Could you be near your breaking point, unaware that you are dealing with stress overload?
As illustrated, cups and glasses have differing storage capacity; similarly, our internal capacity to handle life challenges and demands varies from person to person and is unique to each.
Some people may appear tough, yet have a lesser capacity; while others may seem delicate even though equipped with great capacity.
Yet our capacity is not set in stone from birth! Tackling difficult life challenges will gradually stretch our internal capacity, increasing our mental and emotional resilience.
Understanding your own internal capacity and respecting your limits plays a great role in determining your overall sense of wellbeing.
It is essential to identify where is your point of tolerance in your internal cup – passing which becomes too much to handle. This is the time for you to take a break and replenish your energy rather than accepting and forcing more into your cup. It is better to be gentle towards yourself, to seek support and to delegate some load to others.
This internal capacity is your buffer in life. It basically indicates how much stress, challenge, or ‘crap’ you can take in without getting intoxicated. Working with your capacity, and training to expand it, are essential skills for you to thrive in this ever-demanding life.
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield
Stress Levels and Internal Space
There is a direct correlation between your stress levels and how well you function in the midst of life challenges. Let’s now have a look at the different stages you might be in.
Available space: Maximum
You can tackle life challenges in full power, and even go about helping others.
Available space: Moderate
Your cup need not be fully empty. Some amount of stress and challenge is good for our well-being. It can work as a motivating factor and bring focus, enthusiasm, and alertness in a healthy way, and reduce boredom.
When occupied, you are paying attention to the task at hand. Brainstorming to find insights and solutions supports the development of your problem-solving skills.
Available space: Minimum
At this stage, you are accessing internal and external resources to complete the tasks at hand. If this state continues for too long, there may be a breakthrough and an increased level of resilience, or at times there may be a breakdown and a lower level of functioning.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. – Allen Saunders
Available space: None for a while
The cup is filled up to its maximum capacity for a while and you is left with no internal space.
The demands are hitting the limit of your current capacity. If the situation continues for long, it can gradually become unhealthy.
You might feel, at times without any fault, unable to resolve the situation at hand. Then you feel stressed.
Common signs and symptoms of stress gradually emerge in physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral aspects. Your body is intelligent – it is using signs and symptoms to communicate to you the need for making serious changes and to make self-care a priority. This negative environment is fertile for negative feelings and thoughts to creep in: ‘I am powerless, hopeless, and worthless. I am a disappointment.’ At the verge of an explosion or an implosion, and you may start feeling resentful towards yourself or others.
Available space: Negative
The person is gradually losing the ability to cope and function. A full crisis is right ahead.
This state influences the quality of relationships at home and outside. It can also affect one’s physical, emotional and mental health, and lead to psychosomatic illnesses and pain in various levels.
Doctors who solely focus on the physical symptoms miss the bigger picture and the contributing factors to the symptoms. The approach of prescribing strong medication can interfere with the body’s natural warning system by numbing the person to the ongoing crisis, just to provide a quick fix. As a result, the problems continuously grow, and the one ends up needing ever-stronger neutralizers or medications. A vicious cycle!
Available space: ‘Did you just ask about my available space?!’
Warning! You may be very close to burning out!
At this stage, signs and symptoms of stress have become more obvious. The diminished quality of your relationships at work and personal life is evident. Things are starting to get messy. The mess may be obvious in your room and office desk.
One has already consumed most of the internal resources. It is rather unfair to expect her/him to come up with brilliant solutions for the overwhelming situation. Chronic stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, grief and dysfunctional behaviors are creeping in.
There is an urgent need to free some internal space and develop new skills. Yet, at the same time this stage is hardly appropriate for learning new skills. You may not have the energy nor be in the right mindset for it. So it is essential to find safe, healthy and effective ways to unload, as well as preventing additional inputs.
Surprisingly, the majority of people attempt to unload their burden through self-medication, or by taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, cigarette, and food. Or even worse: use others to dump their ‘crap’ by applying aggressive and abusive behaviors. These unhealthy choices end up becoming additional loads in themselves: pressuring the body, diminishing the cognitive ability that is most needed for problem solving, numbing the body’s warning system.
We can always bounce back from lower stress levels and emotional states. It is possible, even if not easy. The further down the track, the more effort and energy it requires to heal.
Don’t be discouraged! If the world has not been kind to you, at least, you befriend yourself!
Recognising that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing. – Deborah Day
#1 How full is your cup?
#2 What are you filling your cup with?
#3 How can you free up some internal space?
I’d love to hear your stories and realizations in the comment section.
Please help raise awareness by sharing, so more people can benefit.
This is the 1st post of a series. It is an invitation to look at your life and well-being from a refreshed perspective. My commitment is to support you long the journey. My goal is to clarify complex topics, so stay tuned.
You can download the free PDF to read at your convenience.
You may enjoy reading my related posts:
- 60 Common warning signs and symptoms of stress [Infographic]
- How believing the storytelling mind causes stress [Parable]
- 120 Quotes on strategies to reduce stress [Tips]
- 120 Quotes to inspire self-compassions and self-acceptance [Tips]
Happy Conscious Living!