Photo: Heidi Lau
I’ve been fairly candid about my off and on battles with anxiety and depression around here and it always feels so wonderful to get these things off my chest. If there’s one thing I’ve realized during the course of doing so it’s that I’m definitely not alone. We are not alone. And that’s often enough to set me back on the right track.
Although I do my very best to keep everything as authentic as humanly possible around here, there’s no denying it can be tough to find the balance between relatable and inspirational. The reality is that my career as an interior designer and social media influencer (side note: ick – I will never be comfortable with that term) innately focuses on beauty and perfection. Ironically, though I LOVE my job, it can feel particularly overwhelming when things feel anything but perfect in my mind. I’ve struggled off and on with different levels of anxiety and depression throughout the course of my life, but it became particularly bad throughout January and February of this year. I have since made the conscious decision that anxiety is not something I plan on dealing with forever. Don’t get me wrong – I know it’s something I’m always going to have to keep my eye on. But I truly believe that it’s something I can, and will, overcome.
I’ve spent the better part of the last two months working really hard on myself. Soul searching, really figuring out who I am in my core, working on my self-love, and my self-development have been my number one priority, and I’ve really honed in on how to help myself when I’m feeling at my worst. I want to be clear when I say that I am not a professional and I will never profess to having all the answers – or even necessarily the right answers. I also know that everyone is entirely different, with different backgrounds, seeing the world through different lenses, and we all experience different levels of suffering. So while these tactics may work wonders for me, they very well may not work for you and that’s perfectly okay. But I wanted to share all the same in hopes that this, too, helps one of you – even if it’s just for a moment. And, even better, encourages you to do some exploring yourself so that you, too, can find your light. Here is how to relieve anxiety (at least in my world):
Oddly enough, I’ve realized more than anything else that being dehydrated is one of my biggest triggers. Coming from someone who was anti-water for the better half of my life (truly – I would go days without taking a sip and lived a good chunk of my life with a perpetual headache), it has been a bit of an adjustment. But this change alone has helped by leaps and bounds. I now carry a big ol’ water bottle around with me everywhere I go, and make it my goal to fill it up at least four times throughout the day. Some days are better, some days are worse, but I can legitimately feel anxiety creeping in the moment I start to slip on my water intake.
Though the amount of sleep I get each evening makes a huge difference, I have noticed that the quality of sleep I get is almost more important for my mental health. I’ve been told that every hour of sleep before midnight is equivalent to two hours of sleep after midnight and that couldn’t feel truer. When I get to bed by 10:00 each evening, which is now my goal every night, I feel infinitely better the next day than if I stay up even a minute past midnight. Though I have always known I do best with 8 hours of sleep, it doesn’t really seem to matter exactly how many hours of shuteye I get, it’s when I fall asleep that counts most. This may be different for everyone, but I encourage you to play around with your sleep schedule in an attempt to find one that feels best.
Whether it’s a movie I’m watching, a podcast I’m listening to, or a long brunch with a friend, I find that stopping to truly take stock of how I feel after each activity once it’s complete helps tremendously. Our bodies will give us cues as to what we should and shouldn’t be putting ourselves through – most of us have just gotten really good at ignoring them. For example – for a while there, I was really into true crime podcasts. And while I still find them fascinating I’m now well aware of now of how crappy I felt after listening to each episode. Heavy. Nervous. Sad. Those were all things I was voluntarily putting myself through without even noticing. And now that I’m aware of it, I have much less of a desire to partake.
Similarly, I’ve done the same for how I feel after a good run (amazing), or a sweaty yoga class (invigorated), gorging myself on cookies (nauseous), or a coffee date with a particularly negative friend (drained)… The closer you pay attention, the more desire you have to take part in the activities that feel good, and the more likely you are to cut out the ones that don’t. Essentially I’m now very cognizant of what I’m putting into my mind, my body, and my soul. And it has had a tremendously positive impact on my mental health.
I’m truly starting to believe that the secret to happiness lies in how much we love ourselves – flaws and all. I hate to be simplistic about it, but when it comes down to it, we all accept what we think we deserve. And the more we love ourselves, the less crap we’re willing to put up with, and the less anxious we’ll then feel. A girlfriend of mine recently pointed out that the things that most of us tell ourselves every day are inexcusable. Some of my favourite reoccurring stories are “your legs are too fat to wear shorts” or “your hair is so flat and stringy”. Can you imagine saying these horrendous things to anyone else? I would never! And I’m not a violent person, but I’m confident I’d want to punch anyone who uttered similar words to anyone – let alone the people I love. So why is it acceptable to say these things to ourselves?
The more I work on my own self-love and self-confidence, the more aware I am of the legitimate abuse I used to subject myself to daily. Working through lunch. Skipping family dinners. Accepting a task knowing full well it means I won’t get a good night’s sleep. We are often our own worst enemies. And the more I work on liking and accepting myself for exactly who I am, the more I prioritize myself and my happiness. I eat healthier – not because I want to look good but because I know I deserve to feel good. I schedule the time to work out. I make time to meet my girlfriends for dinner. I decline jobs that don’t excite me because I know and trust that I’m talented and better things will come. It is not easy – trust me – but the more I work on loving myself, the higher my standards become. And in the end, everything feels so much lighter. Brighter. And significantly happier.
This one has been really difficult for me, but it does become easier the more often I do it. Please don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend or family member to lend an ear, or booking an appointment with a therapist, getting the thoughts and worries out of your physical body is a game changer. I know how lonely it can feel when you’re in the thick of it. And while it’s terrifying to confront those heavy feelings (trust me – it took years for me to build up the courage to speak to a therapist), you’d be surprised at how wonderful it feels once you do. Not always, but often. And funnily enough, the more I love on myself (see above), the easier it gets for me to ask for help. If you aren’t yet comfortable expressing your emotions out loud, I highly recommend writing them down and tossing them in the trash. Often simply getting my negative thoughts out of my physical body is the best thing I can do for myself.
I know, I know, I can feel the eyerolls through the screen. But I once read a quote that said “When you’re in a dark place sometimes you think you’ve been buried, but perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom“. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, is that my anixety tends to peak right before something major is about to shift in my life. And while it feels dark and overwhelming, it has always been met with a lot of beauty in the end. I’m still not entirely sure if the anxiety causes the shift, or if it senses the shift and is reacting, but either way something pretty great always seems to follow.
I’d love to know – do you deal with anxiety or depression? I’m a work in progress and am constantly striving to be better. If you have any tips for how to relieve anxiety I would love to hear them!
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