Anxiety and Depression Series – 9 Practical Self-Care Tips

With anxiety and/or depression steering the rudder, it's the everyday things that are the most difficult. Therefore, every day is where we need to begin. As a part of the Anxiety and Depression Series, here are 9 Practical Self-Care Tips.

When I began struggling with anxiety and depression I often heard about the importance of self-care. The ideas I read at the time seemed frivolous, silly and unhelpful to me. Activities such as taking a bubble bath, getting my nails done or a night out was often suggested.

That’s fine in theory –

However, when you’re in a battle for your mind, taking a bubble bath isn’t an answer, it’s an unnecessary to-do that you don’t have the energy for.

I desperately wanted someone to take my hand and walk me through the strange, fogged out mental state I found myself in. Thinking straight was difficult enough, let alone actually DOING anything productive. I was constantly forgetting everyday things and at my worst, felt incapable of taking care of myself or my family.

I would love to tell the person that is deep in an anxious or depressed season –I seemed to go from one to the other in rapid succession – to take a vacation or go for a night out on the town. But in reality, this may not be possible or even desired.

With anxiety and/or depression steering the rudder, it’s the everyday things that are the most difficult. Therefore, every day is where we need to begin.

Anxiety and Depression Series – 9 Practical Self-Care Tips

Every Day To-Dos:

  1. Get up and make your bed.

    As I’ve mentioned before one of the main symptoms of my anxiety was insomnia. For a long time, the easy thing to do was lay around and not make my bed or do barely anything when I was so exhausted. At some point during my struggles, I decided to make my bed every day, no matter what. Even on days I barely slept I would force myself to get up out of bed and make it. Something about the act of putting all of the pillows and blankets back on my bed each morning made me feel as though I had a do-over, a fresh start. Over time I made my bedroom into a soothing sanctuary rather than a place where I felt anxious about sleeping… or lack thereof. Maybe it’s not your bed for you, but I would encourage you to find that one thing that you can do each day that says to yourself, “Today is new, yesterday is gone.”

  2. Brush your teeth, wash your face, shower and do your hair. 

    Some days of depression can leave you feeling as though brushing your hair is the most exhausting task in the world. Cleaning up and caring for your body each day sends a signal to your brain that you are still living and you are worth it. I’m not talking about getting dressed up and doing a full face of makeup. (If you can, great!) I’m talking, clean teeth, clean face, clean hair, clean clothes. If only one out of all of these is accomplished – that’s ok. But when you’ve done it, you’ve accomplished something and this sends an affirming signal to your brain.

  3. Family Care.

    It’s hard enough taking care of yourself, throw a bunch of kids into the mix and you’re left feeling incapable. I’m going to pause here and tell you mom-to-mom (or dad, if this is you) It’s ok to not give them their perfect nightly bedtime routine, I promise THEY WILL LIVE! We are so darn hard on ourselves – throw in anxiety and depression and every mistake becomes a”10,” when in reality, it’s not a big deal at all. Write out a reminder to do those important things for your kids and family, whether that be brushing teeth, bathing or homework. Maybe put a pop-up on your phone or a note where you look every day.

  4. Eat. 

    Anxiety especially can wreak havoc on a digestive system. There were times I could not physically keep food down because of the anxiety I felt. I had to learn how and what to eat during these times. I would suggest having healthy, easy to eat options around. No sugar added applesauce was a go-to for me. I love that now they have little squeeze packs. Yes, they’re for kids, but they should totally be marketed to people with anxiety! There are great options that contain veggies and fruits now. Other foods I found helpful were oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes. Making sure to get protein is important. Smoothies that have protein in them are a great option as well. Try your best to steer clear of unnecessary sugar and caffeine.

  5. Talk to your doctor.

    Whether it’s getting on an anti-depressant or getting blood tests for deficiencies, this step is an absolute necessity. It’s also a great idea to bring a loved one with you to the appointment, they can be your voice when you can’t find your own. Which brings me to #6:

  6. Ask for help. 

    It’s so hard going through anxiety and depression alone. You are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and still need to take care of yourself, family and possibly a job as well. Do not be afraid to reach out to family or friends that you trust to help.  If you have the money to do so, hire a house cleaner or get a service that delivers meals. Anything that relieves the pressure. *On the flip side, if you have a friend or family member suffering in this way, PLEASE help them. Bring a meal, watch their kids, hang out with them. DO NOT shy away. 

  7. Exercise. 

    I know, I know… who wants to exercise when you are anxious or depressed? Trust me, your body and your mind NEED this. Even if it is only a walk; strap on your shoes and go outside. It is proven to stimulate all of the feel goods inside your body. Even on days I struggle with sleep or feel really down, I force myself to do my workout and without fail, I feel better. So go out and walk, run, swim, bike, swing or take your dog out for a walk – speaking of:

  8. Spend time with pets/kids/family & friends. 

    Our greatest problem is that we forget to get out of our own heads. Begin that process of stepping outside of yourself for a moment and really listen to someone or something else. I love sitting with my dog and just petting her when I’m anxious or talking with one of my kids and listening to their day. It’s a win/win because I feel lighter and they are happy because they are getting my undivided attention.

