Living with depression and anxiety – 8 tips to a happier you – The Traveling Island Girl
If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw the post recently in which I admitted to be suffering from depression and anxiety. I must thank you all, by the way for your support. It is not an easy thing to admit to and I definitely did not do it for pity or attention.
My mom is of the opinion that one should never reveal one’s issues and struggles to anyone. Keep that shit secret and hidden. Put up a brave face and struggle on. Such is life after all, right?
Sorry mom. As much as I love and admire you this is one of the things I disagree with you on the most. Fact is that I am an endometriosis patient suffering from depression and anxiety and I am not ashamed of any of it. Out there, right this minute someone on the other side of the world might be reading this, and this blog post as well as those I wrote about my struggles with endometriosis might be very helpful. Just knowing that there are others out there, who like you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning and sometimes wish they never had to wake up at all, can be a very helpful thing somehow.
“Yeah, she’s smiling. But don’t let that fool you. Look into her eyes. She is breaking inside.”
It was right after my 44th birthday a few weeks ago that I realized that my depression and anxiety had completely taken over my life. I was binge drinking, drowning my sorrow one cocktail at the time. I would wake up hungover at least twice a week and on those occasions would search for a cure at the bottom of another bottle. Hair of the dog and all that crap, right? I would go to bed only to wake up a few hours later, before crashing again an hour or so before I had to get up and go be a productive human being. I was tired all the time and had the bags under my eyes to prove it.
I started working with my husband out of guilt and because it was expected of me. It didn’t matter to anyone that it made me deeply unhappy. I would cry in my office, desperate for some light at the end of what seemed like a very long, dark tunnel. I often felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I started retreating more and more, only leaving my house when I absolutely had to. Putting up a fake smile would take up all of the little energy I had left. So I would just stay home with my cats and dogs, not knowing that this behavior was actually feeding my depression.
I can go on and on about all the crapy things in my life but that is not why you’re reading this, is it? There comes a time when you finally say enough is enough. All the stars align and you feel ready to tackle your depression for good. I did some research and immediately implemented them. Mind you, most of what I’m about to tell you, I already knew for years, but it was so much easier to turn to alcohol and other really bad habits then it is to face your demons and start working towards a happier you.
“I drank to drown my pain but the damned pain learned how to swim.”
Bye Bye Alcohol
Obviously the booze has got to go. Whether you’re an occasional drinker or a binge drinker, alcohol fuels depression and that is a fact. I went cold turkey. I suddenly felt ready and just did it but it took me years to get to this point. Will my sobriety last? I hope so. But even if I decide to pick up a glass again I hope it is an occasional glass here and there and definitely not the excessive amounts I used to drink before. But for the early stages just cut out alcohol in its entirety. There is no place for alcohol when you are trying to live a happier life with depression and anxiety. Stay away from your usual watering holes in the beginning to avoid temptation and tell your friends about what you are trying to achieve. Your true friends will understand and support your decision.
Read my friend Mariah’s blog post on her break up with alcohol here.
Sleep is a necessity. Sleep is everything. Without sleep you cannot function. I was walking around grumpy, tired, frustrated and just sad all the time and I couldn’t understand why? I was not getting the deep sleep I needed. So I turned to pot and sleeping pills. They helped, for a brief second until they didn’t anymore. It became a habit instead of a cure. Your body requires a deep sleep so that you can function properly. Stop using your bed for everything. Your bedroom should be a tv, work and clutter free zone. Try going to bed at the same time every day and waking up at the same time every morning and avoid naps during the day. Also, avoid eating after 8pm. Going to bed with a full stomach causes heartburn, gas, nausea and even nightmares.
Break up with the bad
Stop doing what makes you unhappy. Whether it’s your work, your relationship or your friendship, if it does not fulfill you, push you forward or make you happy, it might be time to let it go. So many times we get stuck in dead end jobs, unhappy marriages and unhealthy friendships for all the wrong reasons. Choose you. Stop letting guilt, your family, your friends and society dictate what you should be doing with your life.
Of course it’s not that easy. Last time I checked money still makes the world go round, breaking up your marriage is harder said than done and so is walking away from unhealthy friendships. I also believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Try a job that sucks less. Pick up a hobby to distract you from all that is making you unhappy. Try a trial separation from your spouse. Stop associating with “friends” that don’t have your best interests at heart. I can give you a lot of options but fact is I am not in your shoes. This is your life and only you know what works best.
Take it easy
So, you decided to start working immediately on a happier, healthier you. Good for you. Now remember, don’t overdo it. Take it step by step. You are changing your life and with big changes can come insecurities and frustration, which can all lead to more anxiety. So, let your body guide you. Don’t be in a hurry and whatever you do, don’t stress. If you’re feeling tired, rest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. It is essential that you do not force yourself in the beginning.
Yoga, meditation and all that good shit
Yoga is popular for a reason. It works. Same goes for meditation. A happy body and mind is a happy you. Simple. Practicing yoga improves your balance, flexibility and strength while meditation keeps your mind sharp and relieves stress and anxiety. If yoga is not for you, try a different exercise program and add some sex and laughter while you’re at it. These are all proven methods to increase endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals produced by your body.
What you eat
I just mentioned above that a happy and healthy body is a happy you, so take your diet into consideration. Try changing your eating habits and eat healthier. More veggies, less animal bi products, less caffeine, etc etc. While you’re at it, try eating on time, don’t skip breakfast and avoid going for seconds.
The power of mantras
This is something that works for me personally. My anxiety level was through the roof. I could not sleep because I worried constantly about my pets, so I would wake up in the middle of the night to check on them. My husband works late a lot, it’s part of the job when you own a bar. But I would worry myself sick when he was out at night and would sleep very lightly or not at all until I heard him get safely into the house. I had many sleepless nights stressing about any and every thing. The alcohol I was consuming certainly did not help. So I came up with my own mantra. I would repeat to myself and envision it: The dogs are ok. The dogs are ok. The dogs are ok.
It works for me. Perhaps your own mantra can help you too.
If you know hanging out at a particular bar can lead to you drinking, avoid that bar for a while. If you know that one particular friend just complains about life all the time, avoid hanging with that friend. In short, avoid stuff that can stress you or trigger you into doing things you shouldn’t be doing. Avoid other people’s insecurities and negativity. That shit is contagious.
Curing your depression and anxiety will not happen overnight and will require work and dedication on your part. You will have setbacks, you may fall off the wagon, you might relapse. This all can happen.It is so easy to fall back into bad habits. It’s familiar and can give you a fake sense of comfort. Change is unknown and that can be scary. You also need to be ready to commit. Accept that change is unavoidable. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. On that same note, shitty things happen all the time. Stay focused and don’t let these take you off your path to a happier you.
Think of all the positive that can come out of this. You will become happier and have a more positive outlook on life. Your body will feel better, your skin will look better, you will have more energy and less pain. Only good can come out of this. So, what do you say? Are you ready to say goodbye to your depression and anxiety?
The above tips are based on my ongoing battle against depression and anxiety. I am no expert nor do I pretend to be. All above is based on my personal experiences.