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The Importance of Taking a Step Back

How to realize you’re hitting a breaking point.

Photo: Gfycat

Last week, when the mid semester slump kicked in, I had a breakdown on the phone with my editor. She asked me how I was doing and I immediately started crying. I wasn’t doing well, to say the least. Schoolwork and other obligations got to be too much and I wasn’t listening to my body when it was telling me I needed a break. Sometimes these breakdowns can affect the way we function both mentally and emotionally, as it did for me.

Breakdowns happen to everyone, there is no shame in it. When stress piles up and you need a break, but don’t take one, it can lead to a situation where you feel like you can’t catch your breath. It is okay to feel stressed and need a moment to regroup. However, it can be difficult to know when we need to take these moments. Recognizing our personal burnout can enable us to prepare for the fallout.

When stress piles up and a breaking point is near, there are a few things that happen, and I handle them all in different ways. My sensitivity will spike, making the littlest inconveniences seem like the end of the world. Stubbing my toe, the thought of homework, or a knot in my hair could trigger a full blown breakdown.

Sometimes sensitivity comes from other aspects of life, not only stress, but it is important to recognize when we are experiencing this hypersensitivity, so we can properly manage it. Relaxing may be easier said than done, but at least trying to relax can help you. My way of relaxing is sitting down next to an open window and reading a book. Fresh air and a good read helps calm my sensitivity. Maybe a warm bath or a glass of wine is the best way for you to bring stress or hypersensitivity back down. Whatever you know will help you relax, even just a little bit, try it, it could help those moments where we feel overwhelmed, more than you think.

Lack of sleep is another symptom of a pending breakdown. Sometimes stress becomes a lot to handle and the mind doesn’t calm down. A racing mind, or other forms of mental activity, can happen especially while you’re trying to sleep. This can present itself as a difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. A few tricks I have learned to help overcome this are: taking melatonin, using a lavender diffuser/candle, and playing white noise. If you end up taking a bath to calm your stress, maybe light some candles and throw a lavender bath bomb in there to prepare you for sleep. Unwind and relax your mind by shutting your computer off an hour before you plan to go to bed.

Photo: Unsplash

I know when I am on the verge of a meltdown because my mood is all over the place. Mood swings are tough to handle especially when hypersensitive, but they are not impossible. It can be really helpful to find things that center you. For example, when I am going through a moody patch, I think about something I am looking forward to, or a moment that usually makes me really happy. Other times, it can be super helpful to turn on some songs I know will make me feel better.

By all means, don’t be afraid to utilize outside sources, like therapists or friends. A quick rant or conversation with someone can help you understand your body’s way of telling you that it’s doing too much. If you want to talk to someone, but would rather not talk to someone you know, hotlines are another great resource. If you decide this is the right plan of action for you, call the Mental Health Hotline at 1-800-950-6264.

The methods you take when you know you need to take a step back are personal to you. Your body’s reaction to a breaking point can be entirely different from mine and anybody else’s. Taking a minute to step back and realize you’re reaching a breaking point is not always easy, but it can make the impending breakdown more bearable. Sometimes a breakdown is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the blow less drastic.


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