time to re-evaluate your life, your desires, your relationships, your health and your desires. It is no use taking 3 months off to get better and then jump back onto the hamster wheel – it doesn’t make sense.

Step Four – Explore any values and beliefs you have about yourself and about the external world. In my experience, so so many of our beliefs are out of date or, not necessarily serving us well. Beliefs such as;

  • I must put others first
  • My needs are not important
  • The pain must be shut away
  • I don’t deserve but others do
  • I’m not good enough (or whatever…. enough)
  • I have to work long hours
  • I have to be a perfectionist

Are they really true? Will the world stop if you loosen up a little? Will people love you if you let your guard down? I think you might be surprised.

Step Five – Recognise how we get hooked emotionally by others “They make me so angry!” or “Why can’t they just see what they are doing?” – As we take more responsibility for the emotional drama in our lives and we lessen its effects, then, we can see that it drains our emotional energy less, and thus, minimises the chances of a nervous breakdown in the future.

Step Six – Change what needs to be changed, face up to what has to be faced up to, put yourself first, make new things happen (or at least do the same old things in a new way) look at what you desire from life and lean towards it. It is not always possible, however, it is certainly worth a try, is it not? This is your life and it passes by very quickly.

Anxiety, OCD & Depression

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