Mental illness is commonly connected to stress and anxiety. Before a person receives treatment for a mental illness, he often experiences stress due to the uncommon behavior caused by the mental illness symptoms. Symptoms can cause behavior changes that initiate feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. Understanding the connection between stress and mental illness is important but it isn’t always easy to separate the symptoms.
Stress Can Cause Mental Illness Relapse
Living with a mental illness can be frightening. It can be hard to differentiate stress from symptoms of mental illness relapse. We all experience stress differently both on a physiological level and a psychological one. Even so, some symptoms of stress are more common than others.
Common symptoms of stress:
- A feeling of detachment. When your stress level is high your body release chemicals that make you feel detached
- A mind that races as fast as your heart, trying to make sense of the uncomfortable feeling
- Panic attacks. These are also a separate disorder, but stress will create the panic sometimes.
- An unreasonable fear of a situation that was once comfortable
- A heightened sense of fear leading to uncomfortable physical symptoms
- Stress can impact appetite. A person often experiences a loss of appetite or an increase in appetite
- Stress affects our level of energy in a similar way that depression does. We might feel sluggish or out of the loop. It can be difficult to pinpoint our feelings
- Sleep is often affected by a high level of stress; insomnia or hypersomnia is common
How to Notice the Connection Between Stress and Your Mental Illness Sooner
When you practice self-care regularly, you prevent stress. Self-care also attunes you to your body and mind and how they’re reacting to your world. Paying attention to those reactions highlights your stress levels and you can notice even a small increase or decrease. But if you’re not engaging in regular self-care, the reactions to stress may increase very dramatically before you do something about it.
Self-care, in the context of mental illness and recovery from it, often involves:
- Working to maintain a stable sleep cycle
- Forming positive and healthy relationships with people
- Educating ourselves on our illness
- Accepting help when we need it
- Integrating physical activity into our lives on a regular basis
When living with a mental illness, our level of stress is something we need to pay close attention to. When we learn to identify the symptoms of stress, we can use those signs to our advantage by increasing self-care actions, thereby preventing mental illness relapse.
It takes time to learn about our illness and how it relates to the symptoms of stress. But learning self-care, and practicing it, is how we learn to manage our mental health by recognizing how stress impacts our mental illness.