It happens so quietly that you cannot prepare for it, and before you know, you are enveloped in its grip so tight that escaping seems impossible. So what does one do? Does one sit in a corner with the head bowed, eyes shut, and arms tightly wrapped, waiting for it to leave, or does one stand up and fight?
Battling with anxiety, stress, and depression can be hard, but it is not impossible. With a little care, awareness, and self love, you can manage, if not overcome, the perpetual feeling of despair. How do I know? Well, I do it every day.
Stress, anxiety and depression are the three demons of modern times trapping more and more people in their clutches every passing day. National Institute of Mental Health describes depression as "a common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working". According to a WHO report almost 36% of people in India suffer from some form of depression, most of them young and at the peak of their lives.
Here are some things that really work.
Acceptance is the beginning of healing. You can, of course, ask 'why me?' or gloat in self pity, or you can take it in your stride and move ahead. Mental disturbances are no more than physical disorders. They are often caused by chemical imbalance in the brain, or external triggers just like physical disorders, and just like physical disorder, they can happen to any of us -- some are affected more than the others, and some deal with them better than others. Accepting it makes a whole lot of difference. So breathe deep, smile wide, and embrace yourself wholeheartedly.
Having someone who understands makes a lot of difference. If you are not comfortable sharing your feelings with immediate family, spouse, or even close friends, reach out to a support group. There are numerous mental well-being communities worldwide that extend help and support. Look them up online, connect with them on social media, or be an active physical member, the choice is yours. Knowing you are not alone always makes you feel better and more confident.
3. Identify Your Triggers.
Most episodes of extreme stress, anxiety, and deep depression are followed by a trigger. The trigger could be an intangible feeling or fear, or a more concrete situation. Is it fatigue, or feeling out of control that does it for you? Or is it coming face to face with an unpleasant situation or person that pushes the wrong buttons? Recognizing what triggers the discomfort and despair helps not only dealing with them better, but also preventing the feeling to a large extent.
It feels good when people understand you. Or at least try to. When they trust you and believe you. When instead of doling out advice, they listen. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to without the fear of judgment.
4. Pursue A Hobby.
Doing what you love doing is a great and easy way to feel good. Investing time in yourself is proven to make you feel more positive and happier. Recall a long forgotten passion and revive it. Music, arts, dancing, gardening, philately, travel, writing, poetry, pottery -- all of them are ways of healing and feeling positive. Join online and offline communities and connect with people who share your love. Creating something new, even as an ametuear, gives you a feeling of accomplishment which goes a long way in ensuring metal well being.
5. Walk. Run. Work-out.
Picking yourself up and stepping out for a run is the last thing you'd want to do on a bad day, but trust me, once you have overcome that hurdle, rest will be much easier. Studies have shown that physical activity helps the body produce endorphins, hormones that promote feeling of happiness and euphoria. According to NCBI "Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function." If running or working out seems impossible, just step out for a walk in the park -- looking at the green grass and blue sky will do you more good that you can imagine.
6. Love Yourself. Unconditionally.
We live in times where loving ourselves is not the easiest thing to do. The perfection portrayed in the media, films, and social media makes it even more difficult to appreciate our imperfections and flaws. The trick is to understand that what is portrayed is not always complete, and that perfection may not always be possible. Knowing our limitations and capabilities helps us appreciate the flaws in others too. Love yourself unconditionally no matter what and the rest will follow.
Note: While these are ways and methods to manage your condition, the importance of professional help cannot, and should not, be ruled out. Seeking medical attention, or help from mental health practitioners -- counselors, psychiatrist, phycologists -- is important to ensure you feel and perform at your best.