3 Things That Conquer Anxiety and Depression
We all hold our own Pandora's box.
This box is full of things that are catastrophic to anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression encourage us to keep the lid on that box.
From experience, I have found that anxiety and depression make me feel unmotivated and unable to accept things. They also obstruct my ability to live in the present moment, also known as "mindfulness."
Do you feel this too?
Although it might not seem like there is a way out of the darkness, the good news is that we all hold the ability to unleash skills that will help us conquer anxiety and depression.
Anxiety and Depression: Pandora’s Box
If you allow yourself to open the lid on the box, this could help haul you out of the darkness and prevent relapses. If you find yourself relapsing, Hannah Thomas, in her guest blog for Nerve 10, gives 3 simple steps for beating your mental health relapse.
The main causes of my darkness were bullying, sexual assault, and Meniere’s Disease. Opening Pandora’s box was a positive event, and many things could be learned from it.
But what was in Pandora’s box that was so detrimental to anxiety and depression? And how can you open the lid?
At our lowest, anxiety and depression might make it difficult to get out of bed, make food, do the cleaning, get showered, and make lifestyle changes. Enjoyable activities and exercise were lifesaving lifestyle changes for me, but it can seem impossible to get there.
How: Start by taking small steps and giving yourself goals for the day, such as getting out of bed, washing up, leaving the house and walking around the block.
You’ll feel a little burst of success for every goal you accomplish, and this will help you to build the “can do” attitude. Eventually, you can expand these goals and build up momentum.
My goals started with getting out of bed and getting washed, then making food, leaving the house alone. Years later, it eventually went as far as climbing Kilimanjaro. There is a strong link between nature, exercise, and mental wellbeing; the gym wasn’t for me, which is why I spend every weekend outdoors.
Touching the summit, a site focused on combating anxiety one adventure at a time, states that “depression and anxiety can make us feel exhausted, unmotivated and want to stay indoors, but on the contrary, exercise can make you feel energetic and motivated.” Feeling energetic and motivated is key to combating anxiety and depression. Additionally, this helps us to stop procrastinating and get daily things done that would otherwise be difficult, such as cleaning, cooking, shopping and getting out of bed.
There is always something for everyone, whether it’s walking, gym, Zumba, or tennis. And if you don’t know what you’d like, try something. This is an OPPORTUNITY to have fun and try something new, which will also help with depression and anxiety.
Enjoyable activities: Having something to look forward to every week or month is beneficial for recovery and avoiding relapses. This could be something as simple as baking a cake every month for your colleagues, trying an experimental recipe, meeting with friends for a cup of caffeine-free tea, or drinking a non-alcoholic cocktail.
Why caffeine free or alcohol-free? Drink aware has confirmed that alcohol can worsen anxiety and depression. Caffeine doesn’t help either.
I bake quite often. My wife hates it; flour and date paste splats all over. Oops. But she never complains when she’s eating the cake…Nom Nom Nom!
Accepting that you have anxiety, depression or any other issue that needs medical attention is the first step to management or recovery. Additionally, anxiety or depression could stem from traumatic life events, and accepting those feelings and allowing yourself to feel what you feel is vital for healing. Rebecca Coggins, in her guest blog for Nerve 10, describes acceptance when she writes, “It’s not about getting better. It's about staying alive. It’s about staying strong. And it is not up to me to run that course alone.”
How: taking the first step and seeking medical advice is a huge accomplishment.
This could differ from person to person; therefore, it is important to speak to your doctor, who can point you in the right direction.
I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I told my doctor of the dark feelings inside, coupled with my fear, panic and self-harming behavior. It was also a relief that he didn’t find me weird and he normalised this for me. He told me that other people also suffer, and he pointed me in the right direction.
When suffering with anxiety and depression, we might not accept that we are limited in our daily productivity. This can lead to putting pressure on yourself, procrastinating, and not accomplishing the tasks at hand, which can then lead to stress, self-doubt, and low self-esteem.
Being able to accept your feelings and any limitations on a daily basis could make tough days easier. If you accept that you’re not feeling well today, then you’ll accept you can’t be as productive, which leads to less time procrastinating about it, which can then increase productivity and decrease stress.
Do what is right for you:
Everyone is different. I refused medication for 10 years and instead participated in therapy only. Unfortunately, I was too anxious to put my therapy into practice, and, after 10 years, I accepted a low dose of Venlafaxine. This takes the edge off my anxiety and enables me to put my therapy into practice.
In retrospect, I wish I took the medication at the start. Although I am dependent on the meds and suffer withdrawals if I miss a tablet, they have significantly improved my quality of life.
And there is absolutely no shame in that.
3. Mindfulness with goals
This may seem contradictory, as goals mean planning, and planning can fuel anxiety. We can’t plan and control every aspect of our lives.
However, I found no goals meant that I wouldn’t do anything, and this contributed to depression. It is possible to make goals, plan for them, and remain in the moment.
How: Having anxiety, I used to avoid situations or plan for every eventuality. I’d plan for the potential for things to go wrong. Uncertainty was my nemesis.
Mindful.org, a site dedicated to guiding, inspiring and connecting people who want to explore mindfulness, provides 10 great tips on mindful attitudes, which enable you to become more present and challenge fight-or-flight reactions. Additionally, it is important that we learn to let go of things out of our control. An example is planning for a hike. I plan the things in my control such as the time I will leave the house and the food and equipment I will pack, but I allow flexibility for things out of my control, such as the pace of others in the group and if we reach the summit (After all, this can be route and weather-dependent).
Remember: you hold the key. With the right treatment, it is possible to remove the lid from Pandora’s box and create the catastrophic consequences to conquer depression and anxiety.
What are the first steps that you took in your recovery?
Love and peace,
Sarah Hudson is originally from Durham, UK and is now living in Munich, Germany. Sarah is a full-time sufferer of anxiety and occasional depression. At her lowest, Sarah was unable to leave the house alone, and she uses adventure to combat her mental illness. You can find out more here:
Adventures & Mental Health Blog: www.touchingthesummit.com