As if the pandemic and all its effects aren’t enough, now we’ve added clamorous politics, civil unrest, and cries of injustice to the scorecard, and the uncertainty can be composure-rattling and definitely unsettling. Those non-stop, gripping emotions from every angle can set off an overwhelming round of anxiety and depression for any of us. So how can we keep ourselves balanced?
The focus here is direct: How are you personally handling all that’s going on? On the inside? Especially when you’re getting weary and just plain tired of coping?
If you’re wrestling with any combinations of frustration, anger, deprivation, unfairness, fear, rage, hopelessness, confusion and many other raw feelings, and it’s affecting all you do, you’re not alone.
Any one of these can trigger anxiety or depression or both. While we can’t wave a magic wand and fix everything outside, caring for ourselves through all this turmoil can ultimately be the single most important step we take. Even if we think we’re doing OK, subtle signs like being more irritable and frustrated in general can be indicators we’re not on our best game.
So how do we cope well so we keep our own ship on course in the rough seas we’re in? The staff here at Courageous Faces Foundation has put together some suggestions we use ourselves and are suggesting to the people we serve, our Champions, as well.
TAKE PERSONAL INVENTORY AND ACKNOWLEDGE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE
This is the step we often skip over. Unless we’re honest with ourselves and what we’re really feeling, we’re not likely to get clear or centered on all the emotions swirling under the surface. Experts tell us our warning flashers can be signs like rapid breathing or heart rate, trembling or fear, sweaty palms, restlessness, a feeling of dread, racing thoughts. It’s crucial to name or write them all out and be authentic. There’s personal power in confronting those emotions head-on which can be the most grounding step to a productive start.
TAKE A MEDIA BREAK
Too often during stressful times, we drink in way too much TV and Social Media blasts that agitate issues and stimulate us relentlessly. We don’t even have time to recover before the next shocker hits. One of our Champions decided to not deal with television or social media for a week. She reported a different level of calm, and only then realized what a catalyst for overwhelming dread non-stop media can be. If all the news produces feelings of anxiety or depression, try the media break for a week as an experiment. Trust us, you’ll live through it even though at first it might strain your habits to the max.
FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING
If you feel like you’re losing control, breathing exercises are some of the most recommended measures to help restore calm and control. Breathe through your nose for a 5-count, then hold for a second or two, then breathe out slowly to that same 5-count. Experts recommend doing this for up to five minutes until your body begins to untighten. As your body relaxes, your mind will be more likely to follow.
Mindfulness is the general term for routines like meditation, yoga, prayer–anything that gives you greater focus and peace in the here-and-now. Find out what fits you best and don’t fret if you don’t get it “right” the first time. It’s a learned practice, but often a valuable new habit to help you mellow out.
GET THAT BODY MOVIN’
Whether it’s running, walking, cycling, hiking, treadmill, dancing, or playing, exercise is scientifically proven as a vital factor in your mental well-being. If you can consistently dedicate 30-minutes a day, experts say it will help jolt you out of the negative emotions that can put a vice grip on you. Plus exercise releases a lot of the “feel-good” endorphins that naturally lift your spirits. (Of course, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program, but you knew we’d say that).
SLEEP AT LEAST 7-HOURS A NIGHT
Repeated scientific research demonstrates how essential sleep is to our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. It’s the magic reboot and restore operation our system needs to work well. Making sure the physical (body) is working right is the starting point for better control over everything else.
BREAK OFF AND DO SOMETHING FUN
Sometimes it’s best to divert your focus to something you like, whether you feel like it or not. Too often we wait until we feel like it before we act. But feelings can follow actions, so diving into something we really enjoy can lead our emotions in that direction as well. It can be a hobby, a comedy routine, a funny movie, or anything to break our current trajectory and replace it with a different, more uplifting viewpoint. Many times laughter is the best medicine.
START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Yes, I know…you’ve heard this one before, but it’s because it’s so powerful. Writing down at least three things a day you’re grateful for can alter your whole perspective. It can train your mind to bring up thankfulness as a first response, rather than your last—or not at all. Here’s a challenge: Try doing this for a week and then see for yourself why so many say it’s a keeper.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CHANGE
Anxiety and depression can wreak havoc as feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness caused by everything that needs to be tackled but impossible to accomplish. Whittle down “saving the world” and zero in on just one or two things you CAN change—and then actually do them. Even that “small” sense of accomplishment can revitalize your whole viewpoint.
CONSIDER GETTING PROFESSIONAL HELP
Anxiety or depression can be caused by sad events or downer circumstances like losing your job, or a relationship, or the death of a loved one. But when anxiety or depression is persistent and won’t ever let up, it’s best to talk to a mental health professional. They are familiar with hearing about these feelings and have years of experience in knowing how to help.
Many times unrelenting anxiety or depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s not your fault. It’s just part of the human condition. Many celebrities and pro athletes who are much richer than we’ll ever have to deal with the same feelings you’re going through. The good news? Treatment works, so don’t put off that call.
And most importantly, if you have thoughts of harming yourself, wait! Call the confidential crisis line instead to talk to someone who’s an expert in dealing with those overwhelming emotions and has multiple ways to help. The number is 844-493-8255. Whether you feel it or not, you have irreplaceable contributions you can make to more people than you know. You just need to get unstuck. You are valuable! Don’t give up. We need you!
Nobody had any idea 2020 would place us where we are now, and little seems to be getting better quickly. Most all of us would like to snap our fingers and click instantly to a different reality. We all know that’s not going to happen, so caring for yourself and your own well-being right now is not selfish. It’s your first priority. Only then can you muster the empowerment to move out from yourself and contribute to others from your fullness, not your depletion.
Besides some of these techniques we’ve used here at Courageous Faces Foundation, you might have discovered your own methods of dealing with high stress, anxiety and depression. Please share them with us so we can pass them along and benefit even more people.
–The Courageous Faces Foundation staff