It seems like more and more of us are facing anxiety and/or depression these days or maybe we just live in a moment where it’s less taboo to talk about it so we’re sharing openly, thus making it feel like more of us are facing it when the numbers have always been around what they are. The numbers really aren’t the point though, our feelings and mental health are. There are of course levels to everything and my struggle with anxiety or depression won’t look like yours. I’m not going to get into why either of these things happen in our lives or the scientific causes of them because I don’t have any training the fields of mental health, psychology, or counseling. But, I will share some coping mechanisms I’ve found, through therapy and reaching out for support, that work for me. This list is in no particular order.
I have a problem with being present and I’ve learned it’s a big cause of my anxiety. I can be bad at letting myself just enjoy where I’m at because I’m always looking ahead to the next thing or reflecting on the past (usually a not so positive aspect of it as well). Basically, I’m not always the kindest to myself in my head and I don’t always show myself the grace I extend to other people. I’m learning more about why that is through therapy. What my core beliefs are and why it’s hard for me to just relax and be? The list goes on, but the list isn’t the point.
The point is that meditating helps me retrain my brain and gives me a dedicated moment each day where all I have to do is be in the moment. It’s teaching me how to notice my thoughts without fixating on them or judging myself for them because the brain is an organ like anything else and it’s going to act up from time to time. But I fix a stomach ache with medicine and I’m retraining my brain through meditation. I want to get to a place where I’m meditating in the morning and night, but for right now while I’m still making it a habit, I meditate right before I fall asleep. I’m focusing on having a restful and relaxing sleep. This is important for me because my anxiety is usually strongest as I’m heading to bed since there’s nothing else for me to occupy my brain with except my thoughts.
I am and of course always have been a writer. But beyond writing books or content for The Reign XY, I write just to keep myself sane, always have. My therapist is always stressing to me the importance of contrary evidence especially when it comes to my anxiety. We’ll be in a session and I’ll be listing XYZ and she’ll interject with evidence that proves what my head has made to be true, wrong. I’ve found the lesson in reframing useful. So, when my anxiety is getting overwhelming, I do this for myself. I write down whatever is causing the anxiety and then I write down all the evidence I have to the contrary. Again, I struggle with negative self-talk and creating situations or feelings in my head that don’t exist outside of my head when I objectively look at the facts. So this exercise helps me because it brings me back to what is real instead of keeping me focused on the lie I told myself about whatever is going on.
My therapist has also helped me see that beyond just documenting ideas or what happened from day to day, journaling is a tool that can help me become more in tune with myself. I’m working to be in a place where I can better hold things as they are without moving from one extreme to another or judging myself for my feelings. Gaining clearer insight into my feelings, my beliefs, and just who I am in a safe space that’s just for me, is another tool she’s challenged me to utilize.
Try this: I feel anxious about XYZ. I have contrary evidence of XYZ. See how the reframing works for you.
I’ve already mentioned my therapist like fiftyleven times, but going back to therapy this summer has been immensely helpful in not only understanding the sources of my mental health struggles but gaining tools to cope. I’m thankful that I’m still young enough to be on my parent’s insurance and that the plan allows for mental health care. If that’s not your situation either through work or a family plan, here are some guides to finding free or reduced therapy because money shouldn’t be a barrier to getting the help you need (even though in America, we all know it often is).
One of the hardest things for me when I’m feeling low or more anxious than usual is to have any desire to get out of bed. I’m def a self-isolater and sometimes can’t get myself to do the things that I know will help me feel better. Basically, I really need to get out of my head when I’m struggling the most and I’ve found that getting active is the best way for me to do that. Whether it means going to the gym, dancing around my apartment, going for a walk, or even cooking, I need to do something that gets me out of my head and into my body. It helps me come back to the present and release the anxious thoughts or at least notice them without fixating on them.
I made a playlist (sorry, it’s only on Apple Music) that I put on a dance to when I can’t be bothered to go as far as leaving my house to walk or go to the gym. But, my therapist has challenged me to nurture myself which for me means figuring out what it looks like when I’m loving on and living for myself first. That’s usually involved some form of proper physical activity, so I’ll be getting a good old gym subscription soon here.
dancing/rapping for self-care, if there’s a song you think I should add, let me know!
To beat a dead horse (LOL) I struggle with negative self-talk and not giving myself grace, so a lot of my work is about reframing ideas for myself. I’ve found affirmations to be a great way to do this. I write down or just say a positive or reframing mantra to myself. I make an encouraging word my iPhone background. I post them on my IG story so I’m reminded as I’m scrolling through it for the 100th time every day. You can find them all over the internet, make them for yourself, and even buy books of them. But if we are or become our thoughts, then I want mine to be positive.
I don’t think you ever get over or past anxiety and depression if they are apart of your mental health struggle, but I do believe they don’t have to be the only story you tell yourself or the world about yourself. I do believe I am more than my anxiety and depressive episodes. I do believe I’m still worthy of love, support, and a life that brings me joy. The above are just some ways I’ve learned to cope so I can move through those moments quicker and get back to homeostasis, which I’m learning doesn’t have to be low, but that’s an article for another day.
If you try any of them, let me know how they work for you. If you have some tools of your own, please share in the comment box. I have a feeling we could all use them.
Photo: Damola Akintunde