  9. Get rid of all unnecessary to-dos with a brain dump. 

    I remember one particular day, I was having a really anxious time and my mind wouldn’t shut up, I was sure I had failed at life. I decided to write out my to-do’s to organize my thoughts. When I did, I realized that really only 2 of the things on the list needed to be done and the rest were unrealistic expectations I was putting on myself. There are days you will not have it in you to do the big things. Be okay with that and let it go for a day when you do have the energy. When the unnecessary to-do’s pop up again, remind yourself that you wrote it down and it’s not for today.

And last but not least: Remember, you are going through something very real, Give yourself time to heal and give yourself grace…

Your body is reacting to everything going on in your mind. Taking care of yourself is your job right now.

Put your to-do list somewhere where you can see it every day and congratulate yourself for everything you accomplish. It may seem silly to be proud of brushing your teeth but it’s not. You are taking care of yourself and your family, against all odds. You overcome a little more every day when you choose to actively participate in your life, in spite of the anxiety and/or depression you feel.


A necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a professional with letters after my name. I am someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. Read about me here. I may have life experience and insight… But I would suggest you seek professional help if you feel you need it.

 

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Anxiety and Depression – Two Peas in a Pod and the Power of Words

**this is an ongoing series here at Carry on my heart, you can read the first part here.

 

I have a superpower.

Yep, it’s true. Prepare yourself; for you will surely be amazed.

I have the uncanny ability to feel “up” and “down” all at the same time.

Amazed yet?

Confused?

Me too.

Let me clarify, I have the ability to be both anxious and depressed all at the same time. I get completely wound up with my brain racing all while feeling hopeless and utterly defeated.

Amazing, right?!

I knew you’d be impressed.

Two Peas In a Pod

This series is labeled the Anxiety and Depression Series for a reason: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website, one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

In short, anxiety and depression tend to hang out together.

They’re old pals that go way back and love to conspire in disrupting your entire life.

Just when you think you have anxiety under control, it will tag team its partner, depression so that it jumps in and disables you with a body slam.

Let’s be honest, they suck, but they make awesome teammates.

Anxiety and its Best Friend, Depression

One of my first experiences with depression was after I began having panic attacks and severe anxiety. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me I had depression. But sure enough, flipping to the other side of the frantic coin, sat despair.

There was a hopelessness and confusion during this time in my life that is hard to explain. I constantly felt as though something terrible was about to happen and I desperately needed a solution, and yet, I was left feeling incapable of finding one.

In my experience, anxiety seems to demand immediate attention, it’s loud and immediately aggressive. Meanwhile, depression can be a chameleon, a shape-shifter and is often insidious in its attack.

But because they are so similar in other ways, it makes me think of that old saying, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

When you’re deep in it, it can be hard to tell.

Think, think, think…

A key symptom of both depression and anxiety is rumination. This simply means the sufferer obsessively goes over a thought or worry, thinking they’ll eventually come to a solution. In reality, they end up exhausting themselves while wasting precious time and mental energy.

This whole rumination thing is really a wrestling match of words.

I’ve spent many, many, … (there just aren’t enough many’s for this) days ruminating and wrestling.

The thoughts we find ourselves entertaining are a rabbit trail of frightening scenarios and doubts.

The average person has thoughts like this but their brain either problem solves or eventually moves on. The brain that struggles with anxiety and depression is like a needle stuck in the same groove of a record, going round and round.

Being in such a heightened state of anxiety for so long is sure to cause a drop. Medically speaking, we know it’s terrible for your body to be wound up with adrenaline and cortisol.

Depression, therefore, is a natural result of anxiety.

Anxiety in the heart causes depression…

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

Well, isn’t that interesting. Even in the word of God, they are paired together.

I love this verse because it feels like an answer I’ve been searching for. It makes sense to this over-thinking brain.

Sort of like an equation that I can file away:

An anxious mind over what might be or what was = Melancholy due to lack of control.

Even more interesting to me was the second half of the verse.

A good word makes it glad

The word glad that is used here means to brighten up, to cause to rejoice and cheer up.

You know what I think is a pretty good word for the anxious and depressed?

“You are okay just as you are and you don’t have to fix this right now.”

It can feel imperative that you get rid of all of these awful emotions RIGHT NOW which is partly what can cause anxiety and depression to worsen.

A good word is one that lifts and encourages you to understand that it’s okay to not be over this overnight.

It takes time.

There is nothing more encouraging than being given permission to just accept who you are and where you are at this moment.

