5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety & Depression From My Own Experience
Have you ever been so riddled with anxiety, that you can barely decide on what to do next, whether it be a new project, first tasks at work or just picking a hobby on a Saturday afternoon? Even the most simplest things seem so incredibly complicated. I guess one of the signs of depression is indecisiveness and the inability to focus or finish a task. I've learned from experience that after an anxiety attack, I slip into a strange fatigue-like state, and I am assuming that's the depression part of it all. I'm not "sad" per se -- I'm just blah and I find myself pulling back from the world. Sometimes my friends think that I'm upset with them or that I no longer want to spend time with them. But it's so far from the truth. My mind can only handle very little interaction at that time. But it does pass. This is what keeps me sane. Some episodes last longer than others. The one thing that I have learned is: it's OK to have your down moments and become a part time recluse if that's what you need. It's OK to cry. It's OK to rest after a panic attack. What most people don't realize (as well as myself at first), is that anxiety doesn't always necessarily strike right at the peak of your most stressful moments. Because usually, when you have to help someone or rectify a very intense situation -- your mind goes into self-preservation mode. It's usually a week or longer when the panic strikes -- when your mind is at ease and then all of the thoughts come flooding in. This is what I learned from my experience. Everybody's different though. But this is why many people say, "But I don't know why I'm stressing out so badly right now!" Maybe it isn't about "now". And remember, if you are not "in the now", and you are living in the past, then that equals depression. When you are living in the future -- that equals anxiety. But how many of us can say that we can consistently live in the present. It is one hard task!
Animals are healing.
Funny, many people rely on their dogs to relieve their anxiety. There are some people who make their dogs into service dogs for various reasons. One of my friends has a service dog for her anxiety. For me, that's not possible. My cute little chihuahua mix would drive me absolutely crazy. When I take her to the park or just out for a ride with me, she's absolutely loca. However, at night, my dog will know five minutes before I get a myoclonic seizure from anxiety. She jumps off the bed, waits for the attack to be done and over with, and then she lays right besides me, almost spooning me until I fall asleep. She comforts me in different ways. But to have her 'out and about' with me -- no. I'd need a few glasses of vino for that trip. But if you have a well behaved dog who is calming for you -- that may be the solution. Animals are sentinel animals and they can tell when you're upset, feeling anxious and even when you're happy. I remember one morning I was holding back tears, and my dog stopped right in her tracks and just stared at me like, "What's wrong???" She jumped on my lap and licked my face. That alone made me feel better. She just knew.
Never be ashamed to ask for help.
I've been with the same therapist for a couple of years now. She literally saved my life. I think I'm one of the fortunate ones, because she genuinely has this nurturing and compassionate heart for people. She'll stop right in her tracks to help you even while she has her own things going on. Not that I expect that -- but I feel very lucky and oddly "safe" with her. I never feel safe. This past week I have been suffering with panic attacks where I can't get a full breath in. I try yawning and yawning just so I can breathe (sounds weird) and it freaks me out. I'm not sure why this has been happening either. So I contacted my therapist and made an appointment. But unfortunately, I had another panic attack right before I left to go to her office. She literally dropped what she was doing and drove to my house and did some yoga with me. She taught me some new coping skills for my anxiety. If you can find somebody you click with -- and remember -- they're all human so you have to give them a chance, then you will start seeing the results. You'll be surprised at how relieved you'll feel. Even my dog was even peaceful after she petted her. After she left my home, I felt so incredibly calm and peaceful. It felt like she dropped a horse tranquilizer into my water. (Hmm.) I then realized -- wow -- I can breathe again.
The stigma of mental illness.
A friend of mine was worried that all of her anxiety and depression would make her look "crazy". That is so far off the mark since it's so incredibly normal. We have to bypass or remove the stigma of mental illness. And I used to get offended when somebody would refer to my anxiety to "mental illness" -- but that's exactly what it is: dysfunction of the mind. That's why they call it anxiety disorder. It's nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it may enable you to connect with others on a much deeper level. Anxiety comes in many forms. It can even come in forms of rage, anger or even withdrawal. It doesn't have to be the classic case which I have -- pounding heart, shortness of breath, hypochondriacal thoughts of something medically wrong -- it can manifest in other ways. The most talented artists and musicians usually have mental illness themselves. In their most depressed state, they usually create their best work, whether it be music, painting or poetry, etc.
Reconnect with your Source: God.
I make it a point to connect with God on a daily basis. I have my two hour meditation and prayer time in the morning, and sometimes an hour at night. If I miss a session or more than a day --- I am completely lost. The peace I get from drawing closer to God is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. In fact, I think it's the most important thing in the entire world (for me at least). There are many atheists who claim that it's all but chemical reactions taking place in our brain, producing a euphoric sense of happiness. So what if it is? Who cares. It works for me and many others. But I have to say that I have witnessed God's presence in my life (call me crazy or whatever) and I will never forget that. I wrote the story in my book I published a decade ago. So I believe because I have seen. In John 20:29 it states, blessed are those who believe without seeing.
Jump into nature.
I truly believe this is so healing. There's something about being outdoors -- just being around nature that makes your soul feel alive. I am fortunate enough to have such an amazing view from my deck, but it's more than that. I have been spending some of my time in parks or just hanging around the nearby lake. Some believe the best way to connect with God is to be in nature. So basically, these are all things that have helped me with my anxiety and depression. I usually come out with one of these types of posts so that I can share with others who suffer like myself. I also believe that we choose to either be happy or depressed. Even if you are dragging ass and don't feel like doing anything -- get up -- take a hot shower and get out there. And if you can't, then be HAPPY where you are at this very moment. Make the best of what you have "in the now" -- in this moment, because that's all we truly ever have.