Thank you for your question. I am glad that you have sought help as it seems that your symptoms are causing real difficulties in all areas of your life. I can imagine that being a business owner comes with a lot of stress and what we know is that over time, stress takes a huge toll on us physically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally. A certain amount of stress in itself is not bad but chronic stress eats away at our resources and coping skills. With time too much stress can lead to physical complaints such as headaches, neck pain, high blood pressure, and digestive problems, as well as irritability, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression.
You describe a problem which began with insomnia but has now extended to lethargy, a lack of motivation to do the things you used to enjoy, moodiness and little desire to be active.This tells us that your stress has moved far beyond being constructive. The first important step is recognising the signs of stress which is what you have done. What will be important next is to sit down and identify the causes of your stress.
It sounds like running your business is a huge contributing factor but there may be other things adding to the stress which you may not realise. Any changes in our home or work lives can add to our stress even if they are positive. From things like financial troubles, death of a family member or friend, divorce and personal illness to others like moving house, having a baby, business readjustments or even getting a promotion, we can sometimes underestimate the stress that events in our lives cause. You may want to sit down and think about what is contributing to your stress. By doing this you are then able to see where you may be able to reduce the stress. Perhaps you can delegate more at work or get more support from your family with your responsibilities at home.
I would suggesting trying a more holistic and long term approach in dealing with your stress, which will include lifestyle changes which may take a while to implement and get used to (it may be helpful to enroll the help of your partner and family). The basic things like eating healthily and exercising can help a huge amount in reducing stress. Unfortunately, stress also decreases our motivation to exercise and maintaining an exercise programme may be difficult. You mention that you no longer feel you have the energy for the sports that you used to enjoy. Ironically exercise, once we get ourselves to do it, helps with exhaustion and stress. Not only is this because sport is a good outlet for emotions but also because, among other physical effects, it increases the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in our brains. Serotonin helps regulate our moods and reduces irritability, anxiety and depression. Exercise also ensures that we sleep better at night. It may thus be helpful to force yourself to exercise even if it is only for a short time everyday. This could be going for a walk with someone from your family or your dog, playing outside with your children or nieces or nephews, or doing a hike over the weekend. Getting outdoors and spending real time with family have both been shown to reduce stress in their own right.
Finding other relaxation methods that work for you can also be very beneficial. More general methods like deep breathing, which can be done throughout a stressful day, or specific techniques like yoga and meditation, can all help to reduce stress. If none of these appeal to you, simply building time into your day to do the things that you enjoy and that help you to unwind will have a similar effect. We know that a lack of restful sleep will exacerbate any stress we feel and this can become a vicious cycle- the more we stress, the less we sleep, the more stressed we feel… and so on. Again start with the basics: try to reduce your caffeine intake during the day and not have caffeinated drinks after about 5 ‘o clock. Similarly with alcohol, reduce your intake particularly in the few hours before you go to sleep. Switch off the TV and computer a while before you go to bed and rather do something that calms your mind like reading or having a relaxing bath. Not sleeping properly is a serious problem and can be a symptom of depression. If none of these things seem to make a difference I would certainly recommend speaking to your doctor about this.
The moodiness that you describe may also be pointing to something that is bothering you but that you may not be aware of. Often when our underlying emotions are ignored they spring out up in different ways. For example some people may become irritable, others may begin to drink or smoke more, while others may withdraw. Try speaking to your spouse or a close friend about some of what is bothering you. A few sessions with a cousellor or therapist could also be helpful in exploring all the causes of your stress and helping you to find ways of reducing and dealing with the symptoms.
Approaching your stress in a more holistic way will help to deal with the underlying causes of your symptoms rather than just ‘putting a plaster on’ them. This said, however, if you find that you are more and more unable to function in your everyday life it will be important to visit your doctor who may suggest putting you on short-term medication in order to help you get back on track.
I hope this helps you to start reclaiming your life back.