Am I saying that every mental illness and issue will be resolved when given a good word?

No, of course not.

But I do know first hand what a word of truth and kindness can do to an overly anxious and hopeless heart.

Life is hard.

Living life with anxiety and depression is even harder.

So, no matter what treatments you are implementing, a kind and understanding word will always bring hope, life, and encouragement.

Be kind to yourself with your own words and fill your mind up with God’s words. Work on replacing those painful, ruminating thoughts with words that lift up and trust in God.

Whatever battle you are fighting, remember that Jesus fights with you. He is not condemning you and His words are there for you to battle with.

Regardless of which came first or why you are going through a time of anxiousness and depression, words have power.

Which brings me back full circle…

I think we do have a superpower after all: it’s the power of our words.


A necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a professional with letters after my name. I am someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. Read about me here. I may have life experience and insight… But I would suggest you seek professional help if you feel you need it.

***If you came upon this site and are not sure about this whole Jesus thing, let me just say, welcome! I hope you’ll stick around and maybe enter the conversation about Him and who He claims He is.


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Anxiety and Depression Series – How to Hug Your Cactus

When I say I have anxiety, it's acknowledging weakness. And let's be perfectly honest here, nobody likes admitting to weakness. It's just a really hard pill to swallow. The Anxiety and Depression Series - How to Hug Your Cactus. #anxiety #depression #hope

**this is an ongoing series here at Carry on my heart, you can read the first part here.

 

“I have anxiety.”

Those 3 words are difficult to squeeze out of my windpipe on some days.

Admitting I have anxiety feels like code for something else: “Nice to meet you, I’m a big baby and everyday things can terrify me.

What, you ask?

Oh… everything.

I think I am probably more cautious than most of your typical doomsdayers – in fact- I’m surprised I don’t live in an underground bunker.  *Note to self: look into underground bunkers. Hmm.. except I’m a bit claustrophobic – that’s a problem.

When I say I have anxiety, it’s acknowledging weakness. And let’s be perfectly honest here, nobody likes admitting to weakness.

It’s just a really hard pill to swallow.

 

When I say I have anxiety, it's acknowledging weakness. And let's be perfectly honest here, nobody likes admitting to weakness. It's just a really hard pill to swallow. The Anxiety and Depression Series - How to Hug Your Cactus. #anxiety #depression #hope

Anxiety and Depression Series – How to Hug Your Cactus

Being someone who has dealt with anxiety and depression for decades means I am intrinsically a sensitive person.

Anxiety and depression tag along quite nicely to a sensitive personality. I wasn’t always aware of this, which means I have spent an inordinate amount of time beating myself up for who I was.

It hadn’t occurred to me for a very long time to just be okay with it. To (gasp) admit to my sensitivity and weakness. *currently swallowing hard pill...

Hug Your Cactus

Have you ever heard the phrase, “hug your cactus?” It’s an idiom I’ve seen used in several different capacities. The one I relate to the most is in the form of embracing your version of hard.

We all know cacti to be prickly, difficult, uncomfortable things.

When you live with anxiety and depression you are often doing life with a prickly, difficult thing on your back. Over time I found that I had come to a fork in the road with my anxiety: I could continue to fight and resist or…

I could hug it.

This does not mean giving in and giving up, it means working with that piece of you rather than against it.

It’s most likely the opposite of how you feel, but you learn to come to a place of balance with that part of yourself. You make peace with that prickly ‘ol thing.

Quit trying to fix that piece. Quit trying to shake it, outrun it and rid yourself of it.

I spent well over a decade trying to do just that and you know where it got me? You guessed it- more anxious than ever.

 

So, what’s the answer for the sensitive, anxious person?

You may safely assume you are hard-wired to be a sensitive person if you have a history of anxiousness and/or depression.

Congratulations!

*crickets…

No really, I mean it! Here’s why –

People who are naturally sensitive and anxious are typically deep thinkers and are far more emotionally in tune with themselves and others. They also tend to be extremely imaginative. (*thus the reason we easily come up with disaster scenarios for every occasion)

See, that cactus ain’t looking so bad now huh?! *nudge, nudge -wink, wink.

The two most important things I have learned over my time with anxiety are:

  1. It’s OKAY to be an anxious/sensitive person. 
  2. And, more importantly, it doesn’t have to control you. 

It’s extremely freeing to come to a place of giving yourself permission to feel your emotions. And even more freeing, is to understand that those emotions do not have control over you.

Hugging your cactus is really just working within the circumstances you’ve been given. And in my case, the brain I’ve been given.

I’m a feeler. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it simply means that I feel things deeply. The best way I can describe this is that I’m a sponge soaking up the circumstances and emotions around me. Because I am a sensitive person, I am often hyper-aware of other people’s feelings and moods.

