We all deal with stress, no doubt. But how do you know when things have gone from typical stress to crisis? As it turns out, there are a lot of different indicators. For many of us, we have a sense when this turn happens–we’ve let the diet slide, we’re less patient, we’re having that glass of wine after work most nights of the week. Despite these things, we tell ourselves things like: “I just need a break”, “things will get better after….(I can move out of my parents place, this project is over, the kids are in school, my spouse gets their promotion, etc.)”, or “I got myself into this mess, I need to get myself out of it”. And sometimes we really do get ourselves out of it. However, if you go through the following indicators, and you see yourself in at least one of them, chances are, you could use some help pulling yourself out of things.
It’s not just hard, you might be in crisis if….
You’re thinking about the stressful situation almost constantly
Do you find yourself distracted, consumed, unable to focus on work, school, your partner, your kids? Sometimes this is part of our process of working through things. But if the ruminating is taking over and the ability to think clearly is gone, or you have difficulty focusing on most other things, you might be in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
It’s interrupting your daily life
Are you waking up late, staying up late, unable to sleep, sleeping too much, having difficulty staying on task, not attending to your personal hygiene, finding normal tasks seemingly impossible to complete? Have you called in sick to work or school a lot? Are you at work more than normal? You might be in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
You’re uncharacteristically, or chronically emotional
Do you regularly feel angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, anxious, or depressed? Do you find yourself crying unexpectedly or often, are you easily upset, or flying into unexpected fits of rage? Are you normally patient but now short-tempered or easily provoked? You might be in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
You have physiological symptoms
Have you noticed changes that have gone on for more than a week in your sleeping or eating habits? Has your weight fluctuated up or down significantly? Has your heart rate or blood pressure increased? Have you experienced changes in your sex drive, digestion, or exercise habits? Changes in any of these areas that are not explained by an existing condition, could indicate you are in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
Have you recently started to engage in or increased your use of: drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, sex or pornography? Consider less severe versions of these substances: prescription drugs, engaging in disordered eating behaviours, hiding any activities from your family or friends, or feeling ashamed about your use of something. New or increased substance abuse is almost always an indicator that you are in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
Your relationships are affected
This is a tricky one to notice. Mostly because often we assume it’s the other person that’s the asshole. However, our relationships are often mirrors and barometers for how we are doing (we reap what we sow!). If you’ve started to notice that your close relationships are not as peaceful as they used to be, or you’re easily irritated by them, it could be that you are in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
Family or friends have expressed concern/are worried about you
Straight up. If the people who love you the most–in your good times and your bad–if these people are worried about you, most likely you are in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
You feel like you’re drowning
You may not identify with any of the above items. But if you feel like you are just not handling things, that if one more thing piles on you’re not going to make it–chances are you’re in a crisis and could benefit from some help.
Help is whatever you need to feel like the load is lighter, that you can breathe, that you’re not alone. This could look like: saying no to more responsibility, walking away from a difficult situation, reaching out to family or friends, getting medical help, taking time off, hiring help, or speaking to a certified therapist. If you think you’re handling things, but you identify with one or more of the above, it’s possible you’re in a crisis and could benefit from some help.