<Possible Mental Illness Trigger Warning>
When it comes to coping with both anxiety and depression, life can get pretty confusing. My anxiety acts almost as a motivator, ensuring I become prepared for every somewhat possible outcome of every single event that occurs in my life. The depression part of me, however, does the exact opposite and convinces me that laying in bed all day for multiple days at a time, to binge television, excessive sleeping, and loads of eating junk food are more productive than actually getting any work whatsoever accomplished. I’m sure many of you have had a similar battle. I used to allow myself to be dragged this way and that by my anxiety and depression, until I realized one super important thing: they don’t control me, I control them. With this realization came a new attitude. This is where I currently am on my fitness (mental and physical) journey.
As I have come to terms with and turned around my outlook on my mental health, I have picked up quite a bit of tools along the way that help me throughout both my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days. These things won’t be the same of course for all people who live with these disorders, but the general goal of each can be applied to a multitude of activities, hobbies, and practices. Basically, each individual’s tool-belt will be unique and subjective; base it off of things you like and enjoy, especially the ones that have proven to have some sort of positive impact on your health and happiness.
1.) Taking Care of Plants/Animals
- Depending on skill level as well as interests, this can be very therapeutic. I have one dog, a cat, and a snake as well as a small windowsill collection of cacti and succulents. Something about having direct responsibility over a life (or lives) other than my own gives me a small purpose and duty to maintain everyday or every couple days in regards to plants. I also love to watch the plants as well as my pets grow. The bonds formed between us humans and these two organisms are good for our own souls. If you ever get into a fit of depression where you feel overwhelmingly alone or unimportant, this small hobby can aid in slowly eradicating that feeling from your life. Without your love and care, your pets (whether they be furry friends or green ones), wouldn’t be here. You have a purpose in this hobby always, and results and companionship to show for it too!
2.) Journalism Or Keeping A Diary
- I know this might sound so little-girlish, but I really find writing my thoughts about the day or whatever is bugging down helps me to get a more solid perspective and view on things that are important or confusing. Plus, since the only person that’s going to see this information is you (unless you choose to share, which is completely fine! Sometimes I share mine with my therapist!), you can literally has out anything and everything you can possibly think of. Journalism doesn’t have to be strictly “Dear Diary…” either. As you can see in my photographs below this bullet point, I have three different workbooks. One is for a new list to make each week for 52 weeks. I already make TONS of lists in my everyday life, so this was a big hit with me. It really gets you thinking about positive things you may forget about during daily stress. The other two smaller books get you to focus on and really reflect on yourself, your life, and the things that surround both. All three of these books were gifts to me by my mother and they are by far some of my favorite things to do. Introspection is very crucial in the process to healing and being you and these books are easy ways for people who dislike free-writing in journals. Another thing I wanted to highlight as a practice I find very beneficial to myself is tracking your anxiety level (1-10; 1 lowest/10 highest), exercise completion (write workout type and length), mood for the day in one word, and hours of sleep the night before everyday. These things may seem trivial and insignificant, but once I started paying more attention to these areas, I had a better idea on what easy improvements I could make for a happier me! One last journal-related activity I have tried and liked before is keeping a small pocket journal, specifically for anxiety. I carried it around in my purse/backpack everyday, and quickly jotted down any instances throughout the day where I was anxious, why, and how bad on a scale of 1-10 it was. This helps to see things that are a main source of anxiety which can then lead to finding ways to cope, overcome, and control these anxious feelings. I also left some pages designated strictly to “go to phrases” of encouragement and strength, as well as bullet points of things to do in height of an attack, and my main triggers. If you feel you need to get a more zoomed in look at the sources of and ways to better manage your anxiety, try tracking it!
- One of the things I found to be the quickest way to relieve a bout of depression or extreme anxious feelings that just won’t disappear is by getting my blood pumping. We all know, of course, that exercising release endorphins and this creates the feeling of happiness while also acting as a main stress reliever. Being someone who loves being active, I know that even in my lowest of times, just 20 minutes of any kind of workout lifts me up just enough. The exercise doesn’t have to be hard either. It can be anything from a short walk in the warm, afternoon sun to a full on aerobics class at the local gym. This activity should be completely individualized and done at the proper fitness level for you. I have found yoga, indoor cycling, hiking, pole fitness, and weight lifting to be my favorite go-to relievers. Yoga is awesome for flexibility, relaxation, strength, and can even be wrapped in with meditation. I find strength training/weight lifting useful for releasing more negative emotions and gaining confidence. Hiking makes you feel at one with nature, allowing yourself to take a small break; you also burn calories, get in the sun, and get your heart rate up! Indoor cycling is a favorite of mine because it is at my disposal, as I have a very reliable bike I bought for cheap at a yard sale; I mainly use it to get that small burn on my lazier days… something is more than nothing at all! Lastly, I didn’t stumble upon the absolute greatness of pole fitness/dancing until the summer of last year (2017), but all I can say is I’m SO thankful I did. Not only does this hobby increase self esteem and confidence (which I have struggled/still struggle very badly with), but you get to build up crazy strength and skill too! In some later posts I’ll share some of my favorite channels/accounts for these different types of exercise practices so you could explore them as you wish. As I said before, you need to start at YOUR own fitness level, no what others are doing. There’s no need to hurt yourself as that will only further set you back from your goals! Slow and steady wins the race, for sure.
4.) Routine Self Care and Beauty
- One of the last things I put on my priority list every week is to keep up with necessary self care. No, this doesn’t mean I paint my nails and shave my legs all the time. What I mean when I say take care of myself, I mean: keeping nails clean and smooth, keeping eyebrows in nice shape and controlled, making sure hair stays soft with routine hair masks and the use of oil for dry/frizzy ends, weekly face masks and daily acne scrubs as well as the use of rejuvenating face lotion, flossing/rinsing once a day and brushing twice a day, and anything else you feel you need to keep up with to stay up to date on your hygiene. This area is really based on personal preference. Not everyone’s skin is in need of as much care as others; same goes for nails, hair, etc. I do what I need to do to feel good and comfortable in my own skin. It has been proven that when you take good care of your physical appearance (not over the type, just basic care), the psychological part of you can improve as well as long as you have an open mind set. Self care is beauty; beauty is not pain! P.S. Self care also comes in the form of taking time for yourself to relax, reflect, and re-energize!* What ways do you find useful in managing your illness? Leave in comments below or feel free to email me directly! Share this post with friends! Thank you for your time!