I used to focus my energy on eradicating this part of me rather than managing it and channeling it where it needed to go. All of these many years later I feel blessed that God has gifted me with the ability to step into another’s shoes.

Empathy and compassion are not born from excessive strength, but rather, from having come to know our own depth of need through our weakness.

Truth be told, we all are in desperate need.

We don’t like to be weak. Self-sufficiency is where it’s at and we want to exchange dependent for independent.

However, I remember it being said:

“… for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong…”

2 Corinthians 12:10

Jesus loves weaklings.

Maybe you don’t have anxiety. But you do have a weakness, we all do. We were made with limitations.

We were made to be dependent.

On Him.

Having weaknesses is not a bad thing- it’s a human thing.

I don’t want to recoil at my weaknesses anymore – I want to embrace them. Embracing my weakness is embracing the fact that Jesus is my strength. Even my weaknesses are entirely under His control and in His power.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about that truth, it makes me want to go give my cactus a big old hug!

Maybe your cactus isn’t a sensitive personality, depression or anxiety. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. Whatever it may be, remember this, He can use ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING for your good and His glory.

So, whatever it is, go give that ugly, prickly, uncomfortable thing a BIG. FAT. HUG.


I’m hanging out at the Coffee for Your Heart and Sitting among friends and #LMMLinkup Link-ups today _ Stop by and read some other great Blogs

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My musings on turning 40…

My musings on turning 40... #gettingolder #aging #turning40

The man was clearly exhausted, slumped over in defeat halfway up the massive hill he was climbing. Sweat dripped down his weary face from underneath his wide-brimmed hat. Just above where he was resting his aching bones sits an “over the hill” sign on a mound of delicious emerald-colored frosting.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is my dad’s surprise 40th birthday party. Friends and family came from near and far to celebrate the demise of his youth.

At the time I was 10 and my father seemed ancient to me. 40 appeared awful because obviously, all signs pointed to the beginning of the end – including his birthday cake.

Luckily, the big, bad 40 was as far away from me as a dream.

But wouldn’t you know it, 40 finally caught up with me…

 

My musings on turning 40... #gettingolder #aging #turning40

My musings on turning 40…

Ten years ago today I was standing on the sandy beach of Puerto Vallarta, water lapping my feet and the sun warming my skin. I was celebrating the end of a decade and more importantly to me, the beginning of a new one.

30.

My 20’s were a bit rough so I wasn’t sad to say, “Arrivederci!” I actually welcomed 30 and the possibilities it held.

It’s been a little different saying goodbye to my 30’s.

For one, we didn’t take an elaborate trip to a beautiful beach.

Secondly, my life is a bit chaotic right now –  I’m a mom of three busy boys, ranging from 9 to nearly 16. Between homeschooling two of them and running like a crazy person most days to baseball, piano, drums, and driving lessons – to name a few – I don’t necessarily have time to go on a grand vacation to mourn celebrate the end of my 30’s.

And lastly,  it’s not the getting older part that I mind so much, it’s saying goodbye to a decade that I have loved. These last ten years have brought so many good things that it feels a bit like I’ve crested the mountain of life – how could it possibly get any better?

I mean, 30 was good;

It’s not just the gray hairs popping up or the wrinkles at the corner of my eyes that leave me a bit apprehensive about 40. It’s the all-around life changes.

30 was fun.

The 30’s were groundbreaking and left me settled and comfortable with, well… me.

What could this new decade hold that could be better than that?

I think maybe I’ve mentioned before that I don’t love change…

It’s not all about just me either, it’s my people too… I am no longer a mom of little boys, but a mom to young men, so I find that even my role as a mother is evolving.

It’s not bad, just different… New.

I feel a bit like I’m still trying to figure out how I fit in this new skin of mine, this new decade and this new season of life.

In the end, I have come to the conclusion, apprehensions and all, that the notions I had about 40 and the facts of it are a world apart. I did not look forward to 40 and I dreaded the thought of “aging.” (I’ll admit I fell prey to the belief that life would somehow lose value at this point.) It’s silly to think about now.

As 40 has neared and finally descended, I have found beauty with the changing in and all around me. On the day of my 40th birthday, I thought of the One who does not change while I continue to. The beauty lies in the fact that He has every day of my life carefully cared for until we meet face to face.

“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; I will bear you and I will deliver you.”  Isaiah 46:4

Jesus.

I can breathe easier when that name is on my mind and spoken on my lips…

My hair will gray, my boys will grow to be men and another season will come as surely as the sun rises each morning. But Jesus never changes and will continue to be my anchor no matter my age or the season I find myself in.

Of that, I am certain – in a world of uncertainty.

He has proven Himself faithful to me day after day and year after year.

Because of this, I can confidently close the door on one decade and look with eagerness at the horizon of the next.


What season are you in? Is there a favorite age you’ve had? If you’re 40 or past, what do you think about the 40’s? I’d love to chat!

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