A mental breakdown, also sometimes known as a nervous breakdown, can literally bring your life to a screeching halt. It’s natural that many people want to learn how to overcome a mental breakdown as quickly as possible. Yeah, it can fill you with nervous fear. It’s a mental health crisis that causes you to wonder what steps to take next. What a mental breakdown isn’t is the end of the road. It’s a chance to decide which choices you will make in order to overcome a traumatic event. A mental breakdown is not a formally diagnosed mental health condition. It is an underlying mental health emergency that needs to be taken extremely seriously. Unfortunately experiencing mental health breakdowns is something I know all too much about. Yet the silver lining of each occurrence happens to be how I learned something different after each mental breakdown.
In this blog post, I’m sharing details about the methods I used to overcome a mental breakdown. The mental breakdown I experienced took place in March 2023. As a Black woman with mental illness by sharing my story, I numerous goals. I hope to break down the stigma around mental health. Its another goal of mine to offer practical mental health advice. Even more-so I want to provide inspiration and support for other Black women who may be going through similar experiences.
**Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional. This blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
What Is A Mental Breakdown?
The mental breakdown definition honestly has a loose meaning. The phrase itself is not an official medical term or the name of a specific mental health condition. Once upon a time, it was used to refer to a range of mental health issues. Many of which included issues such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. As of modern-day times, it does not have a single definition. “Mental breakdown” is a vague term used to describe a mentally distressful time in which a person can no longer properly function in their daily life.
Another complementary term for a mental breakdown, according to Mayo Clinic is a nervous breakdown. Many times a mental or nervous breakdown signifies a downward spiral of physical and emotional ability to cope. During that time, a person may also have negative thoughts as well as negative emotions. Life can become significantly overwhelming to the point where many people do not know how to go on with life. In that instance, people may need immediate emergency mental health assistance by going to a behavioral or mental health hospital.
Triggers and Causes
One thing that stands true when it comes to mental breakdowns is that the causes vary from person to person. There are a number of situations, circumstances, and places that can trigger a breakdown of mental wellness. Possible causes and triggers of a mental breakdown or nervous breakdown can be a result of the gradual build-up of extreme stress or pressure from specific life events. The inability to cope with this stress can be a cause of a nervous breakdown as well. Overwhelming internal and external factors that the mind and body cannot bear can play a triggering role in a mental breakdown. Additional possible causes and triggers of a mental breakdown include but are not limited to:
- Increasing burnout at work
- Tension at home with loved ones
- Difficult relationships
- Lack of proper sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Separation or divorce from a spouse
- Financial setbacks or issues
- Unexpected death of a friend or family member
- Life-threatening medical diagnosis
- Presence of abuse or violence
- Sudden physical injury
- Natural disasters
- Political and social unrest
- Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness
It is important to keep in mind that an underlying traumatic stress disorder may also be the cause of a mental breakdown. However, It is safe to say the causes and triggers of a mental health breakdown vary from person to person. Everyone has various situations and circumstances that can cause them stress. There are limitless triggers for this specific mental health emergency. There are also different signs and symptoms that people experience when dealing with a nervous breakdown.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
In the same way triggers and causes of a breakdown vary from person to person, so do the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown or a mental breakdown. Many symptoms and signs of a mental breakdown that occur can help people identify when they are on the verge of a mental health breakdown. There are a wide range from physical symptoms to psychological signs which include:
- Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
- Inability to focus
- Lost interest in favorite things that caused happiness
- Missing work or school constantly
- Paranoia that someone is watching or stalking you
- An increasing amount of fear and worry
- Chest pains
- Avoiding social settings to stay isolated
- Extreme mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Thoughts of being not being alive, self harm, or suicide
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Panic attacks
- Staying in bed or at home all day
- Poor personal hygiene
- Fast paced heart rate
- Decrease in appetite or bad eating habits
- Feeling like life is extremely unmanageable
- Untidy home and lack of organization
- More use of alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
- Difficulty breathing
This is not an exhaustive list of possible mental breakdown signs and symptoms. Knowing about these does raise the level of awareness. Your awareness will be able to show you how to stop a mental breakdown before it happens. In addition, how to deal with a nervous breakdown. Being able to recognize the possible risk factors could easily help someone get the proper help they need to become mentally healthier.
