Updated: Jul 29, 2021
In Episode 1, I talked about how mental health - more precisely, mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression - are similar to addiction, in the fact that you are always at risk of relapse. The stack that piles up can overwhelm us all. I had been overwhelmed, I had to take a knee and recoup. It was difficult to make that decision, but when your body shuts down on you have to listen. I have functional neurological disorder - I convert stress into symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis - meaning, when things get out of control in my life I have balance/mobility/cognition issues. So, when I start having difficulties finding words or misuse words, it is an indication that I am at a moderate-severe level of stress. Have you experienced that before? Where your body physically reacts in such a powerful way that it prevents you from doing something?
One thing I learned through this process was to watch for my signs. You have signs too and they might not be like mine at all. Or they might be the same. That’s the other tricky part about anxiety and depression - we all display it differently, we have come up with our own unique strategies, based on our experiences, knowledge and individuality, that help us function on a day to day basis.
I start to lose my routines - it might start with one missed workout, turn into a week or two. It might be missing a meditation or not showering for 2 days.
I start to feel my anxiety peak easier - for example - When I’m in a good position, I can talk about my past and how I healed without issue, but when my life is handing me more than I can manage, talking about my recovery causes that cold rush of panic. I’m okay, I can tolerate the cold and recognize it as a time to self-soothe.
I feel more emotional. More easily brought to tears. I have to be cautious with how I respond. I have to pause and think a little longer before speaking to make sure it isn’t emotionally charged.
Focus is more difficult. That makes sense, now I’m preoccupied with catching the dip and reverting it. Anyone who has healed trauma and also has depression and anxiety as a byproduct of that trauma, will more than likely all agree. As you are healing, the up and down, back and forth process, make you fearful that you are going to fall way down or question yourself as to whether you’ve actually healed or not.
Other signs of depression or anxiety:
a) Decrease joy in activities that used to bring you pleasure - If your mind won’t stop with the negative train, it’s understandable why activities aren’t as enjoyable as they usually are. It doesn’t help that depression is a drain, and what I mean is a drain in a sink full of water, it wants to pull you down. That spiral starts slowly, which is why it’s really important to know your signs, but goes faster and faster as you get closer to crisis level. Crisis level is where you need to seek immediate help - suicidal thoughts/ideations, making a plan, general and pervasive hopelessness, feeling like you are drowning, not taking care of yourself (eating, showering, paying bills, etc.). When that happens, you need to realize that you need support, you need to communicate it to your loved ones (especially those you live with) and your health care team.
b) Decrease activity - don’t engage in regular activities, stop exercising - Sometimes, we just want to crawl into a ball and forget about life. When it’s hard or challenging, then you add anxiety and depression to the mix, it can feel like the best thing in the world is to sleep through it. We all do it EVERY SINGLE DAY. We just watch life go by. We absorb ourselves in social media, TV, news, and negativity. We eat and drink and take drugs to escape the reality we don’t like.
c) Cancelling appointments or group or social functions - we often isolate ourselves when we are experiencing anxiety or depression - we feel people don‘t understand, we are “bad/negative/worthless” - our low self-esteem means we believe people inherently don’t want to be part of our lives as we have nothing of value to offer or are a pest/bother. The view that people with mental health issues are weak, something that happens in the workplace a lot, where it is assumed that the person with mental health issues cannot be trusted, their sick day for mental health is frowned on, they are thought to be frail, delicate. I was actually called “Teary Tanya.”
d) Increased irritability or moodiness. This includes ANGER - often overlooked as a symptom of depression - however, in my experience, people (more often men) who have felt wronged, unfairness, devalued, etc., react out in anger when they have learned to cope through being the “nice” person, not having boundaries, and feeling like a martyr.
e) Feeling overwhelmed - This one is a huge indicator of burnout and breakdown. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s because you ARE! You need to lighten your load, put something down, ask for help, reach out to your support team, take more time for self care and reflection, fill your cup with joy. Reflection is necessary. Why are you overwhelmed? What is the area you are struggling with the most? Have you over scheduled yourself? Are you not enforcing your boundaries? Is there something you can let go of? What is causing you the most distress? Often we feel overwhelm because we are over scheduled, but sometimes it’s telling us that we are not in alignment with what our true selves want/need.
g) Increased fatigue - anxiety and depression are energy drains. They zap you of your energy because you are actually using it in processing all those thoughts, having your increased pulse, trembling, etc.….and imagine, when your brain NEVER stops going! Exhausting!
h) Memory issues - when we are spending so much of our energy dealing with our anxiety and depression we have little left to help store information….not to mention, our mind is preoccupied with worry for the future or shame/guilt of the past….when you are preoccupied and living inside your mind, you are not getting ALL the information that’s coming in from the outside.
i) I know this is not an exhaustive list of symptoms of anxiety/depression or burnt out/breakdown. Please comment and let me know what other signs you’ve noticed so we can educate more on what to watch for? Stopping the dip early is very important.
I sincerely feel that more people have depression and anxiety than statistics eludes to because I think that often people identify - according to a survey in the U.S. in 2018, 18% of the population reported anxiety, in 2020 it’s now 30% with the younger generations of millennials and gen Z reporting anxiety at 42%. And we can see why. The world is a fearful place right now. The news, media, politics, even individuals in your life, love making people scared, it drives us to continue to consume more and more negativity. For example, you gossip about something at work, the people you are gossiping with take that information and share it again and again. Each time those stories get distorted, little by little, making them more interesting. We LOVE a good story. The news, LOVES keeping you watching and they have long known that viewer interest is best achieved through fear. They amp everything up. They (news & media) put out the worst case scenarios, they have admitted to blatantly lying because it’s better to get a high rating of viewers than state the facts. They print their retractions that no one notices because the story is on the front page, in GIANT, FANCY display, while the truth gets hidden on page 20, in a 10 point font.
So, what can we do to stop the dip?
The exact OPPOSITE of what depression wants you to do:
Eat Healthy - getting a really healthy, natural, balanced diet will improve your mood. Sugar and processed foods feed your depressive mood.
Exercise/Move - getting exercise increases endorphins, especially when you are consistent and stick to a routine (because that makes you feel good too!). Don’t forget other movement - dance, express yourself to music in anyway you feel comfortable and let it make you feel like a child. Walk - get out in nature, move your body, pay attention to the sounds, the different sights, staying in the present.
Mindfulness/Grounding/Meditation - these are helpful in decreasing elevated emotions, through decreasing or changing the thoughts in your head, changing breathing patterns (breath-work is another great suggestion), and learning to become present.
Socializing - It’s a part of survival, we need connection. The lack of connection, where you are seen, heard, valued, understood and safe contributes to our declining mental health. We connect on such superficial levels, through messaging and without often being true to ourselves or genuine. We are starved for connection, but spend our time alone. We need to bond with other people, but can’t do that unless we are authentic. Connect More. Pick the best relationship you have and connect. Call your friends or family - hearing a voice is very comforting. Video chat, so you can at least ”see” their face and feel like you are interacting more intimately. Get together in person when you are able to. Physical touch with those we care about and who care about us, significantly improve our emotions.
There are so many more ways to improve your mental health. I’ll bring more to you as we go and feel free to message me or comment with your own suggestions. Until then, follow your bliss and lead with love.