Depression & Anxiety: My personal coping tactics
My Emotional Toolkit
I recently wrote about my experience with depression and could not have predicted how many wonderful conversations that article inspired. Now I want to talk you through some points on how I deal with it.
Everyone experiences different types and intensities of symptoms and I am sure many of your have devised a toolkit of your own (and I'd love to hear about it!).
Let's back up a bit first:
Periodically, I experience emotional downturns and these sometimes turn into periods of depression. These lower points will probably continue to happen for the foreseeable future so I made it a priority to fill my emotional toolkit so that I can try to mitigate the intensity of the downturns or at least battle my way out faster.
What does my depression and anxiety look like?
Panic attacks, feeling extremely low, lack of appetite, low energy, crying easily, just want to sleep (and not being able to) and avoiding things that I love like friends, sport, social gatherings.
All of these then create a vicious cycle: more tired, lower, less energy.
Being a normally hyper, positive person, those close to me can see quite clearly when I am experiencing a downtown. I’m just not myself.
What does a panic attack look like?
For me, this looks like a feeling of rising, unexplainable fear or panic, where I feel like I’m not in control. For others, it may be a feeling of claustrophobia, not being able to breathe, uncontrollable crying, shaking, loss of dexterity and strength.
Why do they happen?
Often there isn’t necessarily a “why” for it or a reason I can immediately recognize. What counselling has given me is a structure and a set of tools to help me work out what might have been a trigger and then work through it. It also helps me recognize when I am in that zone so that i can put my tools into action or simply get myself into a safe situation.
Control is a big deal for me and for many people. I usually feel an emotional downturn coming along when I am run down and start to feel as though I am not moving forward at an acceptable rate. Whether or not this is a justified thing is kind of irrelevant.
What do I do about it?
Counselling: Even if you don’t think you “need” it, it is such a helpful exercise. It gives you tools to breakdown your ups and downs and for the future - the ability to put those odd feelings into words. I find it easier to speak to a counsellor as they have no ulterior motive, no judgement, they create a safe space for me.
Having a confidante: When I feel this coming on the first thing I do is call my sister. She knows me so well and is that rock that I need when it all starts to feel like it’s going downhill. She has been there for the worst times and knows what to do.
Look for someone who creates that safe place for you. It might be your partner (or not!), a family member, a random friend, your neighbour.
Making time for myself: In my job, I am helping other work on themselves. When this all happens, I need to make sure that I am also spending time on looking after myself - like a manicure, retail therapy (it bloody works), sitting in the sunshine.
For others this might be playing video games, going for run (or any exercise), anything that is something just for you.
Eating properly: Losing my appetite is one of the hardest things for me. The thought of food during these times tends to make me feel ill, even if I am hungry. I have a physical job and my body (everyone’s body) needs to be fueled properly to function. When I’m not eating it makes it even harder to recover.
For some, depression has the opposite effect.
Travelling: Travelling takes you out of your day to day environment and can help you reset. It’s super important for me to always have something to look forward to in the diary. It gets me out of my routine - discovering new places and people. Never underestimate the power of new experiences!
Supplementation: This is not for everyone and something that I experiment with all the time. At the moment, I am finding magnesium really helpful. It helps calm the nervous system which is clearly overwrought when it’s all happening. It also helps with sleep which is a big difficulty during those times.
I recently found a magnesium, taurine and B Vitamin combo which has been really good and I take this during the day.
There are different types of magnesium, some are to be taken at night and some during the day. Where you get your vitamins, what type, what potency is really important. I look to Nutri Advanced or Designs for Health for good quality products.
It is really important to pay attention to yourself and your own system. Be aware of the symptoms. Knowing what to expect and how to help manage it is essential.
The main thing to remember is that it will pass.
Once you understand this, it makes the coping easier. It may still happen but at least you know that it will end. You will feel better. You will get through it.
As always, you don’t need to go through this alone. Let's keep this discussion going.
Cute Hedgehog Interlude
If you are feeling down or you would like to learn more about mental illness, below are a couple of resources for you:
Beyond Blue is a great resource, it is Australian based but has many great articles if you are looking to find out more about mental health.
If you or someone you know might be having suicidal thoughts, have a look at the NHS resources here. If you are in another country, google a helpline where you are. People are ready to help you, whoever you are, wherever you are.