I really don’t want everything on this blog to end up being overly negative and depressing. That’s never been my intent with anything I’ve tried to accomplish online. One of my goals for this blog, other than having a place to vent and share my story, is also to share things that have helped me in dealing with anxiety and depression. This past month has been pretty rough in both respects. I’ve really struggled the entire month of January to bounce back, finding myself much lower than I’ve been in quite a long time. All of my usual techniques of distraction barely kept my nose above water, so to speak.
I found myself lying in bed this afternoon not wanting to get up after 10 hours of sleep. The depressing thoughts flooded my mind as soon as my eyes opened, the anxiety ridden “what ifs” cycling like a whirlwind of despair and hopelessness. I finally said to myself, “Enough, already. Get up!” I made the bed; and rather than jumping in the shower first thing as I normally do, I decided to make coffee. After making coffee, my day was derailed when I saw that my oldest cat had puked all over my desk. Luckily, he missed all of the electronics. I love my cats dearly; but Lord have mercy, they are little puke machines. I must remember to brush them more often!
This is actually a good place to interject a technique for dealing depression and anxiety that hadn’t crossed my mind until just this moment. I heard this on one of Ajahn Brahm’s videos. I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly which one, but it was so funny to listen to him explain it. If you’ve never listened to Ajahn Brahm speak, I encourage you to do so. He’s a Buddhist monk in Western Australia with the silliest sense of humor. His talks never fail to brighten my day. Consider this one a bonus tip: 50 Strokes of the Cat. No, not a cat o’ nine tails (I’m not encouraging self-harm here). Provided you have a pet who would be tolerant of this, brush or stroke the pet for 50 strokes. This works as a pretty good grounding technique, as well. By stroke 50, you’d be surprised at how much more relaxed you are. Like I said, this completely depends on your pet’s personality. Don’t try this if your pet is not tolerant of a lot of attention because you may end up with more anxiety than you bargained for! In the case of a less than tolerant pet, play with your pet. Not only will it lift your spirits, but your pet will appreciate the attention, too.
After I finally got the mess cleaned up and a load of laundry started as a result (it really was a mess!), I realized the extra activity first thing upon waking left me feeling restless and, for obvious reasons, irritable. Long story short, I decided to exercise for 30 minutes, no particular routine. I just got up and moved, starting with a few stretches, jogging in place, and finally just silly dancing!
Technique #1: Exercise
I’ll be the first to admit that, especially during winter, I don’t get enough exercise. I definitely feel it, too. Our bodies depend on movement to keep them functioning well. If you don’t believe me, check out what the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has to say about the benefits of getting enough exercise:
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. [Source: Physical Activity Reduces Stress]
And it is for this reason (sheer importance) that I chose exercise as the first technique I wanted to mention for combating depression and anxiety. That 30 minutes of exercise this afternoon was enough to lift my spirits so that I could write my first of, hopefully, many mental health posts, rather than another mental illness post. This is also a reminder to myself to take my own advice. I know how much better I feel when I get exercise, but why is it so hard to do the things we know help? If you’re not physically capable of aerobic exercise (please, consult a physician before beginning something new that you’re not used to), even low impact yoga can be helpful. And if all else fails, like Ellen says, “Just DANCE!”
My Exercise Play-list: Dance Like Nobody’s Watchin’