Worth Living Ambassador Michele King
Hi! My name is Michele and I am 28 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.
Since my last post for Worth Living, I have had people reach out to me asking if there is anything that I have found truly helpful in coping with my anxiety. The answer: Yes.
First and foremost, if I am being 100% honest here, the biggest catalyst in dealing with my anxiety has been therapy. I realize while I am writing this that therapy may not be the best answer for everyone, however, it helped me a lot. Once I found the right counselor (I have had my share of ones who were not the right fit) and was open to doing the work needed on myself, the healing/coping process began. I am the type of person that when there is something wrong or not working, I want to find a way to fix it. Through counseling I was able to get outside of my mind and have a third party offer different perspectives, help me to see when my thoughts were being irrational, and just someone to vent to without any judgment. My therapist also taught me various ways to slow my mind down and breathe, which leads me to number 2.
2. Meditation/Grounding Exercises
If you are new at meditating and aren’t sure what to really do, the CALM app is a great place to start. The app offers guided meditations for different lengths of times and for different focus’s all for free-though you can pay to unlock more meditations. I like to use the CALM app before bed and I am working on getting in the habit of starting my day with it too instead of being so rushed in the morning. If you aren’t interested in the app, even just spending a few minutes a day focusing on your breathing can help. (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts…repeat 4 times) Grounding exercises are helpful to keep you in the present moment, especially if you are having a panic attack or are out in public and feeling extremely anxious. My favorite Grounding exercise is to list (in your head or out loud)
· 5 things you see (I often look for 5 things of the same color)
· 4 things you hear
· 3 things you feel/can touch
· 2 things you smell
· 1 things you taste
3. Himalayan Salt Therapy (Halotherapy or Sensory Deprivation Tanks)
Ever since I stopped taking medicine for my anxiety I have been looking for holistic ways to help me. Benefits of Himalayan Salt Therapy include: reduced stress/anxiety, increased energy, better sleep patterns, reduced depression, as well as helping with breathing and other skin ailments. I have a Himalayan Salt Lamp next to my bed; have gone to Himalayan Salt Caves (Halotherapy) where you sit in a room that is basically full of Himalayan Salt on the floor and walls made up of salt lamps. The sessions last for about 50 minutes. I come out in a better mood and feeling more energized every time. A pricier option is to use the Sensory Deprivation Tanks. The tanks are filled with 1000 pounds of Himalayan Salt and about 10 gallons of water, so you are basically floating in an enclosed pod. This is said to be the closest feeling to being back in the womb, which is why it promotes such relaxation. I have luckily been able to do this a few times now and it truly is a calming experience once you get used to it. I was able to reach a deep meditative state and came out feeling relaxed and feeling like I had slept for 2 days. I also felt my body feel less tense.
4. Working Out
Working out makes me feel good, period. If I am feeling especially anxious working out helps relieve some of that energy and gets my endorphins going. I have also tried hot yoga- which is just what it sounds like, practicing yoga in a hot (105 degree) room. I love the mental challenge that comes with both. For me, it is more about seeing what I can get my body to do and to push past the mental barriers that are telling me I can’t.
5. Massage Therapy
I think I am a sensory oriented person so getting a deep tissue massage literally feels like they are pushing the all of my anxiety/stress/tension away. If you don’t want to spend money on a massage a cheaper version would be to buy a foam roller or use a lacrosse ball. I use both by lying down on the floor and rolling on foam roller or lacrosse ball on my back, neck, and legs. I also will put the lacrosse ball between me and a wall and roll out that way; it seems to work better in releasing the tension in my neck and shoulders.
Turmeric is the main spice that is in curry that contains many healing properties, one on which happens to be an anti-depressant. It is best used in its original form, which is the spice itself; though it can also be taken in capsule form. I take a capsule of it once a day and will occasionally use it to cook with.
When I am feeling really anxious, writing my thoughts down helps me to see what the underlying issue is and release it. Writing is a great way to gain perspective and sort through any irrational thoughts that might be coming up and passing through. Something about seeing those thoughts written on paper helps me gain a different perspective and even laugh at myself at some of the ways my thoughts may have spiraled.
Coloring has some of the same benefits that come from meditation and also lets you be creative in the process. I notice when I am coloring I focus on what I am doing and let my thoughts flow through my mind without getting stuck on one.
9. Essential Oils
Again, when I was coming off of my anxiety/depression medicine I was looking for an alternative approach. Essential oils have helped me significantly. You can apply them topically to your skin (with some you may need to use a carrier oil, like coconut oil so it doesn’t irritate your skin) or you can also diffuse them. I do both. You can also put some of them in your bath too. I use Lavender because it helps me relax and doesn’t irritate my skin. My favorites to use for calming down are Lavender, Uplift, Serenity, or Balance. You can also mix some of them together to get more of a calming feeling. I personally buy my oils through DoTerra and sometimes stores like Michael’s if they have a bigger container that isn’t too expensive and I am out of my other ones.
10. Be Kind to Yourself/ Practice Self-Care
This one is huge. I am still working at it and at the end of the day it is probably the most important. Healing and Recovery is a process so it is important to take things day by day and not beat yourself up if you fall short. The more you beat yourself up over the situation the more anxious you will get. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and try again the next day. It is more about the process and the progress you are making. Remember to stop and take time to give yourself what you need in that moment.