The small things that precede your emotional meltdowns are the triggers, not the cause.
If you experience emotional meltdowns over the tiniest of things, odds are you’re familiar with the self-stigmatizing inner monologue that usually follows.
You might shame yourself for getting upset over something so trivial (“There’s unmitigated tragedy going on in the world and you’re losing your shit over a broken coffee mug? Get a grip!”) or act as if any reaction other than stoically powering through is unacceptable.
Because it could be worse. (It could also be better.)
Because we’re not given more than we can handle. (Yet instances of anxiety, depression and chronic disease are at a catastrophic high.)
Because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Tell that to ME/CFS and long COVID.)
Because problems are opportunities in disguise. (Opportunities to pulverize your physical stamina and emotional stability.)
Because you got this. (Even though you’re rocking coffee mug fragments back and forth between heavy sobs.)
The primary cause of emotional meltdowns in adults
Those seemingly dramatic outbursts of yours are the aftereffects of allostatic overload, or what I call “one thing too many.”
One symptom too many.
One setback too many.
One injustice too many.
Allostatic load refers to the cumulative effect of stress-inducing experiences in daily life (your day-to-day grind and varying degrees of setbacks and crises) topped with the physiological consequences of shitty lifestyle habits (poor sleep, unhealthy diet, drinking).
According to a 2020 review published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics:
“When environmental challenges exceed the individual ability to cope, then allostatic overload ensues as a transition to an extreme state where stress response systems are repeatedly activated and buffering factors are not adequate.”
Bottom line: It’s not the broken coffee mug that morphed you into season one Carrie Mathison, but…