10 tweaks I made to my life to overcome depression and anxiety

Eighteen months ago I was in the grips of anxiety and depression, and I couldn’t even imagine ever not feeling like that again. For too long I sat in that place, locked in an awful cycle of feeling awful, so hiding away from the world, which then made me feel even worse. I knew I had to change things, but the thought of overhauling my life seemed too daunting. I read page after page of advice online, on how to beat depression and anxiety naturally, what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing. The more I read, the more it seemed an impossible task.

Then I remembered – baby steps. One thing at a time. Lots of little changes add up to make a huge difference to how happy and healthy we feel. By slowing making little tweaks to my day, gradually I noticed that I felt a little better. It took time, there was no overnight miracle cure BUT it worked.

Now, asides from the odd day when I feel a little rubbish {mainly around my time of the month grrr} I feel great. I’m not anxious or depressed, I’m more confident and relaxed than I have ever been in my life, and I feel so happy.

Here are a few of the tweaks that I made to my lifestyle:

1| Change my diet – I went vegan, cut out gluten and refined sugar for the most part and stopped living on processed foods. Veganism isn’t for everyone, but changing your diet CAN help. I read so much on the links between dairy/gluten as well as knowing how they made my body/mind feel, for me there was no other choice. I also cut out refined sugar {though I will eat a little every now and then – after all, what kind of life would it be with no cake ever?!}, and the majority of my diet is made up of fresh fruit and veg, with some whole grains and legumes to go alongside them.

2| Drink more water ~ how many times do we get told this?! Yet still we don’t listen. Drinking more water is good for our bodies, our skin, our mood and our mind. I am for 8 big glasses a day – sometimes more, and I can really notice a difference if I don’t drink enough for a few days.

3| Cut down alcohol ~ we all know alcohol isn’t that good for us. And if we’re struggling with depression and/or anxiety then it is likely to make it worse. I cut it out entirely for a good three months, giving my brain the rest that it needed. Now, I love a drink as much as anyone, and I’ll indulge if it’s a party, have a few beers in the garden at home BUT I know if I’m feeling a little tired or blue then I need to avoid the alcohol as it makes me feel worse.

4| Move that body ~ exercise releases endorphins – those little feel-good chemicals we all need. When I was really depressed, I started practising yoga, it calmed my anxiety, lifted my mood and reconnected me to myself. As time went on I added in cardio and strength training, and I generally work out every morning now. It’s one thing that had the biggest effect on my mood. If I’m feeling down or stressed or anxious – I’ll hop on the cross trainer or on my yoga mat and work it out.

5| Switch of social media – as much as I love the connections and friends I have made online, I need frequent breaks from social media for the sake of my mental health. I usually switch off on a Sunday and will take a whole weekend off once a month or so too.

6| Be grateful ~ a daily gratitude practice really does have a huge effect on how you feel. Purposely looking for the good things in life, and giving thanks for what you have instead of focusing on the negative will train your mind to seek out more positive things. I write 10 things I’m grateful for every day in my journal, as well as sharing my #threegoodthings on here each week.

7| Get outside ~ when my anxiety was at it’s worst, I could barely bring myself to leave the house some days. Yet making myself go for an early morning walk every day, enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and birdsong really boosted my mood as well as helped me sleep better at night.

8| Connect with people ~ mental illnesses can make us feel isolated and locked in our own world. We often feel like we’re a burden to others, or feel paranoid about what others really think of us. It’s easy to hide away – but we need connections with people to feel fulfilled. Making sure that I connected with someone every day slowly made me feel less isolated – whether it was in person or over the phone, or even an online chat.

9| Listen to subliminal videos while you sleep ~ a friend mentioned these to me, and to be honest, at first, I was very dubious. But I felt so awful I figured it couldn’t make me any worse so I gave it a go. MIND BLOWN. Seriously, these are amazing! Subliminal messages are messages (phrases and images) that operate below the level of conscious awareness and delivered in a way to be perceived from the subconscious mind. Thomas Hall has some fantastic videos on YouTube and I still sleep with one playing most nights. These are some of my favourites.

10| Find a hobby ~ depression and anxiety left me feeling restless, unable to focus on a movie or TV show, or even read a book. I started knitting again as I found that it gave me something to focus on, it made me feel calmer and the repetitiveness let me zone out if I needed too. Having something I had created with my own two hands also made me feel better about myself – I had something tangible to show for my time.

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