For someone who is generally a pretty happy person, going through periods of depression and anxiety was always really concerning for me. (I imagine it’s the same for anyone going through it.) I felt like I was doing something wrong, or like there was inherently something wrong with me; like I was broken. But I’ve learned over the years, that my bouts with depression and anxiety tend to set in when one or two things are happening…either when I’m not being gracious about what I have (ie. I’m comparing myself to others), or when I’ve become disillusioned with the world around me somehow and I’ve started questioning things. Both of these can be used as a catalyst for growth, if we allow them to. I want to give you a few of the ways that help me move through depression and anxiety more quickly.
Let me say this to begin…I’m talking more about small episodes of depression and anxiety that happen from time to time. These ideas will help with chronic depression or anxiety, but those also most definitely require the help of someone who is a professional. Really, in any situation, it’s helpful to seek out a professional to talk to. They can give you an outsider’s perspective, help you see things that you may not, and there is no shame in getting the help you need.
I’m not a licensed therapist or a doctor. This information is not meant to replace any kind of medical advice in any way. This is my experience, and what has helped me many times. Within all of this, I have also been to see a licensed therapist several times; specifically, a cognitive behavioral therapist. She helped me work through things that I was getting stuck on, and to develop skills to go through these things on my own as well.
Sometimes these periods in our lives feel like we’re being pulled backwards, or like we’re being held down. In my experience though, these times come before a major upgrade in my life. It’s like when someone is shooting a bow and arrow…the arrow has to be pulled back before it flies forward. If we can see the potential in our feelings of depression or anxiety, rather than labeling them as “bad” and viewing them as a weight that is holding us down, we can spring forward like that arrow. If we can notice the cycle as soon as it starts happening, we can start to pay attention and keep ourselves from spiraling so far down.
Here are a few of the things that I’ve found to help me when I start feeling that depression or anxiety coming on:
1) Don’t just try to shove your feelings down.
This is the worst thing we can do. Trying to ignore or completely deny how we’re feeling is what gets us to a state of depression or anxiety to begin with. It’s what keeps us swirling around in that cyclone longer and longer. Acknowledge your feelings as soon as they start to show up. Don’t try to just keep going and pretend like nothing is wrong.
Find healthy ways to let these feelings out, and to process them. Some of my favorite ways of doing this include journaling, punching on my punching bag, dancing, and shaking it off (a Qigong exercise). As you’re doing these things, cry, yell, growl, or make whatever sound comes out. Vocalizing these feelings in this way helps to keep this chaotic energy from settling in our tissues.
2) Find a therapist, that you resonate with, that can help you work through things.
There are a lot of different types of people we can seek help from: therapists, counselors, psychologists, and so on. The key though, is finding someone that you feel comfortable with, someone that resonates with who you are. Just because a friend or family member went to see someone and they really liked them, doesn’t mean that you will click with them too. It was important for me to find someone that wasn’t just going to shove pills at me. I wanted someone who would help me learn to deal with the things that were crippling me and help me move forward. That’s why I chose to see a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. There’s no shame in taking medicine. What I’m saying is, find what is right for you, what resonates with you personally. And don’t be afraid to try several different people to find the right fit. Even if you’ve been to see someone several times, or for several years, you’re not stuck with that person.
3) Don’t beat yourself up or allow yourself to believe that you’re not a good person/religious enough/etc.
Everyone goes through things like this from time to time. It might not look the same as what you’re going through and you may not even know. We get really good at hiding these “darker” parts of ourselves from other people. But we’re human. We all have times when things get hard for us to process. Whether we admit it to anyone or not.
4) Don’t try to reason yourself out of it, or tell yourself to just get over it.
“Others have it worse”, “you should bloom where you’re planted”, “don’t be such a baby”, and on and on. We tell ourselves these things, or other people say them to us, and think it’s helpful. We think that if we can just look at the bright side, then everything will magically disappear. That doesn’t happen. It may work for a time, but those feelings just get buried deeper within, and they cause us all sorts of other problems.
5) Be positive, but don’t ignore the lesson.
Part of the issue with depression and anxiety, is that we get stuck in one perspective. That perspective is usually based on fear, feelings of not being enough or not being worthy, etc. We forget that there are a lot of good things in the world, and that there are many other options than we see right now. We forget that we are way more capable than we think we are, to handle whatever it is that life brings our way.
Moving past these feelings is really as simple as changing your perspective, but it doesn’t feel that simple.
Just turning your head to look in a different direction changes your perspective, but you have to bring your mind along too. This requires us to do some inner work and release any feelings or patterns that are tripping us up. These things that we need to work through and release are generally what bring us to these feelings of depression and anxiety in the first place. It’s like a yield sign saying, “Wait! Look at this! Deal with this before moving forward!”.
