“I am super jazzed to try all sorts of the things you write about.” This quote was a response from my best friend to my upcoming ebook, “The Mental Health Toolbox.” She does not suffer from anxiety or depression.
While anxiety and depression are clinical disorders, it can be helpful to remember that what helps us up-level our mental health and maintain stability and calm in stressful situations can also apply to those who don’t suffer from mental health disorders.
In moments where I’m feeling like my problems are unique and because of that might be unsolvable, it’s good to remember that other people need the same practices I do.
We all benefit from physical activity
Everyone who has opened a magazine or a healthy article online knows that we feel better when we move our bodies. Physical activity can be a good mental break and de-stressor.
When I practice yoga, it’s near impossible for me to think about that annoying thing that happened at work earlier or what I have to do tomorrow. Having to be intentional about what my limbs are doing and how I’m breathing sets me right in the present moment, which can alleviate anxiety.
What’s more is that moving your body can actually increase serotonin levels, which is the mood boosting hormone. So, there’s science behind this idea, too.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, grab your girlfriend and head to the gym, a Zumba class, or just a walk around the park. You’ll be able to get into a clearer mental state, and she’ll have her mood boosted, too!
We all benefit from mindfulness
Mindfulness is everywhere in popular media these days. Some people think it’s too complicated for them or that it’s only for super spiritual Buddhist monks. But, mindfulness doesn’t even have to be attached to a specific activity. It’s really about being present—regardless of the activity. And, that’s something we can all use to our advantage.
Being in the present moment alleviates anxiety, like we talked about with being physically active. You could practice being present in that Zumba class, or doing the dishes, or playing with your kids.
It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. What matters is that you focus on that one thing rather ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
While your ruminating might be based in depression and include things like shame and guilt, your friend could be getting just as stuck on a comment her boyfriend made about her weight yesterday. For both of you, staying in the present brings you back to reality and back to a space you have influence over.
While your friend might be worrying about a test she has tomorrow and your fears might be totally unfounded—which is a fun symptom of anxiety—you’ll both feel relieved if you put your nervous energy into something else, something you actually have control over.
We all benefit from listening to our bodies
Have you ever tried to ignore what your body is telling you?
It asks you to order a salad instead of that burger--but you order the burger anyway and you feel bloated and heavy and tired afterward. It tells you to take a break from studying, joining another campus event, and volunteering to be the treasurer of your sorority--but you don’t listen and wind up getting sick to the point where you can’t do any of those things anymore.
We aren’t served when we bypass our bodies and try to push through to what our minds believe is fine. Our bodies give us signals, like craving veggies or feeling fog-brained and missing deadlines. And, when we don’t listen to it--our body gives us stronger signals, like a cramped stomach or getting a nasty cold.
As someone with anxiety and depression, I’ve learned to listen to these signals sooner rather than later. I’m not perfect--just the other day my body told me it was full, and I told it, “We’re at a buffet, so you have to get cookies. I don’t care if you’re full.” My tummy was upset for hours after. But, if we can learn to respond to the signals rather than ignoring them, we honor our bodies and we serve our minds, too.
Your best friend might not get the flu and be doomed to bed for eight days from taking on too many commitments for a few weeks--and you might (I know I have been!). But, she suffers when she doesn’t listen to her body, just like you do. And, she benefits when she listens. Remind one another that your body is triggering you for a reason--and you don’t always have to “push through it.”
In what ways do you allow your mental illness to “other” you? Is it possible you’re being too hard on yourself?
Let’s talk in the comments.