What do you do to Combat Depression and/or Anxiety?

 

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Having written and read endlessly about depression and anxiety it seems to me that depending on where we are on the spectrum of this disease, we all follow pretty much the same routines. However what I’ve noticed is that the higher we are on said spectrum the less we are able to do, thereby the situation consequently becomes worse in that repetitively circular cycle. So what is this routine that we are all doing?

We all know that exercise raising the heart rate, yoga/Pilates or a breathing controlled form of exercise, CBT or other forms of therapy, healthy diet etc etc all make the sort of difference that medication alone cannot achieve. No shit Sherlock. But do we do this on a regular daily basis or do we wait until we’re at the stage whereby we’re hiding in the cupboard under the stairs with only a duvet, multi-pack of crisps and the spiders to keep us company? Do we wait until we are in this commonly-known place as rock bottom, before we head off to the doctors and/or contemplate whether sitting in our pyjamas and not having left the house for a month perhaps hasn’t been altogether conducive to a healthy mind and body? After all, aren’t physical and mental health intimately connected? Isn’t there a correlation between the two?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am barely on the spectrum; I, like billions of others have my moments of utter despair and given half a chance, I’d be climbing into that cupboard. So my question is this:

Do we all, most of the time, have some semblance of a routine? A routine that includes all of the above which give or take a few blips, that being simply life, keeps us roughly on the straight and narrow. Surely however it would be abnormal not to have moments of sadness, lethargy and downwardly spiralling thoughts, wouldn’t it?

What I think I’m also rather ineloquently trying to say is that for me, if I keep on top of my mental and physical health then I am at least somewhat better prepared for when troubles arise (which is again, simply a part of life) and I feel more able to not only cope with them, but to resolve them and not only to minimise the detrimental mental effects of said troubles but in a far shorter time.

I personally compare my efforts to a vacuum cleaner. As in, if I don’t empty the dust and debris each and every time that my hoover (mental stability) is required to deal with biscuit crumbs and dirt (the rubbish that life consistently throws at us), then it becomes clogged up and is more difficult to reach into the depths of the machine (brain) to remove all the muck, dust and dog hairs (negative thoughts) and of course thereby takes considerably more effort and of course longer to clean out. So for me, a little bit of work every day works a treat. I’m not perfect and I’m certainly no saint, but as a friend once said to me,

“Lots of nothing adds up to nothing, but a little bit and a little bit adds up to a lot.”

Katie xx

What do you do? Do you empty your vacuum cleaner regularly? Do you have a routine? What works for you?

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40 thoughts on “What do you do to Combat Depression and/or Anxiety?”

    1. Yes, she’s a wise old bird. Exercise is a bit of a winner really isn’t it – I do admire everyone who gets out there and does it. It’s hard, but the rewards are pretty huge! Well done you 👍👍👍

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  1. I’ve not – thank GOD – suffered from depression, but I’m definitely an anxious creature. Not perhaps in a way that’s ever been debilitating but I guess my alcoholism took care of THAT part, eh. So on a personal level I can’t comment really as to how exercise helps specifically to depression, but I’ll have to chime in and agree it does lots of good and that can only EVER help, right?

    Anna x

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    1. Absolutely Anna, and you’re up there with the best of them for having a healthy life now, no alcohol, plenty of exercise etc … whoop whoop! I think I’ve just put you on a little pedestal 👍👍 xx

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      1. I can understand that. Sometimes I think that when we’re in our 20’s we don’t have as many fears because we cannot see the consequences as easily as we do now with the benefit of having some life experiences. And I think that this was one of the reasons that my world had started to shrink, because I overthought everything too much. But you, you were brave and I applaud you for that, hugely! Katie x

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  2. What about the times when we’re travelling along quite nicely wirh our routines and nothing notable in life happens but seemingly suddenly everything feels flat? So its not that we havnt been cleaning out the vacuum, maybe its just getting old and worn out? (Sorry to be difficult, i do love this post)

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    1. Ahhh, then maybe that’s the time to go on a wee holiday! I do think in all seriousness however that this does happen and certainly I’ve been known to panic slightly about the sheer ‘meh’ of life because sometimes, particularly in winter, it can feel that way. For me, I just have to remember that it’s not my given right to feel ecstatically happy every minute of every day and I try to remember that funny old thing which roughly translates as:
      Love and enjoy the wonderful times
      Relax in the average and normal times
      And ride out the bad times, as they too shall pass.
      But I’m with you, sometimes it just feels like the vacuum cleaner needs a good service!!

