The experience of anxiety and depression is so personal and so individual .
The physical and emotional manifestation of these conditions and the intensity of course differs between people but importantly, can also be a completely new beast for an individual each time a phase of anxiety or depression rears it’s ugly head.
Feelings of anxiety or depression can vary from feeling slightly worried and low to being completely debilitated and wishing that you could just disappear because you’re just exhausted and tired of fighting and don’t see a future ahead….and all kinds of shades and combinations in between.
I thought I’d share my own personal strategies that I’ve developed over these last 18 months to deal with periods of anxiety and depression.
Anxiety in particular is the little blighter that stalks me each day and so a lot of my personal reflections are more driven by tackling this particular condition.
However, it’s unfortunate and almost inevitable that for someone suffering with anxiety, the more anxious they feel, the more they get annoyed at themselves and the feelings of worthlessness kick in leading to self loathing, guilt and ultimately depression.
That’s why these two monsters are perfect and deadly partners in crime.
Therefore, I do have some experience of depression that I can draw on in this post.
I appreciate that some of this is very simplistic and will not work for everyone.
What works for you when you’re battling your demons?
- Know yourself and recognise your triggers
Intense periods of anxiety and depression used to sneak up and engulf me from the shadows, seemingly with no warning.
However, I’ve now learnt to pick up on the first subtle signs of changes in my behaviour and the way I feel….small nuances that cause ripples and alert me to early warning signs that trouble may be around the corner.
My friends are so insightful they often notice before I do and swoop in to help like the angels they are!
However, I’ve learnt that my things to look out for are:
- Intense tiredness and lack of energy (from an over production of adrenaline)
- Obsession/over thinking/ a specific narrowing of focus over elements of my life that at any other time I’d consider trivial or mundane
- A lack of perspective on what’s important
- Isolation from friends and family
- Feelings that people don’t like me/would be better off without me with no real incident, evidence or in fact any rationale to support this
- When I’m quiet!!!
When I start feeling any of these, or when my friends spot these, I know that I need to implement some of the steps below.
2) Listen to your body
Constant to do lists or negative thoughts looping in your head, constant worrying and overthinking leads to high adrenaline which leaves you completely shattered.
I’ve often tried to push through this before when the irrational voice in my head tells me to keep going or the world will collapse!
Stop. Slow down.
If you need to sleep, sleep.
If you need to relax, relax,
If you need to talk, talk.
Throw the to do list out the window or if you can’t do that, challenge yourself as to what really is important, or ask a friend to help with gaining some perspective.
And don’t feel guilty.
3) Learn what makes you feel better
I’ve learnt that the only times I am present and in the moment and therefore not thinking or fretting about the past or present is when I’m enjoying music or enjoying a good book.
If I need a little pick me up, I like to listen to the Defected Glitterbox Podcast and dance around my room!
If I am feeling really anxious, I like to light candles, turn off my phone (constant social media checking does not help when you’re not feeling particularly great) and completely immerse myself in a book.
There have been times when even the J.K. Rowling’s of the world can’t transport me out of my anxious brain and I’ve found that reading books about dealing with mental health or spirituality very helpful.
Some of my favourites that I’ve read again and again are:
- Reasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig
- Happy- Fearne Cotton
- The Power of Now- Eckhart Tolle
- How to be Mindful- Anna Barnes
These books not only help me feel like I’m taking some practical steps but also help me understand some of the physical and emotional responses that are happening in my brain and, importantly, help me realise I’m not alone.
I am a social person and I know I’m feeling low when I really can’t face socialising- not only am I exhausted, the thought of either having to pretend to be normal or to have to try and explain how I feel to someone who may not understand how I feel (when I don’t really understand how I feel myself ) feels like actual hell.
Sometimes you may need time on own and that’s fine. But my experience in the last few months has taught me there is a fine line between giving yourself some recovery and isolating yourself- I’ve learnt feeling this way is alienating enough.
During periods of intense anxiety or depression, I usually give myself an afternoon of lying in bed and then make myself get up, get showered and visit someone I love, even if it’s just for an hour.
4) Kindfulness and gratitude
Bear with me on this one as I know this may be a little too ‘fluffy’ for some but kindfulness and gratitude are my 2 new favourite super tools for fighting the little demons when they get too much.
I was a massive fan of mindfulness and I still am, but what I’ve found is that when you’re feeling anxious and down you can already feel a little insular or even selfish and therefore guilty about this behaviour. Mindfulness and focussing so intensely on yourself and your feelings, I’ve personally found, has further exacerbated a feeling of selfishness and to a degree alienation.
So I’m favouring kindfulness and focussing my energy on being present but also on being kind to others.
I’ve found that this projection of positive energy towards others in trying to be more compassionate, helpful and friendly has helped me to overcome some tough times.
I’ve also started writing down 3 small things I’m grateful for at the end of each day. Every day. On days when I’m feeling positive and sassy and like a girl boss that can conquer the world and on days when it seems like I’m stuck in a fog of self doubt and misery and can’t get out of bed.
What this has done, has taught me that there are beams of light even in the darkest of days. And that’s powerful.
Ok I totally would have (and did!) roll my eyes at this suggestion 4 months ago. It seemed like such a generic thing to say.
But what d’ya know , the experts are right! Exercise totally helps with your state of mind.
I, a girl who skipped every sports day in her life and was definitely more GIN than GYM started regularly exercising in the morning during the summer and the endorphins are a total game changer in terms of boosting my day and my perspective.
I don’t know what I’d do without it now.
6) It’s time to talk
Talking is important.
I’m not saying you have to tell everyone (or choose to bare all in a blog!) and it’s important in some instances to choose your confidents wisely as not everyone will understand and having to explain, defend or justify can be emotionally taxing and damaging.
But there will be people who you can talk too, and for those angels, let them know you’re feeling unwell and let them know what you need.
If that’s to chat- they’ll be there.
If that’s to lock yourself away for a bit, that’s fine too, but I find having a little text at regular intervals asking if I’m ok means SO much.
And importantly, it’s so important to speak out if your depression and anxiety is at an intensity level where you’re unable to use the kind of tools above or self manage because that’s when professional help is needed.
Talking honestly to your family/someone you trust, GP or other health care professionals if you’re feeling in crisis is so important.
7) The most important advice:
Never, ever, suffer alone.