What a time to be trying to manage depression and anxiety, amiright? Nothing like instability, an important election, an insurrection, and a pandemic to really test our resolve. Have you checked in on yourself lately? How are you?
Have you eaten a meal in the last 4 hours?
Have you been outside today?
How is your self-talk?
I ask myself these questions, and others like them, constantly. I'm okay right now, and I've been okay for a little over two years, but I know what it's like to very suddenly lose that grip on being okay. So when I feel myself slipping, I check-in and follow my recovery plan: take my medicine, no skipping meals even if I don't feel hungry, yoga/exercise, reading (TV doesn't hold my attention and my mind wanders), and talking to someone.
I'm not going to lie. Managing anxiety is constant and sometimes exhausting. Yes, I have a lot of good days and wonderful moments in each day, but in my experience, it takes a lot of effort to stay mentally healthy.
Women sharing their stories with me was incredibly helpful back in 2018, so just in case I can do the same for even one person, I wanted to check-in and share how things have been going.
My anxiety manifested as a terrifying fear that I was dying of a serious illness. Five different doctors and several tests couldn't convince me that I wasn't sick, because I was in constant physical pain. It wasn't until my therapist read me an excerpt from a book on health anxiety, where the author was describing my exact thoughts and feelings, that I started to believe that it was my mind that was betraying me.
Health is still a huge trigger for me. Anytime a family member gets sick, I start feeling anxious and worried that it's something serious. The most overwhelming feeling I get is a desire to sleep through it. To only wake up once they are better. This is rather unfortunate considering we are human, and humans get sick all the time. Especially little humans who go to school and touch everything.
What helps? Honestly, I don't always handle it well, but I take it a day at a time and remind myself of everything I am grateful for. Clean water to drink, food, a place to rest, medicine, access to a doctor. It doesn't seem like it would be, but praciticing gratitude is powerful. Keeping a journal this past year has helped me stay grounded and put things into perspective.
Talking about it helps.
If you can afford a therapist, schedule an appointment. If you have a friend or family member with the mental capacity to take this on, ask for help. Track your thoughts in a journal when you feel like you're spiraling. We might need a push to get through the initial hump, but after a while, we have to be proactive. We have to want to get better, and be willing to put in the work to stay that way. Talk about it. There is no shame in being human.
Yoga and Meditation Resources
I wrote a post a year ago about how movement has become an important part of my life and how much it truly helps: Recovering from Anxiety with Movement. Here are the resources I use:
Yoga (free): 'Yoga with Adriene' on youtube. She is a warm, loving presence and offfers hundreds of classes for free. A few of my favorites: Yoga for Migraines, Yoga for Anxiety, Yoga for Bedtime.
Yoga (paid): Access to free yoga on youtube is awesome, but sometimes, paying for something makes you more likely to actually do it. This is me, to a fault. If I pay for a monthly membership, you better believe I'm going to get my money's worth. Also, even virtually, a class with a teacher you know, like, and are comfortable with makes a big difference in your energy and what you get out of it.
Yoga is political, and both of the classes I pay for reflect yoga's true values. "Yoga is not about temporarily escaping or hiding from reality. Yoga strengthens our resolve and gives us the tools to navigate it all from a place of integrity and truth. Yoga practitioners can be peaceful warriors who stand up for what they believe in and possess the courage to speak out against injustices." - Andrea Rice in Yoga Journal
Pilates with Alyssa from Soultry Sisters: donation-based Saturday morning class ($5-$15 recommended). Sign up with me! Continuum Pilates
Meditation (free): Search through youtube or podcasts for one that speaks to you, there are thousands! I also enjoy just listening to my favorite music, closing my eyes, and focusing on breathing when I need a quiet moment alone.
Meditation (paid): I use Liberate, an app dedicated “to empowering the black, indigenous, and people of color communities on their journey to find inner peace.” All the talks are offered by BIPOC, which is incredibly rare in a wellness space. I absolutely love it, and recommend "Revive Your Flight with The Breath," "Love Your Many Sides," and "Turn Anger into Spiritual Support."
While in the maintenance stage of anxiety, these little habits make a huge difference in my day:
- Making my bed first thing in the morning. Boom. Already got something done.
- Drinking water before coffee. I know, but just try it.
- Declutter your space. I "Marie Kondo'd" my entire house over the span of four months in 2018, and it was the best thing I have ever done. Waking up in a de-cluttered space sets the tone for my entire day.
- Wear clothes you feel good in.
- Read for fun.
You are doing amazing.
If you aren't at the maintenance stage yet and all you did today was survive... that is enough. There were days when all I did was feed my kids, and lay down next to them while they watched a movie or played. Those days and those feelings were temporary, and I don't feel guilty about just needing to get through them while the medicine and therapy were slowly working. It's okay to not be okay. You will get there.
Lastly, I fully recognize that I'm one of the lucky ones. My experience with debiliatating anxiety only lasted a few months because I have good health insurance and a strong support system that kicked into action and got me help within days. There is no mental health stigma in my family and they were quick to recognize the signs. I lost a lot of weight very quickly, my leg was constantly shaking, I was quick to cry, and I didn't want to do anything except lay down. I wasn't myself. I was lost, and I'm so grateful for their patience, love and support while I found my way home.
With love, always,
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