Recognizing and giving a voice to anxiety, depression, and insecurities is a powerful tool for combating these seemingly all-consuming beasts. Advocating for your personal mental, emotional, and physical health needs is essential. No one knows your needs as well as you do. If those needs are not clearly voiced and insisted upon by you, they will most likely go unfulfilled.
Neglecting personal health, in all forms, is not only doing ourselves a disservice but is also robbing our loved ones of our best selves. How can we fully engage with our lives and loved ones if we are personally ailing? The answer is, we can’t. Not for long anyway. We can put up a beautifully enriched facade, but ultimately, our unmet health needs will crumble the veneer and our needs will demand attention.
So what are some simple ways to support ourselves during times of depression and anxiety?
A strong support system. Self-advocacy. Learning your own personal joys, and seeking after those things!
I have learned that I feel most at peace when I am outside. Rain, shine, snow, doesn’t matter. Just get me outside. Even if it’s just to sit on my porch and watch the honey bees buzzing around my lavender bush. Even better if I’m barefoot. Feeling my feet solid on the ground helps my heart and mind feel more centered and, well, grounded. I have grown to love working in my garden. I find it deeply relaxing and very therapeutic. When I’m planting and caring for my garden I feel close to my grandparents, who were avid gardeners themselves before they died. I feel close to my daughter, Amelia Rose, who died 3 years ago.
I often see a white cabbage butterfly fluttering around me as I work on my rose bushes. I recently learned that in Chinese culture, a white butterfly signifies that you are being watched over by angels. That feels very fitting for my life.
Playing and being silly with my kids often helps me to climb a bit higher out of the hole of depression. Forgetting all of the things I “should” be doing and the responsibilities of adulting for a little bit and letting my inner kid run wild is so freeing to me. Hearing my kids squeal with laughter during spontaneous tickle fights, dance parties, water fights, or silly stories is magic for my soul. When energy is low, cuddles on the couch, storytime, looking at old photos, or watching a show together feels just right.
Honestly, sometimes the absolute best self-care you can engage in is to let your emotions hold space. Don’t deny yourself the need to cry, to rage, to express anger, frustration, disappointment…all of the “bad” emotions that we often feel we don’t have a right to feel. Or that we “shouldn’t” feel. Those emotions are just as important as the positive feelings. Emotions, all of them, are part of our human experience. They are beautiful tools that we can use to learn more about ourselves and what is truly important to us.
When we deny ourselves the expression of the seemingly negative emotions, we stifle our own growth. My kids see me cry. A lot sometimes. They aren’t scared or traumatized by it. They know that crying is when our bodies tell us we need to let go of the hurt. Releasing negative emotions in healthy ways is actually a wonderful way to escape some of the pain of anxiety and depression.
I think the most important thing to remember is that there is no wrong way to do it. As long as you never stop working to reach your best self for each day. Every day is not going to be the same best self. And your best self is going to be unique to you. Your voice, your experiences, your life, matters.