I want to share some of the key aspects that have helped me get to where I am today in regards to this journey. I have come leaps and bounds when it comes to anxiety and depression compared to where I was a few years ago, and especially compared to where I was when it all first began as a young child. Of course everyone has their own story and different things work for different people, but here are some of the core components that contributed to healing my mental health:
Are you surprised? 😉 As someone who studied psychotherapy and also operates another business focused on therapy for eating disorders, trauma/PTSD and anxiety it is no surprise that this has been an essential part of my healing journey. I have had multiple therapists over the years that have helped me with different issues and specialized in different things. There are SO many different types of therapeutic modalities and therapists in general; I highly recommend “shopping around” until you feel that you have found a good fit for yourself and feel confident that the therapist you choose can truly hear you and help you. Most recently for me, I have been seeing an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – look it up if you’ve never heard of it, it’s SO cool!) therapist to help me get past some traumatic hurdles that talk therapy just wasn’t enough for; it has been truly helpful.
2. Positive Speech, Mantras, and Mindset Shifts
This one was SO hard for me at first, and it still is at times. I used to naturally be a very pessimistic person. I would constantly go down the rabbit hole of “what if” scenarios, feel like the world was out to get me and nothing would ever truly go my way, and just be waiting for the next “bad” thing to happen to me. I really truly only began to work on this step about two years ago. My partner has helped me immensely, and I am so lucky to have such an understanding and empathic presence in my life. I hadn’t even really realized how negative I WAS until I had someone (he is also a therapist, might I add) bring it to my attention. Man, was that a hard pill to swallow. To realize that for the majority of my life, I could have actually been contributing to or even creating my own suffering? I really bucked that idea at first, and I didn’t want to believe it…it was easier to just play the victim and believe that I had no control over everything that was happening to me in life. But through some pretty intense physical health struggles that popped up (I will be going into these in my post “My Story: Body”), I truly was pushed and forced to think outside the box and change my mindset. I just couldn’t keep living the way that I had been living anymore. I read You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and that book was a game changer. Highly recommend to anyone that hasn’t read it. That book REALLY gave me some insight into the mind-body connection, and helped me to understand how my negative mindset was contributing to some of the scary physical health struggles that I had been dealing with at the time. Through that book and the help of my partner, I learned to develop positive mantras for myself to say throughout the day and when times were hard…a few of my personal favorites are “I am safe”, “I trust the process of life”, and simply, “I’ve got this”. My acupuncturist at the time also taught me about Abraham Hicks and the Law of Attraction, as well as manifesting your reality. This may sound a little “woo woo” for some of you, but I swear for me it worked (and continues to). I began speaking positively about my current reality, believing in my potential to continue to heal, and stopped my old constant pattern of cyclical negative thinking and speaking. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Opposite Action
This is a therapeutic skill that can be taught, and it is a very powerful tool. It’s pretty simple: if you feel like doing one thing when you are depressed (for example, laying in bed and isolating)…instead, you do the opposite (i.e. go for a walk, call up a supportive person in your life, journal). Basically you do NOT let the depression (or whatever symptom you are experiencing in that moment) win. I like to separate the symptoms from myself, and remind myself that these symptoms do NOT define me. Just because you are experiencing depression or anxiety does not mean that you are doomed or that you cannot take your power back. We always have the potential to fight against a feeling we are experiencing, no matter how difficult it may feel in that moment.
4. Going Outside of Your Comfort Zone
This is one that I think everyone should practice, whether you are experiencing mental health struggles or not. Life is short, spend more time doing things that make you uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable leads to growth. Of course choose safe and healthy “uncomfortable” activities, but what I mean is pretty simple: try new things! Get out of your “routine” that you feel so comfortable in! Especially if you’re unhappy…one of my favorite quotes is: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you aren’t willing to put the work in to change your life, you can bet that you probably won’t just magically start feeling very much better or very different. I recently had been feeling depressed due to feeling a lack of social connection, and so I have been going outside of my comfort zone and attending more social events that I probably would not have attended, had it been me years ago. Another one of my favorite quotes is, “You have two choices: Evolve or repeat.” I didn’t want to continue to repeat those feelings anymore, so I continue to choose growth.
