Stress affects everyone. Daily stressors are a fact of life, and some pressure can be good. However, when you experience high levels of mental stress for prolonged periods, it can cause exhaustion and burnout.
The symptoms of mental stress.
The symptoms of mental stress are similar to other mental health conditions. You may want to consult a therapist to rule out other disorders and learn strategies to ease mental fatigue.
- Sensations of dread and hopelessness.
- Feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
- Irritability and cynicism.
- Mood swings and anger.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Changes in appetite.
- Loss of muscle mass.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Losing interest in hobbies.
- Wanting to isolate.
- Poor performance at work.
- Relationship issues at home.
- Body aches and headaches.
- Gastrointestinal issues.
If mental stress has you thinking suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. Mental fatigue is treatable and reversible.
The causes of mental stress.
Unfortunately, there is not just one stressor responsible for mental stress. What causes mental exhaustion in one person may have no negative effect on another person. Everyone has a different tolerance level when it comes to stress.
Below are several common causes of stress in people. You may experience a combination of a few of these. For example, if you are caring for an aging parent (caregiver stress), work a high-demanding job (work stress), and the relationship with your daughter is strained (family struggles), then you are more likely to experience mental exhaustion from the long-term stress hitting you from every angle.
A therapist can help you manage the symptoms of mental stress and find ways to reverse the effects on your health.
Chronic stress works in the background. For example, it may be due to financial strain or relationship issues. On the other hand, you may have underlying stress caused by a traumatic event. This type of stress may not show outwardly for quite some time, and you may not be aware that something is bothering you. However, subconsciously, your body is preparing for the fight-or-flight response.
Chronic stress causes the body to release adrenaline and cortisol. But, instead of fighting off a predator and then easing the stress level, the stress hormones remain high. This constant release can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to a host of physical ailments.
Stress from work.
Work stress differs for everyone depending on the type of job. You may work in manual labor, as a white-collar worker, or at a computer all day. You may serve tables or teach little ones. Every job has its specific challenges and expectations. Poor management can also cause added stress in a position.
Missed deadlines, lower raises, and little time off can add to work stress. In addition, conflict in the workplace can carry over to your home life. Are you having trouble with your personal relationships because of work stress? We bring the pressure home, derailing other aspects of our lives.
Chronic illness in yourself or a loved one creates a constant flow of stress hormones. If a loved one is ill, then the responsibility for their care may fall on you. If you are dealing with your own chronic illness, such as an autoimmune disease, you may be unable to work or suffer from anxiety and depression.
When you are sick, you may be unable to do what you once did. If you can no longer work, you may have financial problems. The constant worry about the condition worsening is weighs on your mind. When uncertainty fills your days, you may live in fear and sadness. It is harder to have a positive outlook on life when mental stress overwhelms you.
Many people find themselves in the caregiving role with aging parents, grandparents, or with a sick spouse or child. Caring for others is a huge responsibility, especially when your loved one is ill. You may be in charge of prescription medication, basic needs like dressing and grooming, running errands, transportation to appointments, and house cleaning.
Fulfilling the caregiver role can increase mental stress and decrease physical health. The good news is that there are several caregiver resources available. Depending on your situation, you may have access to respite care, adult daycare centers, short-term facility care, and caregiver support groups.
Nothing can break our hearts more than family problems. Family issues can leave you feeling stressed and hopeless, from disagreements and estrangements to trauma and substance abuse. We love our family members, which is why it hurts more when we see family self-sabotaging or harming others. The mental stress from family issues and crises will also affect your emotional and physical health.
Sometimes it takes a third party to mediate family problems. You may want to consider using the services of a therapist for family counseling. Family counseling sessions enable each family member to express their thoughts and emotions in a safe environment and learn techniques for conflict resolution.
Ignoring your needs.
When we put all our efforts and resources into other things and neglect ourselves, we set ourselves up for mental stress. If you are so busy caring for others or working that you neglect your basic needs, then you need someone to help you find a way to prioritize.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if your basic needs are not met, you will struggle to find fulfillment in other areas. For example, we try to build our confidence at work while missing a vital component in the pyramid, such as having enough food to eat.
The following is a list of needs from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
- Physiological: shelter, food, water, air, sleep
- Safety: employment, family, resources, personal safety
- Love and acceptance: family, friendships, intimate relationship
- Esteem: self-esteem, self-confidence, respect
- Self-actualization: creativity, problem-solving, acceptance
You will add to the stress if you try to reach the fifth level of the pyramid while still missing aspects from levels one and two, such as security, shelter, and safety. Take care of your needs first, so you can take care of others and feel as if you are fulfilling your purpose.
Trying to do it all in your strength.
Sometimes our chronic stress is due to us trying to do everything in our own strength. We get busy and overwhelmed and forget that God is waiting for us to call out to Him. We try all avenues in a situation instead of turning to the One who has the solutions.
This brings unnecessary stress to our lives. God does not want us in a constant state of fear and worry. The Bible commands us to fear not. Yet, we overwork our bodies and minds when we try to control every aspect. We were not created to know or do everything.
It may be time to take a step back and analyze the responsibilities you accepted in this season of your life. Are you living a fulfilling life or simply surviving day to day? Are you physically worn out? Does your spirit feel tired? The mental stress of trying to do it all may lead to burnout.
Consider therapy for mental stress.
Mental stress works on your mind, emotions, physical body, and spiritual health. Your mind can only manage so much before it needs time to rest and recuperate. This means taking time out for yourself, delegating some tasks, removing some of the stressors in your life, and assessing the season of life you are currently living. What worked for you one year ago may not work for your life now. Be willing to pivot and make changes to stay healthy.
If mental stress has you overwhelmed and overworked, contact our office today to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Your therapist will work with you in individual sessions to strategize how to ease the effects of stress, repair relationships, and avoid burnout.
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