We all get stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious as a result of daily demands. Although these feelings are often a normal reaction, it is important to keep a very close eye on these emotions as they can shift from normal to disordered. Anxiety is often hard to put into words, but those who experience anxiety describe it as feeling “on edge” or “keyed up.” In addition to endless worries, those with an anxiety disorder may experience muscle tension, disrupted sleep, recurrent headaches and symptoms of panic (short of breath, chest tightness, sweaty and tingling in fingers and toes). It’s important to identify if there is a change in the way you are reacting to stress and to seek help before it impairs your ability to function.
“I prefer to be alone tonight”
When we get busy at work, our social lives can sometimes take a hit. That’s ok temporarily, but it’s important to distinguish if it’s because you just can’t fit in a cocktail with the girls this week, or that you’d genuinely rather be alone. Isolation and withdrawing from previous pleasurable activities and relationships can be a symptom of depression.
“Sorry, what did you say again?”
Have you ever been so overwhelmed that when you’re sitting in a meeting you can’t seem to focus on what is being discussed? Is that because your mind is taking you back to the amazing concert you attended over the past weekend, or is it because regardless of how hard you try, you just can’t seem to concentrate? If it’s the latter (and a change from your baseline) then it’s time to reflect on your current level of stress and your current mood; a change in concentration can be affected with both anxiety and depression.
“I can’t come into work today … ”
An increase in absenteeism from work can be a sign that you’re feeling overwhelmed. People call in sick for both the physical, cognitive, and emotional manifestation of anxiety or depression. Work avoidance can also be a sign of depression. As important as it is to make the time to care for your mental health, and increase in frequency of work absenteeism is a sign that you may not be coping as well. It may be time to ask for help and reprioritize.
“ … I can’t remember”
When our responsibilities become overwhelming it is normal to have difficulty remembering what your boss wanted done, or what you were asked to bring to your friend’s dinner party. If you start noticing that you’re having more difficulty remembering previously formed memories, you may be experiencing a symptom of depression.
“If only I had more sleep”
Whether or not you’re up late perfecting every last detail from the previous day of work, or you’re tossing and turning in bed worrying about everything you need to get done during the following day, it’s vital to get on average 6-8 hours of sleep per night (each individual is different when it comes to the amount of sleep you need, but you will know best). Consider tracking your sleep on your smart phone or go old school by recording it with pen and paper. When we are overworked, overwhelmed or stressed, our sleep is often one of the first clues that it’s time to slow down. It’s also important to track if you start waking up early (really early, like 4-5 am….and without an alarm clock) as early morning wakening can be a symptom of depression.
“No thank you, I’m not hungry”
When we are stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain busy, we may not just forget to eat, but we can start to lose our appetite. In order for us to be healthy and efficient we need to eat nourishing food throughout the day. Pack snacks and meals the night before (or the week before) to ensure you get the vitamins and fuel your body needs. If you start noticing a change in your appetite (your desire to eat), it may be a clue that you’re overworked and that your mood could be affected.
“I can’t stop crying”
When we get overwhelmed, our body can react to such stress by taking it out on our mood. Some people may not describe their mood as sad per se, but instead they may find themselves tearful without a strong stimulus. It can be normal to be tearful following a stressful day at work, after a disagreement with a co-worker, or upon discovering you didn’t get the promotion you sought all year. If you find yourself more tearful than normal and you’re experiencing some of the signs above, it’s important you let someone know and seek professional help.
This article originally appeared on Create and Cultivate.