Often I find myself in this destructive cycle: I have stress, I worry about my stress, I do MORE to "combat" my stress, that produces more stress, then I worry about my stress... you get the picture. When I feel anxiety and stress I blame myself and assume I'm not doing "enough" self-care. It must be my fault. Here I am, failing at life yet again.
Am I alone in this?
Thankfully, the logical side of my brain helps me realize this is idiotic. Worrying about my stress and pushing myself to do more to combat stress only produces more stress! It's so silly. When I talk about it out loud to my therapist or to a friend, I realize how crazy I sound. And actually, I have a lot of self-care routines I practice daily. They are embedded in my lifestyle now and I don't even appreciate them as much as I'd like to. I'm proud of myself for the self-care I try to do!
Here are some tips for surviving a day with an anxiety disorder or depression, every little glimpse of joy helps:
- Prayer. Whether you are a Christian or not, I have to believe prayer is powerful. Just giving your heart over, your cares over, to a higher power is transformative. It's a release. It's cathartic. My husband and I both try to live our lives in a constant state of prayer. It's like a constant connection with God. I'm not talking to myself all day; rather I keep my heart and mind open. I silently ask for guidance, peace, assurance. It's what keeps me going and what fills me with unexpected bursts of joy. This Sunday our Pastor said "Setting aside time with God for prayer is like breathing if you want to live,". That's how essential prayer can become to our being and to our mental health. It's just as important as breath- wow.
- Talking. There is something significant about saying your thoughts and emotions out loud. To say something out loud gives it solidarity; it turns your emotions into something tangible. When you can put to words what you're feeling you will be more able to understand them. Words swimming around in your head often get lost, tangled, and warped together. You think yourself into a hole and then try to think yourself back out of the hole. It's just not possible. When I get the opportunity to share my heart with someone- I love it. I am usually very hesitant to share my real feelings with people unless we have a deep relationship or I am heavily prompted. If you're someone who can express your emotions freely, I envy you. What a gift.
- Taking deep breaths. I know, sorta sounds like a clich. But breathing is shown to be relaxing! Yoga is all about the breath. Breath is powerful. If I feel my heart racing or my teeth clenching, I try to stop and take at least three deep breaths. In through the nose... count to three... out through the nose... count to three. Sometimes I realize I haven't taken a deep breath in hours, my breath has been short and stifled. I've been so concentrated on the task at hand or deep in my thoughts I forget to replenish my oxygen supply. Try it sometime this week.
- Hot showers. Taking a hot shower is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket and melting the world away. I love love love hot showers. If we had a bathtub, I would soak in it at every chance (we WILL get one some day). I had a professor in college who was the head of the Social Work department and also had her own child psychology practice. She dealt with things like sexual abuse, abandonment, and death on a daily basis. Talk about producing anxiety and depression. She valued her hot showers and told us she would get in the shower after a long day at work and picture the stress and 'junk' of the day literally washing down the drain off her body. This was her way of releasing it.
- Sleep. If I feel sick, I want to sleep. If I'm sad, I want to sleep. If I'm lonely, I want to sleep. When I'm anxious, I can't sleep, but dearly want to. Sleep is the time your brain organizes and categorizes itself. We cannot survive without sleep, and the more the merrier in my mind. I'm the girl who can't function without her eight hours a night. Studies show that those who do not get enough sleep deal with greater amounts of depression. Your brain and body need rest! A couple times a week I go to bed really early- maybe more than that if you ask my husband. I wake up early for work and by the time the day is over, i'm completely drained. I usually feel great the next day as long as I get proper rest. For those who can't sleep through the night; I've been there. Keep trying everything, eventually you will find something that works. Don't give up!
My grandma always tells me, "Just do the footwork and allow God to do the rest,". All we can do is take care of ourselves and try to strive for healing in all areas of our lives. When I get mad at myself for not doing all the self-care I think I should be doing, I try to realize I can't heal myself. That's where the Lord has to come in.
yogaRachel Brathen aka "Yoga Girl" is super awesome, she is always posting amazing photos and inspirational thoughts. I recommend following her on Instagram or checking out her website. She is someone who embraces self-care and knows what it's like to deal with depression. I love reading through her posts!