Anxiety and depression seem to be becoming more common in our society these days. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect about 18% of Americans and around one third of those affected don’t seek treatment. Additionally, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, at least 6.7% of Americans have one major depressive episode per year. However, sometimes, even when the depressive episode isn’t what you’d consider “major, or if your anxiety creeps in for no apparent reason, it makes it hard to function sometimes. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, focusing is nearly impossible, and it seems like you just can’t do anything. You feel trapped and, let me tell you, it sucks.
So what can you do when you don’t think you can do anything? What can you do when your body feels weak and heavy, just like your brain, for no apparent reason (or even if there is an obvious cause)? How can you help yourself, even if it’s just in the short term? Here’s what I do:
- Take a little time for reflection. When did you start feeling this way? Did anything trigger it? For a few minutes, just sit in the feeling, recognize the feeling for what it is, and absorb it. Yes, it can be extremely uncomfortable to do so, but until you identify the problem you are currently having and really accept that you are feeling what you are feeling, it is much more difficult to feel better
- Just get up. Sometimes, this can be the absolute hardest thing to do on days when it seems like you just can’t. However, this is probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Just get up and start moving. Start going through the motions of your every day life. Just start. I know you can.
- Go outside. Once you’ve started your day, the next step is to get some sunshine (if there is some). It’s amazing what a little vitamin D can do for the soul. Even if you just go outside and sit, it can be extremely therapeutic. Try to focus on the sounds around you, the smells, the warmth of the sun, etc. Mother nature is pretty powerful, and she takes care of us.
- Move. Exercise of any form produces endorphins, and in the words of Elle Woods: “Exercise gives you endorphins, Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” And if it’s good enough to help prove Brooke Windham’s innocence, I think it’ll help you fight your depression, even if it’s just a little.
- Do something that normally makes you happy. I know with depression, the things that make you usually make you happy don’t seem enjoyable at all. With anxiety, they might get your heart and mind racing. But once you’re in the midst of those activities, you might just find the little spark that puts a smile on your face.
- Cuddle. Whether it’s a significant other, a pet, or your old stuffed animal, it’s amazing what a little cuddling can do. It’s especially helpful if all of the items mentioned above really do seem impossible.
- Light candles. For me, a little lavender and the smell of “calming waves” bring me peace. Additionally, the warm glow of the flame has a calming effect. It’s like bringing a little bit of the spa into your home.
When functioning really is impossible, that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and try to work through it. Take care of yourself first and everything else will come.
I’m definitely not a therapist, and have no professional experience with mental health, but I do have personal experience. What I have mentioned above is how I cope on the days I just can’t. I have had quite a few days, particularly while I’ve been in graduate school, where functioning seems like the most daunting task of all. The aforementioned strategies are how I get through those days, and I’ve began seeing a therapist to help develop coping mechanisms and be more proactive with my mental health.
Please take care of yourself. Health isn’t just about kale salads or CrossFit. Your mental and emotional welfare are also extremely important when trying to live a full, balanced life. You can help yourself, even if that means seeking professional help. But on the days when you can’t speak to a professional, or feel like you can’t do anything, the above strategies may be able to give you a little more strength to get you through the day.