My Personal Experience on Mental Health - 8 Steps
My constant demons in my life seem to be anxiety and depression and I know many of you can relate. I’m sure you have struggled to find ways to cope with the pain, hurt, and frustration that surround you.
So, the next few tips are not
professional advice. They are solely my personal experience as to what has
helped me continue to heal and reduce my anxiety and depression. IT IS NOT A
CURE. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I am simply a woman who wants to inspire people
to find ways to seek help and serenity with the same tools I used.
1. Write your thoughts down
· At first glance, you may think this is a diary reference. You most certainly can use it that way. I utilized a journal to differentiate my feelings from facts. In other words, the many days I felt stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and sad, I would write out why I felt that way, and then write about the steps that led me there so I can recognize a pattern, if any. I would also write about things I would be grateful for, coping mechanisms, as well as inspirational texts I would find that would help make the day easier. Most of the time, if you are like me, you tend to keep things bottled up inside, and physically writing out whatever is weighing on you may release some of that. I would even use it as a creative outlet to write lyrics and poems, because from my experience, as you get older and work, you have less time to dedicate on expanding your creative side.
2. Read inspirational books
· I do not consider myself a reader. In fact, the last time I was truly invested in a book was the Harry Potter series. It usually takes a week long beach vacation for me to decide to pick one up. However, in my darkest place, I needed some words of wisdom to know I wasn’t alone, and how others like myself have found ways to deal with the same issues. Many books like The Language of Letting Go, The Last Lecture, and Big Magic made me understand a bit more about my internal issues and lead me to rediscover myself. Many books were recommended by friends in the Social Work and Psychology field. Some books I researched on my own. Either way, reading helped me relate with the environment around me and recognize my strengths and areas I could improve in.
3. Get active
· Here comes the Grey’s Anatomy nerd in me. As your doctor would say, or like my doctor said last visit, “You need to exercise more and eat better food.” As you should know, your diet and activity have detrimental effects on the way you live. It also affects how you feel about yourself. My boredom one day caused me to take a look at my finances and compare what I brought in to what I spent. I realized with a few less Starbucks trips and less take out for lunch, I could use that to invest in programs that are dedicated to healthy lifestyles. For years I would have a gym membership that I would use for a month straight, then disappear into thin air for many months after. If you are like me, you may not feel motivated enough to work out, or you simply may get bored of the routines you set yourself up for, especially if you are doing it alone like I was. I decided to join RockBox Fitness, a boxing/fitness program and my life has never been better. Which leads me to this:
4. Understand that being uncomfortable creates opportunities to grow
· Obviously I am not talking about dangerous situations. I am talking about how things you normally wouldn’t do, can give you a chance to see how far you can push yourself. In the fitness world, chances are if something is uncomfortable (not painful) then you are progressing towards making things easier. I was so uncomfortable walking through the doors alone the day I joined kickboxing and I felt so out of my league that I was ready to turn around without a word. I thought I would not fit in and could not keep up. Then I met a woman who assured me I would feel like this the first day, and I gave it a chance. I was demolished after that first class, and I was inspired to push my self harder and do an extra jump the next time around. THAT is how I discovered that uncomfortable (and safe) circumstances can create positive opportunities. I’ve also applied this logic to simple nuances from work, to my relationships. As a person who did not like leaving voicemails to clients, to situations I wouldn’t voice my opinion for fear of backlash, I’ve learned that putting myself in those situations allow me to learn and be stronger and for that, I am thankful for.
5. Practice meditation and yoga
· So, I’m probably the worst at sticking to this tip myself. Mainly because I’ve been consumed in things I find joy in again. But at my lowest, these practices helped me hold myself together. If you are new to yoga and meditation, there are plenty of free videos on YouTube you can practice at home if you feel you aren’t ready to join the world of yogis. This ties in to tips 3 & 4. Not only is it great for your health, it helps you push your boundaries and practice the art of understanding the present. This is huge for someone who is too focused on the past (depression) and too anxious about the future (anxiety). These practices allow you to be “in the now” and mindful of your environment and it is also a great escape, even for a brief moment, of the thoughts that crowd your brain. Sometimes you just need to breathe and that alone can help a great deal.
6. Unplug yourself from Social Media
· If you’re like me, you are a millennial addicted to technology. There are various moments of the day I spend looking on Facebook and Instagram, when a random post will influence my negative emotions of “why not me”, or “my life sucks next to this,” etc. etc. Sometimes, as hard as it can be over time, removing your presence from these platforms for short periods can help you understand if your problems and thoughts truly stem from the real world or if it’s influenced by what you see in the screen in front of you. I found out that much of my negative attitude towards myself came from the comparison I made to the friends I have on social media. So kick that habit and let it go for a week or two. See if you feel better or worse.
7. Plug yourself into your relationships, one-on-one
· This is probably the hardest for someone dealing with anxiety and depression, but it helps a lot when you are able to spend time with the ones you love. It is rare that I ever regret the time I spent with a friend, but you have to do it on your terms. It’s incredibly hard to stay social when you are in the dumps, which is why you should be open to your close ones and tell them what’s going on. Make yourself known you are trying to stay healthy and sane and they should be supportive enough to want to help you through by spending quality time with you, even if it’s just for coffee or a walk, or giving you space. I would’ve never made it this far if it wasn’t for my parents and strong friendships, and they supported me from a far, and by holding my hand, so long as they were in the know of how I felt. Being alone is a dangerous territory when you’re in too deep, so find something or someone to lean on, which leads me to this:
8. Always seek professional help
· I can share a million stories of my experiences, and what helped me through my depression and anxiety, even when it comes creeping back every now and again. These diseases don’t have magical cures. You also have to remind yourself that just because you’ve overcame it once, doesn’t mean you should do it on your own if it takes over again. These professionals are trained to help people like us understand more about ourselves, and how to control the mental things that negatively impact us. It’s worth every penny to see a therapist if it means you’re one step closer to taking back control of your life and emotions.
Again, I write this for the reader who has dealt with anxiety and depression or knows someone who has. Speak up about your frustrations to someone. Don't let these feelings stay bottled up inside. Someone out there is willing to hear you speak without judgement and simply help you look at life in a different perspective. Dealing with depression and anxiety alone is burdening, and yet there are so many ways to relieve them.
Most importantly, if you or someone you know has considered hurting themselves please contact the Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For local therapists in your area go to Better Help to find someone to help you heal.