Mental health recovery I: dealing back with anxiety/depression

(PRONTO EN ESPAÑOL)

I was writing an extense IG post about mental health, but was way too long. So posting it here instead.

I decided to start posting about Mental health on IG time ago because it needs more visibility (thanx to people like Carrie Fisher for talking openly about it), and because it helped with my own recovery. Mental diseases are so stigmatyzed that make us to hide under masks that do no good to our health and only worsen our conditions, denying that we need serious professional help. And we need it. To stop hurting ourselves. To stop hurting others, in some cases. Because we deserve to live.

DISCLAIMER: this is my path to recovery and some tips I learned from therapy, dealing with anxiety and depression for years. If you’re dealing with severe depression or anxiety, the first tip I will give you is TO SEEK FOR HELP. Therapy, family, friends. These posts are not mean to be a treatment or substitutive of professional help but my experience shared for you to not feel alone on this. If you’re hurting yourself, or/and hurting others: LOOK FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP. 

This specific post is meant for people who already are on their way to recovery, after having several sessions of therapy, is or was under treatment, and who experienced some improvement in their lifes but that still has some ups and downs. I have those crisis from time to time, in my own path to recovery, triggered by several reasons, sometimes with no reason at all.

{Recovery and falls}

Sometimes we think that we’ve lost a whole battle when we fall again. We fear that all the hard work done for mental health recovery is wasted once we feel the sting of anxiety and/or depression back.
It’s a lie. We are not hopeless, we are not lost at all. A cruel trick of the mind, who likes to play games with us. But the feeling of falling is real, it’s normal to happen sometimes. However, once you start walking the path of self-love, the anxiety attacks happens less often. The depression hug is less asfixiating. You are not defenseless. You have tools now. You know the ways. This will pass. You can be OK soon. You can do it.

Recognize the problem

  1. Compassion. We must be compassionate with ourselves during an attack to not punish us for feeling bad again. Be patient with you. If you are trying to help someone who struggles, don’t try to force the situation. Listen, make company, try not to overburden yourself with their struggle. Sometimes we only need someone who hugs us for a whole hour in total silence. Sometimes we need to be alone. Be patient.
  2. Ask for help. Talk with someone about the struggle. Don’t need to socialize in person if you don’t want to, texting or a tweet can do it. Talk to your therapist. Get one if you don’t have  professional help. Make the call. Place your mental health first. I sometimes don’t have the strenght of talking about it, but I make sure, soon or later while the crisis happens, that I speak out the truth about how I’m feeling to my husband.
  3. Know what’s happening. Of course, you need to identify that you’re having an anxiety crisis / depression peak, wich is not always a sign of relapse. Those may have several triggers or none at all (caffeine, a bad experience, some painful memories, bad food, stress). Once you start identifying the attacks – they come inadviced, embrace us more and more, suffocate us until we feel quite drowned on it- you can start treating yourself gently, giving you the time to experience the attack, analyzing it so you can know how to behave and start a self-care routine. It’s not easy, but the worst crisis may pass.
  4. Allow youself some time. If you need to stay the whole day in bed, hair unwashed, indulging yourself on crappy food… Ok. You’re not a shitty person, you’re not weak.  One step a time. The first moment you find a tiny bit of strenght to start a SELF-CARE ROUTINE, hold on it! And start with the easy steps to jump on the larger ones.

