You can’t keep your eyes open
Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you find yourself taking a nap? It’s possible you’re simply exhausted, but it’s also possible that you’re experiencing stress-based fatigue, the body’s urge to try to shut down stress through rest. According to The American Psychological Association, 50 percent of people experiencing stress reported fatigue as a symptom, ranking higher than changes in appetite, muscle tension, and headaches. Extreme tiredness can manifest through three essential forms: Stress-based fatigue can feel emotional, similar to how you are spent after an intense argument with a friend; it can be physical, like how worn out your body feels after a long run; and it can be cognitive, similar to how your energy fades after a marathon meeting at work. Napping can be healthy in many cases, but if you find yourself snoozing every time you feel stressed, it’s important to see the difference between a rejuvenating cat nap and using sleep as a psychologically unproductive crutch. One symptom of depression is oversleeping, so if your fatigue feels like more of an ongoing form of mental distress then seeking therapy might help. Otherwise, enjoy the benefits of rest every once in a while.
You’re a ball of emotions
When you’re experiencing many emotions at once—rage, frustration, loneliness, fear—this can feel like an onslaught to your system. Perhaps your chest feels heavy, your thoughts are racing, and you can’t focus on the moment. You might be riddled with worry about the future or stuck on pain from the past. This is referred to as flooding. Everyday life is full of emotional experiences, but emotions that feel impossible to manage, such as frustration that arises in a heated, unprecedented argument with a spouse, falls into the flooded category. Arielle Schwartz, a licensed clinical psychologist, explains, “Flooding is the amount of emotional reactivity someone is experiencing in any given moment that feels beyond what they have the capacity to respond to effectively.” The antidote is to focus on the here and now. Here’s how to make managing stress much easier.
In some stressful situations, fear can immobilize us, in what is known as a freeze response. This manifests as a sense of stiffness, restricted breathing, and feeling stuck in some part of the body. In the case of serious threats such as physical attack or during a natural disaster, our body might go into dissociation mode, an attempt to block out the reality of life-threatening risks. The freeze response doesn’t just show up in extreme circumstances but also in cases where we perceive a sense of helplessness either due to our age (think of a child who is still learning how to cope with the world) or our state of mind (perhaps we are in recovery from trauma or have undeveloped emotional resources). For Psychology Today, Leon F. Seltzer, wrote, “You’re stymied by inappropriate, exaggerated fear, you’re in no position to act sensibly to whatever might be menacing you.” He goes on to say, “Ironically, this self-paralyzing response can in the moment be just as adaptive as either valiantly fighting the enemy or, more cautiously, fleeing from it.” Here’s how to deal with frozen shoulder pain (and yes, it’s a real thing!).