How I Currently Deal With My Depression & Anxiety

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Although Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to an end, I still feel like this is a good opportunity to share a little bit more about my mental health journey.

I've come a long way since last year. Although I had a short but serious relapse a few months ago, I'm finding that overall my anxiety and depression are becoming more manageable. I'm better able to pull myself out of deep rumination and worry.

Recently I read Ikigai by Hector Garcia. It's an interesting look at Japanese centennials, but my favorite part of the book was the list at the end. At the end is a list of things that they've found common among centennials that has helped them to live a long life. Interestingly, I found a direct correlation between those lifestyle rules and how I manage my depression and anxiety.

So below is the list from the end of Ikigai, but with notes on how these methods dovetail with the way I currently manage my mental and emotional health.

Take it slow. My anxiety is part of a meticulous desire to do things right, have successful future outcomes, and maintain environmental control. When I take my time to do things and don't rush, I suffer much less. When I don't have enough time to care about the details, I start to worry and imagine the worst. I need time to think deeply and make sure things are right, and I need to do things at a slower pace than most people, because I often double check and triple check what I do. Being an HSP, my brain also processes more information than average. So when I'm forced to rush, my anxiety rears it's ugly head. So yes, taking it slow is very important.

By the way, this is different from when I'm naturally working quickly. At times I'm internally compelled to work fast, and that's exciting, not anxiety inducing.

Reconnect with nature. When I'm feeling bleh, taking a short walk outside makes me feel alive again. Also having plants in the house, playing nature sounds, having nature wallpapers on my digital devices, and doing aromatherapy has really helped to boost my mood.

Live in the moment. For me that means, "Stop ruminating!" I've lessened my rumination by engaging in activities that require my full attention to what I'm doing at the moment. Cooking, Pilates, muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing, stream of conscious writing, intuitive painting, or simply trying to learn something new are my favorite ways to force myself to focus on the now. I need to distract myself to avoid ruminating.

Be aware of what you put in your body and your diet. Too much caffeine is like giving my anxiety fuel to burn. Drinking herbal teas however, has been helpful. Chamomile and lavender are my go-tos when I'm anxious. Lemon-Ginger and peppermint teas are good for when I need a boost. On days when I really do need the caffeine, I dilute my coffee with Teeccino. And eating more vegetables is great for everything. Eat Pretty, Live Well by Jolene Hart, has helped me to get a good start with eating a more vegetable based diet.

Give thanks. No matter how bad things get, there's always the little things that are still good. A nice cup of tea. A beautiful sunset. The breeze on my face. A favorite movie. My husband's smile...I try to appreciate all of my good days, the good moments, my abilities and accomplishments. Sometimes I write about them and how they are an important part of who I am. It also gives me the hope that the future will hold more special moments. In depression, my view of time becomes stuck. But when I can reflect on different moments, it reminds me that life is fluid--it's always moving and changing.  And regardless of the changes, some things are always good.

Get in shape...the body needs daily maintenance. It's been stated over and over that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Pilates and walking are my exercises of choice. Also sleep is a part of body maintenance, and I've found that if I don't get appropriate rest, my mood goes downhill quickly. Often my depression is proportional to how tired I am.

Stay active. Do not stop doing what you love. With depression, it's so easy to give up what you enjoy. I thought it was interesting how in her book, The Power of Different, Gail Saltz mentioned that many prominent writers continue to write even in the midst of depression. Creative expression helps them to deal with it. I keep on hand a list of creative activities for bad days. Poetry and intuitive painting are at the top. I'm also very good at editing my writing when I'm in a low mood.

Cultivate a positive attitude. I've found that it's okay to recognize what's not so great, but at the same time I can't allow myself to forget that the world is full of possibilities. For every depressing circumstance, there is a successful way for me to deal with my difficult feelings. I am positive that I can overcome adversity, even on days when I feel like I absolutely can't.

Surround yourself with good friends. Emotional Health First Aid by Guy Winch encourages creating a list of people who make you feel the most comfortable being yourself, and then spend some time with them. I've found that doing this has helped me to lessen the severity of my social anxiety. Also minimizing actions that keep people away (for example, negative body language and lurking in corners of social settings) has helped me to start the process of making some exciting new friendships.

It's nice to know that what I'm doing to manage my depression and anxiety is also what's common among people who live long and fulfilling lives in general. And although it has been an up and down struggle, the coping skills I've learned will continue to serve me well.

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