Stress on Your Mind
Stress also can cause or be caused by a variety of mental and emotional conditions. Working too hard, pushing yourself too far, spreading yourself too thin, taking on too much, or living in a state of unhappiness or anxiety is incredibly stressful. Like physical stress, mental stress makes life difficult, and the harder things are, the more stress they cause. You are caught in another downward spiral.
Perhaps you are experiencing difficulties in a personal relationship. This is stressful, but rather than deal with the problem (the problem may seem like it has no solution), you throw yourself into your job, working long hours and taking on many additional projects.
This new obsession with work adds more stress to your life, as do the long hours, the lost sleep, and the poor dietary habits you've developed. Your body begins to suffer, and so does your mind.
At first, you may find you have an extra edge at work because you are channeling the energy from your personal stress into your work. But, eventually, you will reach your stress tolerance point. Your mind will suffer a lack of good judgment. You won't be able to concentrate. You won't be able to pay attention. You'll get extra emotional, or irritable, or both. You'll begin to think badly of your work performance, and of yourself. Frustration, anxiety, panic, or depression will set in.
Don't get caught in stress's vicious circle. If you feel stressed by an event that is supposed to be positive, the guilt or confusion you may feel about your stress will make the stress worse. Try to see your stress for what it is — that is, a natural human reaction to change.
Mental stress comes in lots of forms. Social stressors include pressure from work; an impending important event; relationship problems such as with a spouse, child, or parent; or the death of a loved one. Any major change in life can result in mental stress, depending on how the mind interprets the event, and even when an event is positive — a marriage, a graduation, a new job, a Caribbean cruise — the changes it involves, even if temporary, can be overwhelming.
Mental stress can result in low self-esteem, a negative outlook on life, cynicism, or the desire for isolation, as the mind attempts to justify and, in any way possible, stop the stress. If you've ever had an extremely stressful week and want nothing more than to spend the entire weekend alone in bed with a good book and the remote control, you've experienced the mind attempting to regain its equilibrium. Too much activity and change can create a desire for zero activity and reversion to comfortable, familiar rituals. (After a fight with your best friend, an ice cream sundae just hits the spot.)
Signs of burnout include loss of interest, joy, and motivation in life; an escalating sense of a loss of control; constant negative thinking; detachment from personal or work relationships; and a loss of focus and life purpose.
If you allow stress to continue for too long, you could suffer burnout, losing all interest in your job as your lack of control increases. You could begin to experience panic attacks, severe depression, or even a nervous breakdown, which is a temporary state of mental illness that could occur suddenly or slowly over a long period of time.
Mental stress can be insidious because you can ignore it more easily than you can ignore a physical illness. Yet, it is just as powerful and just as harmful to the body and to your life. Ferreting out your sources of mental stress is an important key to managing your stress. Life will become more enjoyable when you observe your mental as well as your physical stress tolerance level.