Looking back, I suffered from anxiety and depression for far longer than I had realized. I had severe digestion issues as a teen and in my twenties, that I would only learn later was because of anxiety and not because of what I was eating.
As I got older and the pressures and stresses of being an adult only seemed to increase, so did my anxiety in the form of more digestion issues, headaches, moodiness, and chest pains. As awareness of mental health became more of a regular topic, I was able to realize that all of these were symptoms of anxiety. Which in turn, was a symptom of something else.
Although I was always a healthy and outgoing person, I decided to take my mental health more seriously a few years ago. There are so many things I’d wished I’d known decades ago and I’ve learned so much about my own mental health that I think is worth sharing given that it’s estimated that 15% of the population suffer from some anxiety or depression.
Today my anxiety is under control (I don’t think it ever goes away) and I’m able to recognize things I’m doing my quicker that aggravate it. There was no quick fix, it was an accumulation of small changes that made a difference. Here’s how I got my mental health under control.
I can’t be the only person who would make life changes and then after a week or two, decide it wasn’t working. I wish when I was younger that I looked at my anxiety like a major physical injury. Think about the last big injury you had, maybe you twisted your ankle really badly. You probably couldn’t just stay off it a week and then expect to jump into a volleyball game, right? Yet, I would feel anxious and see a counseller or do yoga for a few weeks and decide it wasn’t really helping. Injuries like anxiety take a long time to heal and they’re never totally the same as before. And that’s fine. Know that the things you do to relieve stress and invest in your mental health take time and need to be done regularly. It’s a regular outlet that is necessary to keep you happier.
For years I would go back and forth between seeing counselors, debating medication (although I never did although for some people, it’s a big help), and trying different things to feel more like myself. Yet, every time someone suggested cutting out coffee or alcohol I pretty much laughed in their face. I loved my wine! I needed my lattes! It sounds so dumb when I look back. If you’re putting all this effort into finding a better balance in your life why not try everything?
Slowly I cut out most caffeine and drastically cut back on my alcohol and the improvement was huge. I still can’t believe what a difference it made, I really wish I had done it sooner. I know it can seem like an impossible task but if it could make you feel even just a bit better, isn’t it worth giving it a try even for a month?
Eating really healthy always makes me feel better and lessens my anxiety. I also started lifting weights and playing a ton of volleyball (the social aspect is a big part of it). I was always so busy that I could never fit so much working out into my schedule but how much time was I spending before feeling down? Try and hit two birds with one stone by doing something physical with a friend or two. Social interactions are a big help when it comes to mental health so try and get your friend time in while doing something outside or in a gym.
I talked to my doctor, saw counsellers, connected with people online, and spoke to my family and friends. Some of it helped, and some of it didn’t. But always take advantage of the resources available to you. I felt like I owed it to the people in my life and to myself to be the best version of myself possible. Honestly, what’s the worse that could happen? Reach out and use the resources available to you.
One of the worse things about anxiety and depression is feeling GUILTY about feeling that way. I am so lucky and have everything I could ever need, so how could I not feel happy and grateful every day? This type of thinking is unhelpful and usually worsens your mental state. I decided to think about my anxiety like chronic pain- it was going to be around forever and it was going to ebb and flow and that’s ok. When I felt like it was worsening I would get more serious about taking care of myself and move on. No more beating myself up and no more judging myself. Acknowledging that how you feel is ok and not abnormal can take a big burden off your shoulders. You are not alone!
Want to read more about mental health? Check out our post on foods for boosting your mood.