How A Safety Plan Can Treat A Mental Breakdown
The way mental breakdowns or nervous breakdowns are treated can certainly make a huge difference in how quickly someone overcomes it. No one treatment plan is greater than another because the ultimate goal is to provide a safe plan for recovery. As a matter of fact, having a safety plan is one of many ways to help you or a loved one overcome a mental health breakdown. A safety plan is developed by you and a mental health professional doctor or a primary care physician. Listed below is the safety plan I established with my therapist. It stopped me from harming myself and going into a mental health facility as a form of nervous breakdown treatment.
My Personal Safety Plan
1. Go to a calm place to take inventory of my feelings and emotions by writing in my mental health journal.
The first step of my safety plan that helps me overcome a mental breakdown is to get my thoughts, feelings, and emotions out if my mind. I go to a calming and generally quiet place to write in my mental health journal. Generally it helps me to just start writing immediately. No matter what the feeling or thought is, I put it down on paper. Once I have completely cleared out my head, I take a few minutes or sometimes more to organize everything into specific categories.
At times, I have found that writing about my emotional breakdown can be extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes its even painful but I find that it’s better to get it out to develop a clearer mindset. I also like to use my mental health journal to track patterns in my emotions. I have been able to identify triggers that might be contributing to other mental health conditions and problems. This practice allows me to make changes in my life that will improve my mental well-being.
2. Get immediate support from a loved one who interacts with me daily.
When it comes to experiencing a mental health breakdown, the second step of my safety plan is to get immediate support from a loved one. After I have reached the edge of the cliff it can be really hard for me to think clearly. I even have a hard time admitting that I need help because of underlying anxiety disorders. That’s why it’s important for me to let someone who interacts with me daily know that I am in crisis. My immediate support system is my husband who exemplifies love in so many ways. I let him know that I have been struggling mentally and that I need him to step in to provide his support. We talk about what I might need from him in the midst of a mental breakdown.
My husband is phenomenal for just being there to listen without judgment and letting me talk things through. Ultimately, my husband is a complete lifesaver for me because sometimes when I’m talking I tend to panic out of fear. He knows one of the many techniques that helps me calm down like box breathing. This helps regulate my heart rate and breathing so I won’t feel overwhelmed. My husband is always there to remind me that he is in my corner whenever I feel like I’m struggling. He is there to be another form of mental health support and strength as I face any mental health challenge.
3. Reach out to an extended family member to inform them of my mental health situation.
For my own experience, the third step of my safety plan is to reach out to extended family members when dealing with a mental health breakdown. A majority of the time the person I call on the most is my dad. He offers me a fresh perspective, reassuring advice, and a huge amount of emotional support. Honestly, he’s the most understanding and supportive extended family. He has seen me at my worst when I was dealing with postpartum depression.
I know I can reach out to him at any time and won’t feel like I’m being a burden. My dad always makes it clear that I can be honest and transparent with him about what I’m going through. My dad is also someone I can depend on if I have to go into a mental health behavioral hospital. No matter how anxious I feel while I’m talking, my dad always never ceases to amaze me with his level of understanding and compassion.
4. Schedule an emergency appointment with my therapist.
The fourth step of my safety plan that helps me overcome a mental breakdown is to seek out professional help. I tend to reach out to my black female therapist as soon as possible. One of the most amazing things about my therapist is that I can reach out to her at any time. I let her know when I feel like I am on the edge and or if I’m experiencing suicidal ideation. The best form of communication for me to reach out to her is through email. I am able to express the sense of urgency of my mental health crisis.
Oftentimes I share the symptoms that I have been going through and how they have affected my life over the past few days or weeks, whatever the time frame may be. I share as many details as I can through email that will help my therapist understand what’s going. By doing so, she will be able to provide me with the appropriate support and guidance when have a face-to-face or virtual therapy session. I know that my therapist is there to support me and help me manage my mental health and well-being.
5. Perform a mental health check-in with my therapist to prevent inpatient intake into a mental health hospital.
Within a few hours of sending an email to my therapist, I am able to move on to the 5th step of my safety plan. During my emergency session, she performs a mental health check-in with me. During that check-in she ask specific questions aimed at my mental stability. I’m open and honest about how I am feeling so she can get a clear understanding of how to help me navigate what I’m going through.
