How to Handle Symptoms of Stress Overload

The mind and body are marvellous creations. We were designed to react to danger in a such a way that ensured survival – either run away or kill the threat. Simple and primal. The adrenaline rush settled down and because life was simple, there were no “what ifs”. It was “this leg of sabre tooth tiger is delicious”! This good stress enabled man to determine very quickly the best exit routes or how to trap prey. No in-depth analysis was required i.e. no conscious awareness, just automatic.

We, however, no longer live like this so what happens when a threat is anticipated – the presentation, interview, discussion, meeting, traffic. The mind views this as your life being under threat and the whole fight or flight is set off inside you. With adrenaline pumping, you may experience body shakes, heat changes, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and you find it hard to think clearly.

The triggering event happens, you feel panicky and uneasy. Then it is over and your self talk becomes about what is wrong with you, how stupid, etc. But unlike our earlier ancestors, instead of the body returning to all being calm and at ease, the mind takes over – what if my boss thinks I’m an idiot, I’ll lose my job (or insert your take away). The fear is running inside your head and now you begin to “see” things to support your fears – did you see the way he ignored me this morning or I wasn’t copied in the email. The wave of unease continues to develop and your sleep becomes interrupted. Your mind becomes so preoccupied with “what if”, there is no now or no voice to tell you to shut up because you have the “proof” you need to support your claims.

The following begin to happen –

Sense of dread:

You feel sick at the thought of going to work. Is this the day I’ll be fired? Even the week-ends become less enjoyable. By 3 pm on a Sunday, the churning in your stomach begins and you wonder what can you do stop the frenzy inside but it’s too late, the damage is done – if only I had spoken up more?

Tiredness:

You are feeling tired all the time and not just physical tiredness but mental grogginess? No wonder. Your sleep is disturbed. You never reach the deep renewal levels of sleep because you are still on high alert within your mind. Everything is an effort.

Eating or not eating:

Change in eating habits from not eating to eating rubbish. The lack of eating sends the body in famine mode and therefore, anything that is eaten, will be stored for a fuel reserve because the mind just does not when food will be received again.

Your blood sugar fluctuates and this combined with your natural hormones plays havoc with your mood.

Irritability:

You are not fun to be around. You snap, you lose your temper with the slightly provocation. Why does no-one else feel your pain?

No enjoyment from life:

The things that previously gave you joy, no longer do or you have lost interest. You have become introspective.

Fighting your feelings:

Ignoring feelings or denying them creates tension in the body. The more you resist, the more it persists. The more you deny the message coming from your mind, the more pain it will give you (you must not be able to hear the message is the mind’s philosophy).

What happens is that you look for a physical reason for the headaches, the pain and aches rather than the emotional upset of not being able to switch off. Or you push through the pain and feel even worse. It must have been the way I was sitting at my desk.

You need time off to see various medical doctors – there must be a reason for this tiredness/pain/discomfort.

What is happening, of course, is that you have forgotten to let go of work, you have forgotten to improve yourself – do you need to improve your skills or even up-skill. Or perhaps you just were not feeling well and your whole downward spiral stemmed from this.

You have allowed your mind to get caught up in the frenzy of fear. Your view of life becomes distorted because you can only see things through pain, not the reality.

The one thing you can control is your state of mind. It starts now. You have to learn to take back your control. What is the one thing that you can think about without it giving you pain. When was the last time you laughed?

Steps to take initially are to relax the mind and body – hypnosis, mindfulness or even a funny movie – something where your mind can just focus on nothing or something (like progressive muscle relaxation). Anything that stops you feeling bad about yourself.

Secondly, treat yourself to a new haircut, buy a new piece of clothing. Something to brighten yourself up.

Thirdly, you need to talk to someone about how to deal with handling stressful situations. Learning not to absorb negative energy and how to let things just wash over you. This does not need to hurt! It can be learning about body language and how your body position communicates with your mind.

Do this:

Get your body into an exaggerated depressed mode – shoulders hunched, face tight and shout out “I’m so happy” – it doesn’t make sense does it?

Now, stand talk, shoulders back, face relaxed and whisper “I’m so depressed” – again the body language and words do not match.

Put the words with the matching body language. How do you want to feel now? What needs to be different about you?

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