This year has been a lot. That’s the best way I can describe it- just a lot going on. It has been more frantic and busy and emotional than other years so, of course, my anxiety and depression have been higher than other years. Fortunately, I don’t rely on meds as I did in my teens and my early twenties, but I cannot just ignore it so I have found alternate coping skills. On top of these skills, I have found that a better diet with less junk food, no pop and gluten-free has helped a ton, as has my new relationship with fitness. I just took a break from working out but I am easing back in with morning yoga, which is helping.
In my teens, my depression was at its highest; making me feel as if I was constantly being dropped further in to a deep black pit of despair. Had I known that I wasn’t a freak and that MANY other people feel this way during certain periods of their life, I don’t think I would have attempted suicide. As it was, I felt extremely alone and freakish. Although I haven’t felt suicidal since my early twenties, I do have low days where even preparing a meal seems a Herculean task. I have to self-soothe and remind myself of all the wonder in my life. However, sometimes I do need to feel less alone and I spend some time on those days checking out cartoons of people that “get it”. Thank goodness for the internet and online solidarity.
Since this year has been an emotional roller-coaster for me and full of tasks, obligations, meeting people, and appointments, I have had to really focus on what keeps me balanced. Social events and gatherings are great and I love them, but they are also an intense experience for me and introvert hangovers are a real thing.
Depression and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. On days when you feel low and anxious and everything- Everything! Including when choosing what socks to wear seems overwhelming- there are ways to get yourself back to being on solid ground.
Here are some of the things that work for me*:
(*I must note that my chemical imbalance is moderate and can be regulated with diet and a support system around me, but if you have a high chemical imbalance and also need anti-depressants you should keep taking those as well. I am not a doctor! You do you. Whatever you need in this world to keep your balance and be happy(ish), do not be ashamed to use).
- Read comics from artists that GET IT to feel less alone. It’s as if these artists can see inside my head and my heart. I find that if I spend a few minutes browsing my faves, I find myself smiling cuz there are others out there who have gone through it, too. My absolute favourites are- Introvert Doodles, the illustrator Sow Ay’s series on anxiety and depression, and Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen.
- I crochet! Focusing on the pattern and what the next stitch is…and the next stitch…and the next stitch keeps me focused only on what I am doing and not the anxious thoughts or how tired/crappy I feel. I consider it an active meditation. You can do it with television or a fave movie on in the background as well- but I find it most effective when you are just sitting in your fave spot in the house with nothing on for background noise. It is just the quiet shushing of the yarn and the thought of the next stitch to do. I try to keep my thoughts calm or quiet them so that it is calming and meditative. It is part of the reason I started BabblingPandaYarns. That store is part therapy! If that isn’t your thing, my friend has been managing her anxiety with colouring, which has the same result since she only focuses on how the picture is shaping up and what colour to choose next. I also love to colour. Before it became a trend, I would search Pinterest for pages to print out on my own. It’s cheap and easy and immediate. If you have a bit of time between colouring projects, there are now a ton of gorgeous colouring books out there to choose, in stores or online.
- Start an anxiety-busting Pinterest board. Although aimless browsing has the potential to make you feel you aren’t doing enough, creating a specific board can lift your mood. I have two. One is called Joyful Colour, where I have pinned every colourful thing that made me smile and my heart feel full to look at. I dare you to look and not feel a little happier at the colourful beauty in the world. The other is Great Animals: a board filled with the most impressive or adorable animals I could find. Why that makes me happier should be self-explanatory, I would think. 😉 Tattoos also make me happy, so I have a board of those, too! You could start a board of anything that makes you smile, is your passion or brings you joy.
- It is tempting, when you’re feeling low, to want to watch something in the ‘misery loves company’ category. Let me suggest the opposite. Watch something that is so ridiculous that it can’t really be like your life so that it gets you out of your own head and forces you to smile. My suggestions are The IT Crowd , Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, or Absolutely Fabulous.
- As a lover of words, since birth, I love to journal. Although I should do it more often, I do it sporadically. Hopefully I can make it a habit again since the benefits of keeping a daily journal are astounding. If keeping a journal isn’t your thing, I think a small act of self-care every single day is just the thing. Perhaps taking the time to make yourself a pretty cup of tea and sitting to drink it while gazing out the window or at your fave picture on the wall has restorative qualities. Quietly repeating a positive mantra to yourself (“I am enough”) or listing the things you are grateful for in your head (“A roof over my head. This cup of tea. …”) will keep you from spiraling in to negative thought patterns.
I hope these suggestions help you as they have helped me fight my mild anxiety and depression this year. Summer is coming. We got this.