A very dear friend of mine reached out to me and asked how I dealt with anxiety and stress back when I worked in news. Honest answer? I didn’t… and it almost cost me my life. You see, about four years ago I was at the verge of a nervous break down. I reached a point of no return, or so I thought. I am not ashamed to share my story because I get constant messages from friends and followers telling me that my past experiences and the way I approach life today helps them see a light at the end of the tunnel. So, even though I hope this post helps a lot of you dealing with anxiety, depression and stress, I dedicate this post to my friend (you know who you are.)
Today I live a pretty balanced and happy life. I can’t say it is perfect because I do not believe in perfection. If you do, there lies your first problem. We are a “work in progress” and you will only learn to deal with the ups and downs of life if you adopt this thinking as your truth. Be kind and gentle with yourself and know that to get a different result, you have to try something different. It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results. Start adopting these key habits and you will see a transformation in your life:
1- Learn To Say “No”
“No” is a complete sentence. Start practicing the use of this word immediately. It will feel uncomfortable at first but everything in life takes practice. Who said we have to say “yes” to everything? Whatever comes to your plate at work, at home or in life in general, take the time to analyze it and determine if it makes sense. Think of where you are in your life and what your priorities are. Put yourself first, always. Stop this behavior of pleasing others or caring about what they think. A very smart person once said: “what others think of you is not your problem.” At work, if too much is on your plate, sit down with your manager and get his/her help to prioritize things. Focus the conversation on productivity and not on your personal life. At the end of the day, companies don’t care about your personal life. I know it sounds cold and brutal but that’s the truth.
2- Make Exercise A Daily Routine
Exercising at least 30 minutes a day is the equivalent to taking a pretty good dosage of Prozac. Make exercise a daily routine! Go for a walk, a run, bike somewhere, you name it. The main point here is you need to move. Exercising is not only for your body but for your mind. This will also help you distress and release endorphins, the hormones that make you happy. Do what you can and when you can. Work out early in the morning before you go to work or right after work. Some people manage to work out at lunch and if your schedule permits, do that. If you do not work outside of the home, try to work out with your partner a time that makes sense. The main theme here is, you need to find time to exercise and take care of yourself.
3- Adopt a Healthy Eating Habit
Eating well and having a balanced diet is just as important as exercising. They actually go hand-in-hand. Adopting a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water will make your body function properly, hence making you feel better. If you are dealing with anxiety, avoid drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks. I know anxiety and depression may cause you to not be hungry or not be in the mood. You need to eat, even if very small portions throughout the day. Trust me, I know the feeling. I also know anxiety may make you want to overeat or eat all the wrong things. Try the best you can to tame your appetite with healthy snacks and foods that are good to your body. Treat your body well during these difficult and stressful times.
4- Learn To Meditate
It has been proven by research that people who meditate live happier and less stressful lives. The idea here is to learn to relax and calm your mind. Meditation takes practice so don’t expect to sit one day and be able to excel at it. Read about it and visit meditation centers to learn different techniques. I cannot put into words how learning to meditate will change your life. Start with a couple minutes a day and go from there. Along with meditation, start practicing mindfulness. Pay attention to your breathing and everything around you. You should literally try to stop and smell the roses. Be in the present and pay attention to details.
5- Find A Good Therapist
I hope we all can agree that seeing a therapist is not for crazy people. Life is tough and as much as we believe we have family and friends to share things with, it is not the same as talking to someone who is not a part of our lives. Finding a therapist is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, having someone to talk to who can guide you and help you see things from a different perspective is a strength. A therapist will help and guide you through the ups and downs you are going through. If you need to see a psychiatrist and get some medication, don’t be ashamed nor afraid. Nothing in life is forever and if medication is needed, it will be just enough to get you above water and breathing again. In many cases, medication is just a jump-start. I am not a proponent of drugs but I am not against it if it is really a need. Each person is different so worry about your situation and yourself only. No one needs to know the measures you are taking. You are doing this for you.
6- Live In The Present
The major cause of anxiety is worrying about the future. And, the major cause of depression is not getting over the past. Try as best as you can to live in the present and live one day at a time. This was the biggest learning in my life. We can’t control the future and we can’t change the past. All we have is today so let’s make the best of what we have. I know there are days you just want to give up. I’ve been there. But if you learn to ride the wave and go with the flow, you will see how easier life gets. No amount of worrying or over thinking will change your circumstances so learn to accept where you are and take measure to change it. That’s all you can do.
7- Do Something Special For You Daily
This is a tough one, especially when you are going through a lot. However, try as much as you can to do something special for you on a daily basis. And by special I mean anything that gives you pleasure. Have an ice cream, grab coffee from your favorite place, play a game with your kids, go for a walk, watch a show, you name it. This may sound silly and irrelevant but many of us feel guilty to treat ourselves to something nice. A lot of us don’t think we have the right to treat ourselves. Start small but get in the habit of saying “yes” to yourself. Yes, you deserve it and yes, you are worth it. This may not mean much today but as you start adopting the habit of doing something nice for yourself, you will notice a difference. You work hard and you take care of others so why not do something special for yourself.
Life is a journey and we are not promised a tomorrow. So live the best life you can today. I am not saying this will be easy. It would be disingenuous of me to say so. But I can promise you that if you adopt these habits, or at least try, your life will start taking a different path. I wish you the best and I hope you can overcome whatever you are going through. We are all in this together.