I mentioned a week ago that I was having a Charlie Brown week. It’s because September through December is the worse time of year for me.
The last couple weeks were especially rough. It reminded me that I am not the only one struggling through the holidays.
Which is why I have decided at this time to reveal my top 21 secrets! If nothing else, it’s a list to remind myself of what works. I hope that it is more. I hope it is a list worth sharing with someone who may need it.
Here is what I learned to do
- I learned to acknowledge that depression and anxiety is now a normal part of my life. You can’t manage something that you refuse to take the time to understand.
- I learned to recognize my triggers and warning signs. Sometimes you I am so busy or so depressed I don’t recognize the signs or the situations.
- I learned to make a plan of action I could follow. In the beginning this had to be something very simple I could say yes to during a cycle of depression or an anxiety attack. Once I was successful in following through consistently, I added another one. I admit. This was the hardest thing I had to learn.
- I learned to outsource my OCD. Like hiring my neighbor for services like cleaning or as a personal assistant. I discovered I tend to recover from a cycle faster if the house is clean and orderly.
- I learned that photography is therapy for me. I discovered that when depressed, I forgot that there was time when I had energy, when I was happy. It felt like my good memories were being overwritten by revisiting the bad ones. Capturing a moment in time for a future day helps to rewire my brain.
- I learned to Notebook my depression. I like to write down what my current problems or issues are on one side. I write down what I think will happen if things continue the way they are. I take notes as new information presents itself. It gives me an opportunity to ask myself if I truly believe these things.
- I learned to spend time with Nature. There is something calming about nature. It resets me. It draws me out and reminds me that I am a part of this world.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” – Henry David Thoreau
- I learned to make an effort to get everyone out of the house. Home is comforting, but it can easily fall into too much of a good thing. A crutch that unintentionally neglects healthy habits and relationships.
- I learned to make time for myself. A trip to the coffee-house. A hike through the woods. A walk around the block. I need a place and a time to hear myself think and feel. I find I make the best decisions when I have taken the time to connect with myself!
- I learned to disconnect. From electronics. From busy schedules. I confess my family is not always on board with this. This works well when you plan to reconnect with a week or a month.
- I learned to embrace silly. I came across an old photo of myself dressed as Bat Girl. It was one of those pictures I could recognize my true self in. There was also a time when my giggling children irritated me. Where on earth did they get all that silly energy? Why me, of course.
- I learned to meditate. Well. Sort of. I used to have an empty space of peace and quiet. It was never found again after having twins. Recently, I rediscovered a quiet place between the pages of a coloring book. Turns out the kids respect mediation through coloring.
- I learned to cultivate my nature. Sure I was reading good books, but they were doing nothing for me. Somewhere along the way I had neglected to read books and poems that might challenge my beliefs. When I read I learn about the human experience in a new way.
- I learned to seek myself through art. I once signed up for a class to paint a tree. I am not saying I was any good. I did feel whole. Now I am trying to teach myself how to draw but don’t hold your breath for a masterpiece anytime soon!
- I learned to express myself. This is where I pour my heart through pen and paper. It is messy! But once it is on paper, I felt as if it releases me from having to live it over and over again.
- I learned to give myself permission to feel every emotion. It meant being vulnerable. It was more than just wearing my heart on my sleeve… It meant I was allowing myself to walk through places I had up until this compartmentalized. Now that I am better connected with myself, they serve me with honest warnings and insights. it was like restoring my personal GPS.
- I learned to curse. I felt from early on conditioned to refrain from saying and doing things that would be offensive. To the point were I devalued my own needs. Turns our cursing within reason is a healthy thing to do. I learned that to me it symbolizes I have a choice.
- I learned not to take responsibility for others. I learned that when I said I was sorry, to mediate a situation, it didn’t matter whose fault it was – I had assumed the blame in the relationship. Talk about unnecessary stress and paving the way for toxic relationships!
- I learned to care. When I took the time to understand the other person and show them that I cared, I felt better. Kelly McGongial’s TED talk highlights why stress is important for us. The cure is being kind. When we are actively being kind we release hormones that help you recover from stress faster. Caring creates resilience.
- I learned to delete old Facebook posts. I like to keep posts that give context to my life. If I think it will remind me to smile in a year or two, I keep it. The rest I delete.
- I learned to create new rituals. I spent a couple of years stripping away traditions and rituals I felt no longer served me or my family. Turns out that rituals are a core part of our human nature! So once I basically had a clean slate, I went on a hunt for something more meaningful. I try to put the focus on things that help me feel present. My favorite daily ritual? Making, sniffing, and sipping tea!
You might not think all 21 ideas relate to dealing with anxiety, but surprisingly they do.
Especially because some of my depression triggers are the result of anxiety – the best course of action for me, is to get ahead of the cycle with a healthy game plan!
Talking about healthy. Most of these things do work really well with handling depression and walking away a little stronger… Which is why I feel I should warn you about why #16 shocked me and my family.
It allowed me to be angry.
I am not proud to say that I have used my anger occasionally to get through depression. Sometimes that is all there is left.
I tell you this because I feel in many ways that I am still learning to manage my depression and anxiety. I am always looking for new tools to use, because I have no desire to continue suffering in silence or to hurt the ones I love by my actions.
If you’ve been there and have discovered your own secret way of handling it, I would love to hear about it!