As we battle through our second lockdown, it is more important than ever to look after our mental and physical health. So we’ve put together this guide to help spot the signs of a nervous breakdown, and ways to get help so that you can look after yourself and others around you.
There are few parents who would deny that our children can push us to limits we didn’t know we had, ensuring we need some me time to de-stress. While lockdown 2.0 might not have the homeschooling and work from home balancing act for everyone, there is no denying that it adds extra pressure for all. After school activities or playdates may have been cancelled, that precious time alone may have been diminished. Don’t let the stigma of mental uillness stop you getting help and potentially damaging parent-child relationships.
Although ‘nervous breakdown’ is no longer considered a medical term, it is still used to describe a period of intense mental stress and the inability to cope with the challenges of everyday life. While it may come under the banner of “mental disorder”, this should not give you the fear that you will be locked up in a mental institution just for admitting you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Life’s worries and challenges can be hard enough with stressors and triggers for stress and anxiety. With lockdown and isolation on top, it is important to know the signs of a nervous breakdown so that you can reach out for help when you need it.
Locking yourself in the bathroom for a cry is a warning sign that pressure is building up. Losing your temper could suggest stress hormones have control. And this does not make you a bad parent, it makes you human. And invariably these coping mechanisms add extra guilt as a cherry on top. Both your mental well-being and those you share your homes with are very important.
What are the symptoms of a nervous breakdown?
There is no one agreed definition but nervous breakdowns come with a number of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms which can vary person to person.
Symptoms can include:
- Depressive symptoms – such as suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm
- Anxiety – including high blood pressure, tense muscles, dizziness, shaking, upset stomach
- Insomnia – the inability to sleep at night
- Both mental and physical exhaustion
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Intense mood swings
- Panic attacks – which include chest pains, difficulty breathing and moments of extreme fear
- Flashbacks of a traumatic event
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and co-workers
- Inability to look after oneself – such as eating and sleeping poorly and maintaining poor hygiene
- Inability to concentrate
Nervous breakdowns can be caused by a number of factors such as persistent work stress, a recent traumatic event, financial issues, poor sleep and major life changes. In the middle of a pandemic, these events can have an even bigger detrimental effect on our health, so it’s important to know how to deal with a nervous breakdown if you have one.
What happens when you have a nervous breakdown?
How to cope with a nervous breakdown
Dealing with a nervous breakdown can be difficult, especially if you are stuck at home and are unable to leave the house for a change of scenery. So, it’s important to reach out for help if you spot the signs of a nervous breakdown. In the moment where stressful situations feel overwhelming, you may find that breathing excercises like deep-breathing help calming and relieve stress. Breathe and meditate is a great way to relax.
The best piece of advice would be to talk to a doctor. Opening up to a medical professional can open the door for you to seek help through medication or support programs. Talk therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy can be especially beneficial, as they help you notice and change any damaging behaviours, help you find the cause of these problems and help you to develop healthy coping strategies for the future.
Talk to a friend, family member or someone you trust. Although we can’t meet up with people, scheduling weekly video chats can help reduce the feeling of isolation. Several charities also have chat lines which you can use as a way to reach out and talk about how you are feeling.
Additionally, there are some treatments which you can try at home and schedule into your routine. Practising meditation through yoga or mindfulness encourages you to undertake relaxation techniques and have been shown to have physical and mental benefits to your health. Try to schedule time into your day for meditation if you can as it can help you regulate your breathing, relax your muscles and slow down your heart rate, as well as reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. 10-15 minutes of mindfulness at the beginning or end of your day can improve concentration and reduce stress levels. Mindfulness meditation ensures that you pay attention to how you are feeling in the present moment.
One of the main ways to help yourself during a nervous breakdown is to look after your body and your mind. It may be beneficial to cut out caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Quitting caffeine frees you from the cycle of needing a coffee to function in the morning. A caffeine and alcohol-free diet can also lower your blood pressure and help you to sleep better at night.
To help with lockdown and working from home, try to take mini breaks and to organise your environment, keeping your workspace separate from your leisure and relaxation space if you can. Try to get some fresh air where possible, and please remember that you can have a childcare bubble to give that much needed mental break.
How long does it take to get over a nervous breakdown?
The recovery period can be a long process full of ups and downs and it’s important to remember that the road to recovery isn’t a straight line. You may need to reassess your life and make changes to help.
Recovery times for nervous breakdowns change depending on a number of factors, such as the severity of the issues that caused the breakdown, how you generally handle day to day challenges and how much time you give yourself to rest and recover.
The best way to ensure a safe, speedy recovery is to slow down the pace, don’t live life at the speed you were living at before. Take the time to rest and be kind to your mind and your body so that you give yourself the chance to recover. Fighting against your condition and refusing to accept the reality of your situation can impede your recovery.
Help for a nervous breakdown
More often, the quicker you reach out for help, the quicker the recovery speed. So, if you have noticed that you are suffering from any of these symptoms and need to reach out, please look at the contacts below.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)