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Are you heading for a nervous breakdown?

Everybody experiences some sort of stress and anxiety on a daily basis. But when those feelings build to a level that affects your daily life, you may feel as though you're at your breaking point—or as though you're having a nervous breakdown.

It's important to know, a nervous breakdown is not a mental illness. It is generally a temporary situation that is quite common. It's your body's response to too much stress. A nervous breakdown can be triggered by a specific event that causes extreme stress, such a trauma or death of a loved one. Or, it can be the result of a gradual build-up of stress, stemming from pressures related to work, relationships or finances to name a few.

We all respond to stress differently. If you experience a nervous breakdown, you'll likely notice physical and emotional changes. You may have headaches, an upset stomach or tensed, painful muscles. Emotionally, you feel depressed and avoid the things you used to enjoy or distance yourself from friends and family. You may also notice changes in your eating and sleeping habits.

There are a variety of coping and relaxation methods to help you feel like "you" again: 

  • Take a breath: While breathing is second nature, it's something we forget to do when we're stressed. Take some time every day to practice gentle, focused breathing. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in. You can do this for as little as five minutes, once or twice a day and it will help.
  • Practice guided imagery: One of the most powerful, yet simple, self-awareness techniques is guided imagery. Through guided imagery you can learn to use your imagination to actually change how you are feeling and what you are focused on.
  • Get active: Exercise can be a way to do something for yourself and can provide a time-out from other pressures. Go for a walk outside, take a yoga class or even play tag with your kids. Exercise is a way to break your routine and clear your head.
  • Smile and laugh: It can be hard to smile, let alone laugh, when going through difficult times. But try to keep your situation in perspective and remember this too shall pass. Give yourself permission to lighten up and laugh out loud.

Be sure to talk with your primary care provider if you are struggling to cope with stress and it is affecting your daily life. She or he can make a referral for you to get the help you need. Following a nervous breakdown, a full recovery is possible.

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