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  3. Like others have said, the vacuum cleaner analogy is really effective Katie.

    I think small daily practices can make a huge difference in our overall mental wellbeing. I have a morning routine that involves a kind of prayer (I’m not especially religious, it’s more like putting the request outwards to the universe, and inwards to myself), yoga, some slightly more vigorous exercise (pull ups and push ups) and finally gratitudes for five things I’m thankful for. Sounds long and complicated but it fits in 20 minutes fine and sets me up well for the day.

    I walk a lot and recently have got back into cycling which is so much better for me for the commute. Makes a real difference not feeling like you’re trapped in the traffic rat race, even though I’m making the same journey, just at my own pace, and with extra fresh air and exercise.

    I remember one of my grandparents always said “prevention is better than cure”, and I think that’s the case here too. By engaging in regular activities that help us feel better – mentally and physically – it makes us more robust and adaptable during the inevitable more challenging times. Doesn’t make us invincible, but certainly stronger and calmer.

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    1. Yes! My mother used to say prevention is better than a cure too. And how true is that … I think you’ve said in one sentence what I waffled about for a whole page! I like your routine and the cycling bit too. I just started cycling this year (in case you’ve missed my drivel about France!) which was literally life-changing. It’s impossible to feel down when the wind is in your hair and you’re dodging the traffic, although I must say that it was freezing cold just now, particularly as it’s suddenly got darker in the evenings. Thanks so much for reading and telling me your thoughts- it’s genuinely appreciated and I can so relate. Katie

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      1. Katie, thinking about this more, something else that’s really made a difference is what I eat. Around last August (2017) after a few very unpleasant crashes, I decided I needed to look closely at my diet. Overall I thought I was eating pretty well, plenty of fruit and veg, not a great deal of meat and fat, and hardly any fast food. I didn’t drink anything other than water and juice really. But my gut was often uncomfortable, sometimes very much so, and I realised some time later than this had a knock on effect on my general mood and outlook. Plus in the afternoons, I had energy crashes, headaches and/or light-headedness, and a general lack of ability to focus.

        I started reading a fascinating book called Clever Guts (https://cleverguts.com/clever-guts-diet/) and was relieved to hear it also talked about the gut being our second brain, and the kind of effects on mood I was experiencing could well be down to my digestive system not being happy.

        I took a long hard look at my diet and realised how much sugar I was eating. Not obvious things like sweets and cakes, but the more hidden (to me) sugar in things like fruit juice, cereal (I only had muesli mostly but the sugar levels in it with all the dried fruit are shockingly high), honey, jam. Some of the fruits I was eating daily – grapefruit, oranges and kiwis – had the highest sugar levels of all fruits too.

        So I overhauled what I was eating, switched to lower sugar fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, redcurrants, gave up orange juice and jam and honey on toast each morning, changed from muesli to porridge oats and generally cut down on cake and biscuits. I also changed my bread intake to just two slices of homemade spelt or rye (or a mixture of both) with butter for breakfast (unbelievably delicious!) and abandoned my almost daily cheese sandwiches for lunch. Instead of sandwiches I generally have cous cous or bulgur wheat with various veg (peppers, tomatoes, onion, cucumber), plus sesame and sunflower seeds. I also eat a fair few oat cakes with 100% peanut butter. This has helped greatly with my afternoon energy. I also stopped eating cereal bars (again generally high in sugar) and started making my own cereal bars and “raw bars”.

        I’ve cut down on dairy too, no cows’ milk directly on cereal, instead I have almond milk. I do have natural yogurt (and Kefir) and natural butter, in moderation, so my cows’ milk dairy intake overall with giving up cheese too is probably a third of what it was 15 months ago. Which I think has helped too.

        Anyway, I didn’t mean to write quite so much, but what we eat can make a huge difference to generally mood and anxiety and energy levels, and often sugar, dairy and wheat products are the usual culprits to look at first, even if like me you feel overall you have a pretty decent diet.

