When you have your first anxiety attack or depressive episode, it may feel like the end of the world. The feeling of losing the ground under your feet, the frantic need to hold on to some invisible pillar, that will keep you from falling, keep you from losing it, you want instant relief, so you turn to pop a sedating pill or alcohol, anything that you can get your hands on, to soothe you. But all those are just temporary reliefs that might drift you away from reality for a little while. However, when you regain senses, your troubles are right there staring at you, stronger than ever. With anxiety and depression there is no easy way out, if you do not want to be hooked on to medication for the rest of your life, you need to work hard. You need to address the negative feelings and nip them in the bud. As someone who has struggled to keep ground, when the walls were caving in, here are some tips that I found, helped me get to the end of the tunnel.
1. Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
We have been wired to believe that it’s not ok to feel down and it’s not ok to be low, that it is a sign of weakness. So most of the time when we are overcome with feelings that weigh us down, instead of addressing them we try to suppress them. We try to muffle the voice inside us; that says ‘I can’t handle it anymore’. To put a brave front, we stop listening to that voice. That is where the real problem begins. When we are hungry or thirsty, our mind tells our body that we need food or drink. What would happen, if we did not listen to our bodily needs at all?? We will eventually starve ourselves to death. So similarly, when you do not listen to your mind, when it tells you “I am sad, I need a break”, you are slowly and surely killing yourself. Therefore, it is necessary to ‘be with your feelings’, feel them, face them, if you need to cry, cry, talk to a friend, a therapist, but do not deny them an outlet. For that would just mean, they keep building up, till you have a volcanic explosion and breakdown completely.
Often people, particularly those with depressive, anxious tendencies, indulge in a lot of negative self talk. Constantly, beating themselves up about what they ‘should’ do, what they ‘could’ have done. The negativity resultantly turns into self-fulfilling prophecies. The more you keep critiquing yourself the more embedded the criticism becomes in your mind and you start believing that you ‘did not’ do things in a certain way, that they should have and could have been done. It is detrimental to your sanity, and you need to stop doing it right now.
Replace the negative self programming with positive affirmations instead. Stop lamenting and tell yourself, all that you can do and keep repeating, till your thoughts become your reality. Affirmations work at a subconscious level to, strengthen your belief in yourself. When you are distressed, you tend to get engulfed in self doubt and your belief in yourself, gets shaken to the core. Hence, reiterating your faith in yourself is essential to maintain your confidence and keep you going.
3. Make Someone Happy
You might be thinking, ‘how can I make someone happy, when I am not happy myself?’ The normal list of tips and remedies for depression, would explain to you different methods for keeping yourself happy; yet I am crazy enough to ask you, to ‘make someone else happy!’ Well, yes and I think it is the single most powerful tool, that empowers you and leads you to happiness. Call it Karma, what goes around does come back around too.
One study reveals that we feel happier when we give, as opposed to when we receive. There is something incredible about the feeling, that you have, when you help someone out, put a smile on someone’s face, the realization that you made someone else’s day. So in a way, our selfless act is basically, catering to our own self foremost. The $5 that we give to someone else or the tear that we wipe, may not have cost us much in terms of money and time, but for someone dying of hunger it meant ‘life’ and for someone depressed it meant, ‘hope’. Those are intangible, yet priceless things and the thought that we can have such an impact on someone’s life is overwhelming. The sound of laughter, caused by one of our jokes, makes us soar too. Cleaning someone’s dirt washes your own hands too. The happiness we gain by an activity that affects us only is very limited but the happiness that affects others too is automatically multiplied.
4. Write down Your Feelings
Everyone is not good at verbally communicating their problems. For such folks, instead of talking, writing them out, helps them more. People who are visual like myself, when they have their problems written down; they can better, see and understand them. Talking them out may make me feel lighter but having written them down, serves to put things in perspective for me. That way, I can list my issues priority wise, give sub headings; of ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’, so on. Verbal expression, does not allow me that kind of analysis. So try it.
Keeping a diary is a good way, you can go back and forth. You will be surprised that sometimes things which could have sunk to the back of your mind; may still be subconsciously bothering you. Self awareness is critical to your mental health.
Some sort of cardiac workout is important to elevate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise can lower, cortisol the stress hormone and aids production of endorphins or the ‘happy hormones. Besides, that, when you exercise your confidence, is also boosted as you get in shape. You get a healthy glow on your face. And when you look good, it is natural to feel good as well. When your circulation, improves you feel energized. So much so that according, to a research exercise (especially running) can be just as effective as psychotherapy.
So adding at least 20 minutes of daily, physical activity to your regimen can work wonders in improving your well being.