5 tips for making it through a day with depression and anxiety

5-tips-for-making-it-through-a-day-with-depression-and-anxiety

This winter was a tough one for me. Cripled with depression and anxiety, I’d wake in the morning wondering how on earth I was going to make it through another day. Some days were far worse than others, when I felt too depressed to even think about getting up in the morning, and too anxious to stop moving. Such an oxymoron. I was also trying to keep a family going, on my own, so staying in bed and giving up simply were not an option. In many ways, that was my savior – I had no choice but to keep going to a certain extent, some things just had to get done every day.

But on those days when breathing is enough of a challenge, when you feel crushed by the weight of depression, and wired with anxiety. When your brain wants to think of everything and nothing all at once, when you know that you simply cannot manage another hour, never mind another day of this, these are a few of the things that I found helped me.

1| Be gentle with yourself

More often than not, we’re our own worst enemies. I spent countless days beating myself up for feeling depressed, criticising myself for having yet another panic attack. That voice inside my head was a bully – belittling myself, and telling myself how pathetic I was for not being strong enough to be happy and at ease with myself.

Reminding myself that life with depression and/or anxiety is hard. There is no denying it. Gentleness is the only way to make it through. I started slowly trying to add a little mindfulness into daily life, trying to stop my flow of thoughts when they were bullying me, telling myself that it is OK to feel sad, that it’s OK to not be strong all of the time. Practicing compassion for myself – if I was tired, letting myself rest instead of thinking I was a waste of space for not getting anything done. If I was anxious, letting myself just sit and breath through the waves of panic.

2| Baby Steps

I’m a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. So on days when I managed nothing {or what looked like nothing to me} I’d give myself hell about it. People kept reminding me that baby steps are where it’s at. You can’t tackle ever thing at once, and you can’t expect to overcome depression and anxiety, or any kind of trauma in one fell swoop. SO, on days when I felt like I could do nothing, I gave myself permission to do that – BUT I would challenge myself to do one small thing first. So, maybe that was making it from the bed to the sofa – then I’d be allowed to stay there if I wanted. OR in the midst of a panic attack, I’d make a cup of tea, go back to my back step and sit and sip it slowly. At my worse, meditating or practising yoga was more than I could do but I could take a few deep breaths, slowly in and out.

And when I’d accomplished my one small thing, I’d give myself a big pat on the back, and figure out what the next baby step would be. Being productive, especially when we don’t feel like we can be, is a really good boost – even if it’s something that seems small and insignificant, don’t belittle what your best is right now.

3| Reach out

Depression and anxiety tend to make us want to retreat deep inside ourselves and shut the world out. We feel like we’re a burden on the world, or that no-one will understand, or people will judge us. The more we shut ourselves off, the worse we tend to feel. Finding a good friend or two who you can talk to, who you can be honest with, who will sit with you in the darkness and listen is vital. I know I wouldn’t have made it through this winter without the support that I had. Being able to talk about how I was feeling, or the things I was doing, even when it was dark and horrible kept me afloat.

Find someone you trust – who you can call or text when you’re at your lowest, who’ll check in with you to make sure you’re OK, who won’t give up on you. Those people are gold and a support network is essential to surviving mental illnesses.

4| Feel your feelings

This was a big one for me. I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid feeling my feelings. Running as far away and as fast as I could so I didn’t have to deal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help – and only tends to make them worse. The more I ran, the more they built up, and when they did bubble to the surface they were unbearable. I spent years trying to numb them, with drink or drugs, through periods of starvation of times of trying to fill the hole inside with food, of cutting to feel something that wasn’t them.

I’ve been working hard on allowing myself to sit with my feelings, to not be afraid of them, to letting them be felt and heard. It’s OK to feel sad or scared or depressed or anxious. They are just feelings, and we didn’t bring them on ourselves. Go with the flow – if you feel depressed, let yourself feel depressed – let the tears flow, let yourself curl up in a ball. Do whatever it is you can and speaking to yourself in encouraging and gentle ways.  Write your feelings down, paint them, find some old plates and throw them at the wall, watch a weepy movie and surrender to the grief. Keep telling yourself it’s OK.

5| Self Care

Self-neglect almost goes hand in hand with mental illness. The thought of taking care of ourselves is exhausting, and when you’re living with a mind that tells you that you’re worthless, or that there is no point to anything, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. I started small {baby steps remember?} Trying to add in just one thing a day that was for me. It might just be getting dressed. Or having a shower. Going outside for some fresh air and sunlight. Making something to eat {this was a tough one for me, as I often sturggle with eating disorders at the same time as my depression/anxiety is at it’s worst}. Drinking a glass of water. Watching a funny show. Painting or journalling. Anything that will make you feel good, anything that is just for you.

At the end of every day, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that you made it though even though you didn’t think you could. One day at a time ♥

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