“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”
Yesterday I jotted down some words about my own experience with anxious episodes, today I thought it was worth summarizing the best ways I’ve learned to cope with downturns in my mental health–thankfully non-chronic but still more plentiful than I would wish.
So here is a short list of stuff that I, a completely unqualified non-professional, have found to manage my own brain:
Reading. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or news, reading forces me out of my own head. It’s my experience that good books or journalism silence the id and compel you to hear or view a perspective or narrative not your own. Anxiety and depression (in my personal observation and experience with those whom I love and have seen go through their own battles) narrows the perspective and sensations to the self, usually in painful or harmful ways. When I’m anxious, I cannot escape the vortex of my own thoughts, often circling my sense of self. I find this boring and indulgent. Books are a brilliant antidote.
Exercise. Damn it.
Therapy. A qualified therapist can help identify the things or experiences that trigger or exacerbate mental health challenges, and teach you coping mechanisms for getting through them.
Identifying and safe guarding alone time. Wither it’s an opportunity to work quietly, meditate, take a walk, or just not have the obligation of responding to inputs from society and other people, being alone for designated periods can be deeply healing. I didn’t always appreciate this but do more and more the older I get.
On the flip side, making plenty of time for fun with other people. Too much alone time can backfire and result in isolation or too much time in your own head when a dinner or drink with friends, date with a romantic partner, or even an enjoyable work do can provide the socialization that most of us need to be balanced and healthy. I think that the best definition I can imagine for true emotional balance is a person who can be content and happy both surrounded by people or by themselves, and both are skills that can be learned if you don’t have them naturally.
It’s not a complicated or complex formula, but it combats what I particularly struggle with. If anyone out there deals with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or any other form of mental health challenge, I’d be curious as to what non-medical self care or coping mechanism you use to keep yourself as balanced as you can. My observation is that while there are broad themes to these conditions, the personal experience of them is unique and so have been the recipes for managing them.