5. Healthy Boundaries
This one is so important, and not easy for most of us. Many people, especially those in the helping profession, tend to become “people pleasers” and worry about everyone else’s happiness over their own. I used to try to “fix” everyone and everything around me, and it took me years to realize that it just isn’t possible…nor is it my duty to do so. When creating healthy boundaries, I think it is important to get clear on what it is that you would like your relationship/life to look like in regards to others. Once you have an idea of what that looks like, it is time to communicate it nicely to others. For example, if you have that one family member that just keeps making rude comments about your appearance or continues to butt into your personal life, and it drives you crazy…it’s time to speak up! There are multiple ways you can do this in a respectful, calm manner in order to create the boundary for yourself and make it known that you do not appreciate being talked to in a certain way. It is important to go into boundary-setting knowing that it may not always work the way that you would like it to. You can’t control how other people act or respond to you, BUT you always have the choice of how you respond towards other people. If you set a healthy boundary with someone and they choose not to respect it, you also have the choice to politely remind them of this and decide who you would like to spend your time around, or how much of it and with which people. Over the years, I have decided to choose to surround myself with others that I know will respect my boundaries and that just respect me in general. It is also very important to surround yourself with others that have a similar mindset to you; if you are looking to create more positivity in your life, spending your time around pessimistic and negative people will make it much more difficult. Sometimes that means letting go of relationships with others that once meant so much to you, and that can be scary at first…but in the long-term, the reality you create has so much to do with the people you surround yourself with, so it is important to choose wisely.
6. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
We all do it sometimes…we are human. There is no need to beat yourself up for this. I used to do this all the time. I would compare myself to other people in my life in terms of my relationships, grades in school, career goals, external appearance, social life…you name it. All comparing myself to others did was make me think about what was lacking in my life, or what I wanted to have and didn’t have currently in that moment. In short: it did absolutely nothing productive for me, and did not help to lift my depression or anxiety in the slightest. I don’t really know when it clicked for me, but at some point within the last year…I realllllly stopped caring much about what others thought of me. What came along with that was this sense of freedom in knowing that regardless of where others are on their path or what they think of me and my life journey…I know that I am on the right track in terms of where I want to go. That really is all that matters. We are all different people with completely different upbringings, personalities, and goals. To try and say that two people should be in the same place in any area of their life just isn’t logical or fair.
7. Trusting Yourself
This one has also been naturally really difficult for me, as I have spent most of my life trying to seek validation and answers from outside sources and basically from anywhere other than within myself. I am a type 6 in the Enneagram (I will be doing a separate post on this later because I looooove it haha), so if you know anything about that, you’ll know that type 6 tends to seek out authority figures and find answers from others in order to feel “secure”. Type 6’s ask LOTS of questions, can be skeptical and anxious, and tend to have trouble trusting ourselves as we naturally are inclined to believe that we do not have the internal resources to handle life’s challenges on our own. Living my life in this way has been ROUGH. It is really just recently that I’ve truly started to feel that I am able to trust myself and can rely on my own intuition to make solid decisions, without needing to seek outside support or validation. I do still sometimes ask others for support, but it is so minimal compared to how it used to be. It is such a freeing feeling to know that for the first time in my life, I feel secure enough in who I am to know that I truly DO trust myself to make sound decisions. I also have grown to believe that regardless of the outcome of my decisions, it will all turn out the way that it is meant to in the end. All of the decisions I have made in my life have led me to be exactly where I am right now, and this feels like a really great place to be in this moment.
Of course there are SO many different ways to work through anxiety and depression. I changed many other aspects of my life as well, which also made tremendous differences in regards to my mental health and will be covered further in other posts. My point is: there is always a way to change your life for the better. If the things you have been trying in order to help improve your mental health haven’t worked for you, don’t give up! There is always something else that you have not tried yet. This world is so vast and full of so many possibilities for help; we just have to keep trying. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay – everyone is different and unique in their needs. I just aim to inspire others, drop some knowledge, and share some ideas that helped me in hopes that it may help just one other person out there 🙂 ❤