I mentioned this so many times in my writing, the way that anxiety and depression often want to keep me hidden. They convinced me that they protect me from getting hurt. They convinced me that it is better to keep to myself. They convinced me that it is better for me if I stay small. They convinced me that it is better if I never try. The way that anxiety and depression wanted me to live was never the way I wanted to live. Since I was younger, I always dreamed big dreams. I always wanted to explore and try new things. When anxiety and depression came along, it challenged my beliefs and desires. I succumbed to it for a little while, but after a bit, I realized that this was not the way I wanted to live. Below I list five tools that helped me combat the way anxiety and depression wanted me to live. (This article contains affiliate links from Amazon)
1. Good Memory Jar
This may seem silly and even cliche, but this one activity helped me through a dark time in my life. It was a time when I was willing to try anything to just feel okay again. I couldn’t sleep but was always tired. A friend decided to no longer be friends with me due to my mental health issues. I didn’t have the energy to leave the house, let alone work on school work. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It was extremely difficult. I saw this idea on Pinterest. You get a jar and every day on a scrap piece of paper you write down a good memory from the day and put it in the jar. Later on, you can look through all your good memories.
So when I first started this it felt stupid. All I was able to write was “today I survived”. It felt quite pathetic, to be honest. When I started going back to class, it got a little more diverse such as “today I had a good conversation at lunch” or “today I took a beautiful walk around campus.” They were all pretty simple, but it helped. It forced me to take note of the little good things that were happening in my life. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me the chance to reflect on my day and force me to see something good and bright instead of the bleakness I was used to seeing.
2. Journal & Pen
A few years ago I started writing again. When I was younger, I use to write all the time. I would write poetry or just write in my journal. I lost that tool for a long time until I was reminded of it again. Since that moment writing has been essential in my recovery. I write when I feel depressed, anxious or happy. All the moments. It gives me a chance to reflect on my life activities and to see how my anxiety and depression were affected. Was there anything I learned? Is this something I am willing to share? How do I feel about this moment now? What did I gain from it?
Just like the Good Memory Jar, it gives me a chance to reflect, but it also gives me an opportunity to write about all the bad happening too. It gives me a place to put my frustrations. A place to put my negative thoughts. A place to put all my emotions. They no longer had to be kept bottled up. They were on the paper. Now they weren’t just mine, but they were everyone else’s too.
Anna Nalick describes this best in her song Breathe (2 AM):
“Two AM and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life, it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however, you want to.”
It’s cathartic. It’s freeing. It’s vulnerable. It’s worth it. It helped me.
3. Running Shoes
There are times when I just don’t feel like writing. There can be too much happening inside my head that I’m just not sure how to get it out. Or the only way I wanted to release this energy was becoming irritated at someone else in my life. Those moments were when running has been critical. I remember one time I was becoming anxious about something that didn’t make complete sense. I sent some text messages to my significant other asking him questions to curb my anxiety. Before he even had the chance to respond, I texted him and told him nevermind, and I went for a run. When I came back, I felt renewed and not anxious.
There are a lot of articles out there talking about the benefits of exercise when someone is struggling with anxiety and depression. For me, my go-to exercise is running, for others, it’s going to be something different. I know someone who goes to yoga when they are not feeling well, or goes rock climbing or goes to the gym. For me, it helps release pent-up energy or anxiety that I have. It becomes a type of meditation that gets me to focus on the present or how much my legs are hurting rather than all the anxious thoughts that are running through my head.
I am in love with going to therapy. I almost look forward to it every week. It took me a while to find a therapist I loved, but now that I did, it has helped me more than anything. It keeps me focused. It gives me the place to be open and honest. It gives me tools I need. It gives me a place to talk through stuff. It has been instrumental in my recovery. I am not ashamed of needing or going to therapy. I think more people should go.
I also found that therapy means different things to different people. The type of therapy I need may be different than what others need. I have friends who say that skiing is their therapy or rock climbing. I have others who say that going out with their friends is their therapy. I believe that people need different things from what we call “therapy.” I still believe that going to a therapist is the best type of therapy, but hey, that’s what works for me. As you just read, running could also be considered a form of therapy for me. Writing can be one for me too. But I also need talk therapy, and I know that I would not be as far along in my recovery as I am now without it.
5. Loved Ones
This is another one that you probably hear a lot. The support of loved ones surrounding you can be key in your recovery. It has been for me. My family, friends, and boyfriend always reminded me that I was wanted, loved, and worthy when I didn’t believe it. They showed me and reminded me how my anxiety and depression lied to me. They got me to step outside my comfort–zone. They gave me the strength to keep going when things felt hopeless. They lifted me up when I needed help after falling. They pushed me when I needed to do something on my own. They called me out when I didn’t act respectfully. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They forced me to see the good in my life when I wasn’t able to. They got me to smile when I thought I forgot how to.
Support helps you no longer feel alone. Having people there to push you and make you feel loved can be everything when you are struggling with anxiety and depression. I was allowed to isolate myself. I wasn’t given a chance to be complacent in what I was struggling with. This was everything.
These are my five tools that helped me. Everyone will have different tools that help them. These tools helped me not stay hidden. To do my best to live my life the way I always wanted. What are the tools that helped you?