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Can stress really make me feel this bad?

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Hello Mark,

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this: I feel so out of control, it's like I've completely lost control over my thought processes and my emotions.

To be honest, I don't even feel like a human being anymore. I can't think properly, can't enjoy anything, etc. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of all is how I cannot even speak normally; so lifeless and strained even my voice has become. And my mind just refuses to shut up; it's active all the time, ruminating and analyzing, like my peace of mind has completely left me.

And, of course, I obsess that it might have physical origins - as unlikely as that may be - i.e. something wrong with the functioning of my brain.

My actual question is: are my stress levels totally out of whack and is that, at least partially, causing this horrid state of being? My body does exhibit physical stress symptoms pretty much on a daily basis. Can high stress levels really cause one to feel so bad? How would you, as a therapist, begin to tackle this?

With utmost gratitude,

Jesse

This question was submitted by 'Jesse'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Jesse,

In short: yes, heightened stress can make you feel pretty bad.

When you say you've completely lost control of your thought processes (or at least that's what it can feel like), that is a typical symptom of prolonged and even short-term stress. Stress is designed to put us into a physical mode. It is really there to promote physical survival through fighting, fleeing, or 'playing dead' by freezing. Subtle thought becomes sidelined during emergency. A professor of rocket science is no more intellectual during an attack by a lion than I would be (or someone even dumber than me ; ) ).

So, during the experience of stressors (unless we learn to deal with them differently), what's known as an 'emotional hijacking' occurs. For a while, the 'emotional brain' takes over the thinking brain. If this happens when no actual immediate physical threat is current, then it feels like confused thinking.

Ongoing stress can make it hard to think or speak clearly - partly because that's what stress does, since all functions not essential for survival get 'switched off' during a real emergency, and partly because stress is exhausting, making it harder to think and talk. An anxious mind will flit uncontrollably, switching from one thing to the next.

Again, this is really what the mind needs to do during a potentially physically threatening situation. If you were in a forest and there were wild animals around or you thought there might be, then your attention would flit from one tree to the next, from one shadow or sound to the next. Only when you felt safe again would you have the luxury of being able to calm and direct your attention in a constant and relaxed way.

I suggest you start the habit of relaxing every day. Ten to twenty minutes of deep calm a day will lower your general stress levels (even when you are not actually engaging in the relaxation). You could listen to the 'Instant Stress Relief' and/or 'Ten Minute Power Nap' downloads.

It's also worth looking at the origins of any stress you've been having lately. We feel stressed when one or more of our primal human needs is chronically under-met.

Think about those needs and how they may or may not be met adequately in your life right now. And, if need be, take steps to meet them better. Stress, like thirst or hunger, is a signal that something needs attending, but sometimes it's just a signal that has actually become a habit in itself. We should seek to deal with the signal and the habit.

I hope this is useful for you.

All my best,

Mark

watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - October 23rd, 2014 in

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