Some days are easy. Some days are hard. That is a normal part of life. As many of you know, I am very open about having depression, anxiety, and PTSD. However, you really wouldn’t know that I struggle with these things unless I told you or if I am having a really bad episode, yet I feel the emotions and the stress that come with them intimately. Someone that doesn’t know me well wouldn’t realize that I am actively struggling because I am mindful of how I am feeling, constantly.
Mental health is a very delicate balance and the irony of doing this post is that I am not in the best of head spaces, but then again, maybe this is the perfect time to discuss. This post is about how I maintain emotional stability through practicing mindfulness in 5 steps. They take practice, but are worth remembering. Soon, it becomes second nature rather than something to be overly conscious to execute.
Identifying stressors through recognizing slight deviations in emotions. I am not majorly into going to therapy. I went for a few weeks when things became tough a while back and I ended up going, discussing my emotions, got the tools I needed, and ran once I had them (and when I ran out of money to continue). Therapy is a very strong tool for many and I highly encourage it for all people starting to address their mental health. I recognize that it doesn’t work for everyone and that different people need different amounts of help in different seasons of life. For myself personally though, I need to take in information, research, and apply what methods work. Visits don’t help the way consistency in my daily life does. When I was there though, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD which gave me a place to start. She told me I needed to learn how to identify my stressors because I was blind to them. So, I began to work backward every time I had an episode. Not enough down time exhausts me and slowly triggers my depression. Busy social situations make me feel awkward, sweaty or red, and triggers anxiety. People encroaching on my personal space triggers PTSD. I then took that information and figured what they relate to and started to focus on what things help me out of that state and what things help prevent my reaction. Now, I can feel the slightest of nuances in how I am feeling and am better able to nip it in the bud.
Start with being aware, identify why, find the origin, and then practice noticing slight changes in your mood or reactions.
Curbing my brain’s appetite to obsess with distraction. One trick of prevention that works best for my borderline obsessive personality is distraction. When I feel the very slight nuances of getting sad, nervous, or scared, I focus on what I am capable of. I run down to the horses, get some chores done, and get some equality time in to challenge the seed of depression. I take deep breaths, rationalize by reactions, and promote my self worth when anxiety kicks in. I carry protective items and assure myself that I am safe, even if the reason for feeling safer is irrational. By telling my brain, no and turning my attention to things I know will provide comfort and stability, I can prevent falling down the rabbit hole. This has taken me a lot of practice and I am still not perfect at it, but it sure does help a lot of the time.
Once you can identify when and why you feel a certain way right when it begins, try curbing that train of thought with a different activity, give yourself a pep talk, or remove yourself from a situation to regroup.
Allowing myself to feel. Without feeling what I am, I neither could understand nor prevent what I deal with. No to mention, there are just some days and moments where I cannot help myself. It is as if none of my tools work and that is just the way it is. And sometimes it IS what it is. My brain wants to throw a tantrum, so be it. I will do my best and keep myself going, but I also accept that how I feel sometimes the way it will be that day. There is nothing wrong with feeling our emotions. We are humans, not robots. We are built to perceive the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Sometimes, we do need to Netflix binge and get it out of our system. A bad day, week, or month doesn’t make for a bad life.
Allow yourself to feel a certain way, its normal and sometimes uncontrollable. Instead of stressing because you feel a certain way, just accept it and keep moving forward. Take a break, get some R&R, and start again tomorrow.
Working through it, not eliminating it. My least favorite phrase is “get over it.” What a lot of people don’t understand is that mental health can be an uphill battle on a slippery slope. Therefore, I never focus on “getting over it.” Instead, I focus on getting through it. I may never get “over” the way my brain processes stressors, but I can teach myself to constructively get “through” it. Why? Because that’s all I have control over. I have control over how I face the day, not how the day faces me. So, instead of battling myself over something that may always be there, I battle the day and encourage myself to keep pushing through until God decides to move mountains, if He decides to.
Accepting that overcoming something entirely may not happen or it may take time, is very freeing. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty when you wake up sad or become upset, instead embrace it and work through it. Be sensitive with yourself. You wouldn’t get angry with someone struggling, you’d help them along the way. Do the same with your mind.
Talking about it rather than shaming myself for it. The blessing faith has given me is the truth that God uses all things for Good. I have spent a long time struggling and fighting myself for what I have to work through mentally; the battle made me tired. Instead of trying to get over it, I have dug a tunnel through it. It has light at both ends and a garden on each side. Why? Because after failing to get over the mountain I tended to my original garden of “me” and it overflows with the fruits of my labor. And the tunnel exists because I am always focused on getting through to the other side. Sometimes, I get stuck, but there is always a light on either end for me to look forward to. And there is another garden, smaller, but I have planted seeds that will flourish into a garden, just as vibrant. This one is my future with God’s plan for HNH. I have one side I tend to, myself and the animals in the sanctuary. And the other, where I am learning to be venerable for the mission of helping others learn what I have through rescue. I have grown because I have embraced myself. I know that I struggle, but through being open, they are being used for more good than I could have ever imagined. This mindset is absolutely critical to facing adversity: bloom where you are planted and if you can’t get over it, go through it.
Tend to your mind. Some days we are on the other side of the mountain, stuck and unable to move forward. Take the time to work on yourself love, grow a garden. And when you are strong enough, make progress in moving forward with skills and activities that strengthen you, dig a tunnel. Where to? To your goals, your purpose, a place where you can use your growth for what you want to do in life. But keep yourself going back to yourself, always tending that garden, because you can’t make the journey to your purpose without both being taken care of and providing you with what you need!
At the end of the day, we all need different things and those do evolve over time. My method of editing and establishing a mental equilibrium may not work for every person reading this, but its worth writing if aids one person. And this isn’t the only way, it is just one. I have friends that do exceptionally well on medication and I celebrate their relief and joy with them. There is no universal right and wrong. There is no shame in not using medication versus using medication. There is no shame in seeking professional help versus not seeking professional help. There are only seasons we live in and solutions that fit that time frame. Don’t indulge in your stuggle, be an active participant in recovery and prevention. Seek your wellbeing and find yourself surrounded by people that rejoice in your happiness. Learn to tend to yourself and plant a garden for the future. Work on your strengths and weaknesses because they will fund the growth of now and tomorrow. But, find a balance, because we can only go 100% for so long until we need to take a break.
Author’s Note: Why did I decide to share this post? Struggles with mental health are not shameful. In fact, it is very much normal. Everyone at some point or another will deal with a depressive state or will feel anxious and we all deal with a slight form of PTSD as our past frequently shapes our minds for the future. By talking about mental health, it makes the normalcy real. There is no a-typical person that struggles because we all do. By encouraging conversation, we confirm the reality that no one is alone.