Start  your self-care routine

  1. First step, gather good vibes. Try to fill your mind out with positive shit while you lay on bed or couch with strenght for nothing more, and avoid social media and news for a while. I don’t mean to force it. Just check kitten videos, or doggos, listen music, let it flow. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with shitty news through media so it’s ok to disconnect and recharge batteries with good shit. This is not to keep you disconnected from reality, but to allow you some time to process all that toxicity, time to recover. Ask others to write/tell you something positive. Watch a funny/cute movie, something that doesn’t deepens your pain. In my experience, being overwhelmed with news and information from everyone takes a toll on my mental health so I need to shut off the media from time to time to reboot my mind.
  2. Keep yourself hydrated. I learned this one recently from bodyposi/recovery IGr @Lexiemanion Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. Sometimes bad hydratation may cause we feel a peak in our anxiety/depression levels.
  3. Eat healthy comfort food (fruits and such). Avoid crap food, simple carbs, coffee, tea, high-sugar stuff. It can worsen an anxiety attack and produce miserable thoughts. If you know that caffeine is bad for your anxiety, avoid it as much as possible. This happens to me a lot. Everytime I eat a huge amount of simple carbs or drink coffee, my heart races like shit, and I enter in a loop of destructive thoughts. I’m no longer taking caffeine, and I try to keep low the amount of simple carbs to avoid my heart rate going nuts. Recommended food for self-care routine: A mug with hot soup, fresh vegetables and fruits, dried fruits and nuts. Protein of your choice. Good fats such as olive oil and avocado. Whole grain stuff. Caffeine free tea, rooibos, etc.
  4. Listen to your body. Those depression / anxiety crisis may be a sign that there’s something wrong with your body health. Ugh I suffer from those too, triggered by my back/arm/liver issues. Adress this. Be patient and gentle with you.
  5. Take a shower/wash your hair/clean your teeth/clean your face. Pick one to start with your body hygiene. Sometimes we don’t have the strenght to take a whole shower. It’s ok! Then do little cleansing gestures to feel that you’re taking care of you. All these are bricks on the wall of your recovery path. Maybe just to start washing your face and moisturizing it with cream helps. Clean your teeth. Feel like new shit.
  6. Write down your crisis. Keep a journal to monitor all your anxiety/depression episodes. Write what you have eaten, current weather, if you have had a good sleep, possible triggers, hard moments. Write how you really feel. This may be really helpful to help identify what triggers those attacks, and what makes them worse. For example, everytime I abuse on caffeine or simple carbs I experience some level of anxiety.
  7. Meditation. I have a lot of hard time to focus on meditation in the middle of a crisis, but I try. It’s hard to keep calm, so if I’m unsuccessful, I try again later being conscious of my breathing. I try not to force it in my worse moments, but I definitely try because sometimes it helps to ease the anxiety while it’s happening. And definitely it helps to improve our mental health by keeping a regular meditation practice. There’s no need to meditate 30 mins or a whole hour. Sit on the floor or bed in a posture you’re comfortable in, eyes shut, or lay on the bed. Start with 5, 10 minutes. Maybe 15. It’s up to you. I meditate focusing on my breath. I even visualize the words “In, out” to mark the breath in, breath out moments so other thoughts don’t steal too much the scene. If other thoughts appears, don’t judge them, observe them and let them go. Get back your attention to your breathing gently. In, out. You can listen some chill out music, relaxing sounds such as rain, etc.
  8. Do some stretching. I would suggest yoga, but If you’re not familiar with it, try some gentle stretching while you’re focused on your breathing (in, out) and don’t overdo yourself. Youtube can guide you to some easy level yoga movements/stretching too.
  9. Use some nice scents. Incense, scented candles (be careful), lavender scent. I use Twilight lavender body spray by Lush over my pillow to relax. Lavender helps to calm the mind.
  10. Sleep well. This is superimportant. Sometimes my worst anxiety episodes come from lack of sleep. Avoid naps if they take night sleep from you. Take a shower before going to bed. Take a walk. Meditate. Read. Do exercise. Do yoga. Ask a professional about something that helps you to sleep well. I take melatonin to help me fall asleep because I had insomnia issues (still have some in summer when night temperature is so high that it makes impossible to sleep well). AVOID CHECKING  your PHONE when you’re trying to sleep. Phone light worsens insomnia. Persevere. Sleep doesn’t come easy in some cases. If you have serious insomnia episodes, ask your doctor to adress this issue.
  11. Once you feel stronger, go make some exercise. Walking is the simplest way of exercise, a gentle gesture to help you calm down. 30min, 1 hour can do it. You can also pick whatever sport you’re into (swim, tennins, football, etc)
  12. Avoid the drama. You’re not responsible of everything. Delegate in others, allow yourself some rest of what’s happening out there. Avoid toxic people and toxic conversations.
  13. Take care of your space. This may sound like a super classic, but our environment matters while we are recovering from any disease (phisical or mental). The influence of a clean and cozy room in our mood it’s a real deal, so don’t underrate the power of simply keeping your space organized. Once we feel a bit stronger, it’s good to “break” the heavy ambient opening the windows, organizing the mess and cleaning the room. You don’t need to over-do it. If you don’t feel strong, just fold the clothes or put clean sheets on the bed.

After every anxiety attack or depression short relapse, I feel weak, exhausted, vulnerable. Just like any other person feels after passing the flu or something like that. Every crisis lasts from some minutes to several hours, so it takes so much energy from me. I need to take good care of my mind and body after such struggle because it’s so much consuming. Learning some tools to keep a self-care routine may make a real difference between jumping from a crisis to another, or having enough time after a huge crisis to allow recovery.

KEEP a SELF-CARE routine even if you’re feeling good. This will help to feel balanced more often, and to experience anxiety/depression peaks in the middle of our recovery less often.

I hope this has been helpful to you. You can share your experiences in comments. Let me know how you deal with anxiety and/or depression.

 

(Pronto en español)

2 Comments

  1. Siempre me ayuda un montón leerte… Llevo dos años com depresión a causa de una separación y nadie a mi alrededor entiende por lo que estoy pasando. A veces los sentimientos de culpabilidad me derrotan y lo hacen todo mucho más comolicado.

    Así que gracias. Gracias de corazón.

    1. Hola Marta. Me alegro que te ayude leerme. Muchas veces, incluso aunque estas personas se encuentren dentro de una depresión, mucha gente no va a entender por lo que estás pasando. Por desconocimiento, por estigma, porque no se ve. Por eso es importante que se visibilice. Un abrazo, espero que un día encuentres luz.

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