Friday, 14 September 2012

Tips on Coping With Anxiety and Depression

Hello there!

I just wanted to do a post on tips to cope with anxiety and depression. When I suffered from it (still do), there were some things that I found useful and wanted to pass them on. When you're in the thick of it, it's so hard to imagine a way out. You feel like you're always going to feel that way and you can't see how you will possibly get better.

First up - I'm no expert, this is merely some things I have learnt through my own experience. I experienced high anxiety over the past year. It was the first time and it was very scary. Anxiety and depression are very closely linked, so I'm guessing I had depression too, as hard as it is to admit that, but the symptoms seem to indicate so!

What I did wrong:

I thought that chilling out and relaxing literally meant doing nothing at all. Planking myself in front of the TV and trying to do as little as possible. This eventually led to mundane tasks seeming like a huge effort. Even the thought of making food or putting a wash on made me feel sick to my stomach.

I started avoiding things that made me anxious

I made excuses not to go out or meet friends

I thought I could continue not having confidence for the rest of my life and that would be ok

I struggled through the working day and flopped on the sofa for the rest of the evening

I put pressure on myself to be good at everything - my job, my marriage, my home, everything!

How did I change?

I was petrified of going to the doctor and being put on any sort of drugs. I was afraid of getting addicted and depending on drugs for the rest of my life. Evenutally I had to go!

While at the doctors I mentioned another health complaint that I didn't think anything of. Turned out I had a problem with my inner ear, making me lose balance and making me significantly panicky and anxious. I thought my dizziness and balance problems were purely down to my anxiety. So it was a bit of a vicious circle effect.

The doctor recommended I take beta blockers for a month to take the edge off my anxiety. I was so reluctant. Nearly cried when I took the first pill. But the doctor assured me they were not addictive and only effect your physical symptoms, not the mental. I.e. racing heart, shakiness. Do visit your doctor if you feel that you really can't cope.

They did help me, but what really made a difference were the changes I made to my lifestyle and my way of thinking. I am still putting them into practice now. It takes time and patience and suddenly you realise you feel a lot better than you did "x" months ago.

**Don't get overwhelmed by these tips. Starting off with just one or two will help :) **

Being Pro Active - just get moving and do it! No matter how much you don't want to do something, just get up and get going. Go clean the bathroom, go get the dinner on, go walk around the block. Just get things done. That thing you're dreading, just do it. This alone will make you feel a bit better.

Don't slob around trying to relax. Do an activity to keep your mind active. Whatever it is you enjoy - reading, knitting, a crossword, learn a song, learn an instrument, a language, bake some buns, go for a walk, write a story - get the gist? do something to keep your mind occupied. You can still use your brian and relax at the same time. Learning something new will make you more confident and improve your self esteem.

Talk to someone - anyone who'll listen and who you trust. Talking will instantly lift the burden. If you feel like you can't yet, there are many internet forums where people are talking about their experiences. Reading about anxiety and depression helps you realise that there are millions of other people just like you.

Take small steps - make small changes to your life that you are comfortable with. E.g. make a decision to try and exercise a bit more or introduce more fruit/veg into your diet. Push yourself a little at a time. E.g. is going to a busy shopping centre just too much to cope with? What could you cope with? Going to a small shop at a time you know will be quiet? Going to the cinema on a quiet night rather than the weekend? Anything you can do will help :)

Exercise - If you fancy making me a promise - introduce exercise into your life immediately. It will be the last thing you feel like doing, but I promise it makes a huge difference. It has to make you sweat and out of breath. Even if it's just for 15 mins. Go for a run, get an exercise DVD, do star jumps, run on the spot - whatever works for you. Try and do it twice a week then try and increase to 3 times a week. Get a shower/bath afterwards and take this time to do a bit of body grooming too. Cut your nails, moisturise, shave etc. You'll feel so good the rest of the evening and have a great sleep.

Sense of purpose -  I found this really great tip from an online video. Finding your sense of purpose is key to how you feel about yourself. There are lots of tips online about finding your sense of purpose.  I still haven't exactly found mine yet, but the process is really helping me focus. Work out what you want to do with your life, find some goals and work towards them.

Healthy Lifestyle - Making small changes to your lifestyle can help you bucket loads. If we think about it honestly, we all know there are improvements to be made in our diet. Introduce more fresh fruit and veg, fresh oily fish (or omega supplements). Don't depend on sugar and caffeine for pick-me-ups. It's best to keep your blood sugar level consistent throughout the day, so eat small at regular intervals. Drink lots of water.

Sleep - try to get a good quality sleep. Have a routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Relax before bed - read a book or listen to some music, pamper yourself, drink a camomile tea (very relaxing). If you're really having trouble sleeping I found progressive muscle relaxation helped me drift off.

Assess your life. Are you taking on too much? Is there anything you can cut out? Is there something you've said "yes" to, but shouldn't have? Keep your life focussed on what you really want to do. It's not possible to do everything you want to. Prioritise what is important to you.

Mindfulness - I'm just getting into this now, but it is so interesting. It helps you think about life and daily tasks in a different way. Focussing on the present rather than the past and the future. There are some facebook pages that give daily mindfulness tips. Here is one I follow Mindfulness Ireland

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - this is a good technique used by therapist to help you think more realistic about the things you are anxious or depressed about. There is a great self help book explaining how it works called Mind Over Mood

Start taking joy in life - the smallest things can make us feel good. Get back to that mindset. A nice cup of tea can be the best, a dance around the living room to your favourite song, a hug from your favourite person, a conversation with a friend, singing a song. Remember the things that made you smile before your anxiety kicked in.

Believe you can get better. Make a decision to end this cycle and not let it beat you. Every day is a new start. Wake up and think "Today is going to be good. I'm going to get my life back".

I'm still working with my anxiety, but all of these things have helped me a lot. I feel like I'm finally returning to normal. I'm looking at this as a chance to live my life in a different way and think about things differently. Up until now I was just biding my time until an anxiety attack kicked in. I'm hoping that these changes will be a good foundation for carrying on life in a better way. With mindfulness and CBT, give these things time. It can be frustrating, but remember that you have thought the same way all your life. It will take time to get into a new way of thinking. I'm still working on these things.

I hope these tips can help somebody somewhere. I know feeling anxious can be very lonely. If you have any tips yourself or questions, please comment below :)

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