If we ignore the “bad” feelings entirely, and just try to tell ourselves to be positive about things, we miss the lesson. And unfortunately, when we miss the lesson, or refuse to even look at it, it keeps coming back around for us to learn. So stay positive about the fact that you can handle it (whatever IT is), remember that there is hope, but don’t ignore the invitation to pause.
6) Don’t identify with depression or anxiety.
This goes for any “dis-ease”. Our words matter (LINK TO POST). What you say to your body matters. When we say things like “I’m depressed” or “I have depression”, our brains takes that as us saying we ARE the depression, we ARE depressed as a person. Instead, say “I’m feeling depressed right now, but I’m working through it”. This signals that this is temporary and not a way of life.
7) Give yourself permission to rest and process when you need it.
Lay down when you need to, take space away from people and noise when you need to. And don’t feel bad about it.
8) Do light exercise.
Things like Qigong, Yoga, and walking (especially in nature), are super helpful in releasing what needs to go, and keeping what needs to stay.
9) Be careful what you put into your mind, and allow into your space.
This is always true, but especially at this time. Stay away from the news and social media entirely.
Aside from the negativity that the news always brings with it, TV and social media, are saturated with ads these days. Most of those ads, by design, make us feel inadequate as we are. They are created to sell us the things that we’re lacking in our lives. I’m not saying that advertising is necessarily wrong, but especially when we’re already feeling down, or worried about the things around us, we don’t need to be constantly confronted with anything that is going to make us feel less than.
10) Find ways to entertain yourself, or wind down, that don’t involve scrolling on your phone.
Scrolling is a very mind-numbing activity, which is often why we do it. When we’re doing this though, we zone out and it slowly drains our energy without us even realizing what is happening. Something that we think is helping us to take a break, is actually making us feel much worse.
11) Allow play back into your life.
Find things that you enjoy doing, and do them just for the sake of having fun.
12) Know that you can change.
Where you are now, isn’t where you have to stay. A lot of times we get tremendously unhappy because we feel stuck. If you find that you’re completely unhappy with your current situation, make a move.
13) Be careful who you talk to.
I’ve learned over the years, that going to my friends and family about some things is just not a good idea. If someone is unhappy in their marriage for instance, they won’t be able to give you good advice about your fight with your significant other. Their advice will always be skewed with their own feelings of unhappiness. This isn’t always true, but 99.9999999% of the time it is. This goes for any other situation as well. People can only help you as far as they have been.
If they have never attempted to do what you’re doing, or have never done it, (starting a business, changing religions, moving to another state, etc.) then they can’t always give you the advice you need to help you move forward.
Basically, just remember that anyone’s advice can only and always come from their unique perspective. So be careful who you talk to. You don’t have to tell everyone everything. In seeking wisdom, I used to think that I needed to talk to as many people as possible, but that only served to confuse me more most of the time. I learned to identify those that really couldn’t help me, and those that could. And it was different with each situation.
With everyone, take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.
14) On that same note, seek out advice that may be different from your own, that pushes your comfort zone.
If we just talk to those that agree with us, that never challenge our way of thinking or being, growth isn’t as likely or easy. Seek out opinions that differ from your own and be open minded. It’s not always easy to hear the things that these people tell us, but in the end, it’s how we expand.
15) Don’t label your feelings, or these periods of depression and anxiety, as good or bad.
Just observe what is happening. Even those emotions that we consider “bad” can be beneficial to us if we allow them to be. If we don’t label them, we can move through them much more quickly.
The best thing we can do for ourselves, is to learn to recognize these feelings as quickly as possible.
Over the years, I would try to shove these feelings away, and tell myself to get over it, or to just be happy. Needless to say, this never worked long term. In fact, it made it worse, because then I felt ashamed that I wasn’t being who I thought I should, I felt like I wasn’t good enough in some way, and like I had to hide a big part of who I was from most people.
Learn to recognize your patterns, without judgement. Find those things that trigger you, that set you on the path to depression or anxiety. This can take a while, but once you see what’s happening, you can catch it earlier and earlier each time and not have to be in this state for as long. You can work to move through it, feel what you need to feel, learn the lesson, and then move out of it for good. These periods in your life may stop forever, or if they happen, they won’t last as long or be as intense, and you’ll be able to see them for what they are…an opportunity for growth and expansion in your life.
Peter Crone said this, “Life will always present you with people and circumstances to reveal where you’re not free”. Sometimes the way it does this is by leading us through these states of depression, so that we can learn, heal, and move forward in a bigger way than we’re currently allowing ourselves to.