From there she does a full assessment of the most severe symptoms and thoughts that I am having. We go in-depth about why I am having certain feelings and what may have caused those feelings. She helps me develop coping strategies for whatever I am currently dealing. When I step away from the conversation, I am able to prevent any further mental escalations. This keeps me further spiraling out of control and out of an inpatient mental health care facility.
6. Take a mental health break from the things out of my control by doing something nostalgic after a mental breakdown.
The sixth step of my safety plan after processing so many emotions is to take a much-needed mental health break. I spending time doing something that will remind me of what I can control in my life. When I go through a mental health breakdown it’s extremely difficult. I deal with the feeling of overwhelm, the inability to cope, and feeling like I’m not in control. That’s why I have to take a step back from trying to fix things to just have a moment in the present where I can be. I do so by doing something nostalgic.
One of my favorite nostalgic activities is to go to the park to get on the swings. My parents always took me to the park when I was a child. Once we made it there, I always had the biggest smile on my face because I knew I could control where I would go first. That memory alone reminds me that in the present there are things that I can control. They can be controlled even when my mental health feels like it’s spiraling out of control. In the midst of giving myself permission to take a break from getting my mental health back on track, I am still immersing myself in benefical resources that will benefit my mental healing.
The Length of A Mental Breakdown & Other Forms of Treatment
I know that these are extensive detailed steps of how to overcome a mental breakdown. It may have you wondering how long does a mental breakdown last? A mental breakdown can last anywhere from about a few hours for some people, a day or a few days for others, and even up to a week or longer. Personally, I believe the length of a nervous breakdown should determine the main helpful form of mental health treatment. Other forms of treatment for a mental breakdown can involve a form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
Medication is an additional method of treatment that should only be prescribed by a mental health professional. Many times meeting with support groups of people who have mental breakdown experiences can be the ideal form of treatment as well. Having a sense of urgency to make certain lifestyle changes can be a beneficial form of treatment as well. In any aspect of treatment, working with a healthcare professional who will meet your best needs is the correct type of overall treatment program.
A Closer Look At My Safety Plan Steps To Overcome A Mental Breakdown
Watch the video below which includes my personal tips on how to deal with a mental breakdown. In this video, I set up realistic steps with the help of my therapist to overcome a mental health breakdown. I also share realistic strategies that were most effective for me on how to stop a mental breakdown.
If you have trouble watching the video, click the following link:
What To Do If You Are On The Verge of A Mental Breakdown Crisis
I know more than anyone that a mental or nervous breakdown is something you don’t imagine for your life or anyone else. I know you might want to know what to do if someone is having a mental breakdown or what to do if you find yourself in the midst of a crying mental breakdown. Naturally, the active feelings of a mental breakdown can make you want to run away and hide. That’s not the proper solution at all. Many times it is easier said than done to initially react with calmness.
Take a few minutes to step into a quiet room or outside to cut off all external or internal stimuli that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to slow down your heart rate. I find it extremely helpful to place my hand on my chest to feel the slowing pace of my heart as well. This makes me feel a bit more grounded and stable.
If you ever feel like you cannot take those few minutes to yourself and feel like you are in crisis, reach out to a friend, or loved one, or call the national suicide prevention lifeline crisis helpline. Otherwise, call 911 immediately and explain your situation to get the proper assistance.
Final Thoughts About Impactful Steps On How To Overcome A Mental Breakdown
A mental health breakdown let alone the mental breakdown meaning does not have to make you feel like you are not able to live a full meaningful and happy life. It is no reason for you to feel ashamed because more people go through it than you probably realize. The only thing a mental break down or nervous breakdown signifies is that you may have too much on your plate or that you can’t cope with what’s going on with your life healthily. The most important thing that you can do is to seek help to get yourself back to neutral ground.
Although dealing with a mental breakdown is hard, it can draw you closer to the people and places that make you feel safe. Life after a mental breakdown takes on a new outlook that many people are grateful for. It won’t be a smooth road on the way to mental breakdown recovery. The proper social support can ensure you make strong strides towards preventing mental distress in your life again.
Share Your Thoughts
What are some of the steps you have taken to overcome a mental breakdown? Can you think of some additional methods that will help people learn how to stop a mental breakdown fast?
If you know someone struggling with mental illness please call the
National Alliance on Mental Health Hotline at 1-800-950-6264 or Text 62640