        Dan

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      2. Oh my goodness Dan, this is brilliant! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. It’s really good to hear. I too have huge lapses in energy, usually after lunch. But I’m not good about eating breakfast which really doesn’t help. I think I need some real discipline to get me back on the straight and narrow. In fact I don’t each fast food really at all, I cook everything from scratch, however I know that I drink way too much tea and coffee with sugar in. I suspect that needs to stop straight away. It sounds like you’re doing incredibly well, you must have very strong will-power! Oh, and I also have a complete love of ginger nuts and will shamefully eat half a packet at a time – please don’t be too shocked. I shall take heed of your advice and work on this because I reckon you’re spot on. Thanks again very much indeed. Katie

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      3. Oh I do have my lapses, and weaknesses. With food it’s dark chocolate, specifically Green and Blacks 85%, though actually in moderation I regard it as a pretty healthy substance, and because it’s pretty strong I’m not tempted to eat a lot in one go, unlike milk chocolate which a few years back I ate far too much of but now can’t really stomach at all, too sweet and sickly.

        I sometimes indulge in too many dried apricots and/or dates (again great in moderation though!) and I still succumb to a slab of homemade cake or brownie now and then, and if too large usually regret it afterwards.

        Also I just eat too much overall sometimes, which I also regret and makes me feel very uncomfortable. I think when you have a reaction that’s visible and quite quick to manifest with certain foods, it’s easier to not keep eating them. And, I don’t know, I really feel now there’s very little that’s more tasty or appealing than a bowl of berries with yogurt, or homemade spelt bread toasted with butter. Often it’s the simplest foods that are most delicious.

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      4. Yes, I’m with you there. I’ve recently started using the Gousto recipes, the ones that are mainly Indian and Asian. They are absolutely delicious and I’m not sure where you live, but not as ‘stodgy’ as so much of our English food that we have a tendency to eat when the weather gets colder. They’re just healthy and weirdly for me I’m rather loving the vegetarian ones too. Well, I have you on my healthy eating pedestal as you’ve helped me and for that I thank you! Katie

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    1. Yes, I’m with you on this. Blogging is great – a really good ‘dumping ground’ for all the thoughts and great reading of others posts too. As for cooking and gardening, yup! Particularly gardening (if the weather’s good!) … its a double whammy of both fresh air and exercise and there is something to show for the hard work afterwards too. Thanks very much for reading and sharing the things that work for you, it’s lovely. Katie x

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  4. I love your little bit quote. I think I too have a pick-and-mix approach, and so long as I’m doing some of these things, I’m doing ok: yoga, walking, just being outside, drinking coffee and chatting with partner and friends, gardening, keeping up with the wretched housework, chocolate eating, laughing.

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  5. You do brighten up my day and make me laugh, dog hairs LOL. I pray. I do prayers which clear the negativity away and sit out in the fresh air to lighten up. Now it is cooler where I live so I can readily enjoy time on my balcony looking at the river. Keeping the house clean.

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    1. Yes to both! I find de-cluttering better than therapy. Sadly however I now have practically nothing left, so yes walks or in my case cycling is a great alternative. I’ll have a look at your post now! Thanks so much for reading and sharing what works for you. It’s genuinely appreciated.

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  6. This is so interesting the analogy of emptying the vacuum cleaner. Literally just last night I was reading the same concept with deleting files on a computer. Where do the go? Into the trash, but they are still on your computer and you must EMPTY it to totally remove them. I can so relate. I tend to attempt to do the cleanup and move them to a safe trash zone within, but often have problems when it comes to removing and emptying it. Isn’t it interesting how the universe keeps trying to tell us something by repetition? This is happening with me more and more. Thank you for sharing – I guess I have to go and take out the trash ❤️

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    1. Yes, if something is going into the trash, it needs to be emptied, otherwise it’s very much still there. Like having a hundred different tabs open on the computer; they might not be easily visible, but they’re still there, slowing everything down and clogging the system up! Thanks for reading and I really like the deleting files one too … all similar but makes absolute sense to me!

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  7. Lol, I try. And I know if I can exercise, sleep right, and eat right things will be good. But generally what *really* happens is that I get into my routine and things are going great, and then I’m feeling sooooo good that I figure it won’t hurt to skip a yoga class or eat that donut. And one day turns into a death spiral. Lol!! I don’t know if it’s over-optimism, lack of discipline, or just part of the anxiety — like other mental issues where people think they’re doing great on a regimen so they can afford to diverge a little. I won’t say I have to hit rock bottom to get back on track but it can happen that way too. Yikes, right? Lol, I know…. kudos to all who do better at keeping themselves healthy than me.

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    1. Ha! I think that we’re all the same! Just when we’ve struggled to get on the straight and narrow and we’re doing well, we take our foot off the pedal and slip back into old habits. I guess a bit like stopping drinking alcohol. We’ve done a month without so we think we’re home and dry so have a little teensy drink. Within the week we’re back to square one again! I reckon you’re brill! X

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