There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
~ Winnie the Pooh
Coping with anxiety and depression is perhaps one of the hardest situations for humans to deal with. And I know this from personal experience.
Because of personal experience, I hope that I might be able to offer some helpful advice to those of you who might be currently struggling with anxiety and depression and feelings of despair.
However, before we get to some of the tips and strategies on how to cope with anxiety and depression I just want to address your current situation quickly. If you are in terrible shape right now with thoughts of suicide or utter despair. If you think you are likely at your wits end and about to hurt yourself or someone else, please call 911 and get some help or dial this North American toll free number 1 800 273 TALK(8255) which puts you in touch with the folks at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For other resources in times of need the global International Suicide Prevention Wiki can be very helpful.
I have been at a place where I’ve felt desperate and unsure of my future and what might come of me. I am not a counsellor, so I offer this advice only as a fellow traveller who has found hope at the end of dark days and dark journeys.
But I have been at the end of my rope where your world feels empty and vacuous and the only option is a quick end to this physical life. A way out to end the pain and despair or vast sea of nothingness.
We are emotional beings it is my belief, travelling this physical existence in order to experience emotional breadth but also depth and understanding for our soul.
If we lose that capacity to feel or we cannot overcome the feeling of despair and sadness we are vulnerable to ending this journey too soon.
I have found that the biggest trigger to anxiety and depression is a lack of connection. We are social animals by nature and yet our world is set up to keep us distanced from one another and isolated.
Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist I believe that the news and media do us a great disservice in this regard by praying and playing on our fears.
It is hard to trust strangers and as we look around ourselves we start seeing everyone as strangers. Friends are few and far between and those we have are all tied up in knots and stress about their own lives. So how can we learn to deal with depression and anxiety on our own.
It is hard and difficult. But I have found the following techniques to be helpful.
The first thing to do is to find some place quiet where we can meditate. It is through meditation that we can find ourselves and listen to our innermost needs and wants.
There is no need to follow a specific and rigorous path to meditation. Rather it is enough to sit and be still. I sometimes find lying on my couch or bed to be even better. Meditation in my opinion is the process of looking inward.
If you need some quite, soft and gentle music then let it play in the background. Don’t play sad songs. Rather you want music without vocals ideally.
You might find it ridiculous at first to sit or lie as your mind natters and chatters and growls and throws a tantrum as you try and find that quiet moment in your mental space to really see deeper into the ocean of your soul.
And if you give it some time you will find that your mind will quieten down to some degree and the ocean of your soul will become more still and the froth will dissipate.
At this point you will start to uncover the secrets as to your anxiety and depression. Allow yourself to visit these moments, these scenes as they come so that you can better see your current condition reflected.
Oftentimes, our feelings of despair, anxiety and depression have real causes that take some very deep introspection to uncover. Perhaps a coworker said something mean spirited in an off hand way and you have started into a spiral of self-loathing and despair.
But digging deeper you realize that this coworker was mirroring your mother, aunt, teacher or coach who made you feel terrible when you were small and that off handed comment by your coworker subconsciously brought you back to that place where you were 7 or 8 and you are subconsciously reliving that sense of vulnerability and hopelessness.
The above is just an example, but in order to uncover these deeper feelings, the well from which our anxiety and depression spring, we need to dive deeper into our psyche.
Hopelessness is perhaps the greatest contributor to anxiety and despair. When we lack hope we feel powerless and vulnerable and this feeds us ever further into a spiral of depression.
But uncovering that feeling of hopelessness and why it is in fact incorrect allows to grab a hold of just a thread of power from which we can climb out of our despair and anxiety.
In the example given above. Realizing that perhaps there was no malicious intent on behalf of our coworker can help us put this incident in perspective. But with further exploration we can now realize that we are no longer that 7 or 8 year old boy or girl and our coworker is not our mother, father, coach or teacher. We can choose not to let their barbed words affect us.
If it is appropriate perhaps we need to address this coworker in how they treated us. You will be amazed at how easily this approach can be in rectifying a situation. Just saying, “I’d prefer you didn’t speak to me that way” can be very cathartic and affirming.
But perhaps it feels like too much. In which case we can focus on how we are interpreting those words. We can choose not to let them make us feel like that vulnerable 7 or 8 year old. And a big part of this is learning how to forgive ourselves. Because perhaps we have for these 20, 30 or more years been beating up on that little 7 or 8 year old for not standing up for themselves. For us not standing up for ourself all those years ago.
But this is not helpful. At 7 or 8 we are vulnerable and we need to forgive ourselves for feeling that way because it was appropriate. We were vulnerable and we were powerless and those words or feelings did cut us deep.
But now we are an adult and we can move on from continually putting ourselves back in the shoes of our 8 year old self to continually feed the cycle of victimization.
We can end it. I’m not saying it is easy or that it is a quick process. But self awareness is important. And through meditation or reaching out to a good friend or a counsellor if that is what we need can help us dive deep into those dark waters and confront those monsters who are made of nothing more than straw.
Breathe deeply too when you feel anxiety or depression or panic attacks squeezing you. Stretch and breathe. Talk to someone about how you feel because to give voice to these feelings makes them much smaller than they otherwise might seem.
Many people have been where you are now. Perhaps all of us at one point or another feel anxious, depressed and powerless. Take one small step. Reach out by phone, by hand or online and take a small step towards healing and building your confidence back up.
Winnie the Pooh was right. Read his wise words above. You will get through this if you just never give up. Never surrender.