See Part I of my Podcast Interview with Payal Patel - Embracing Anxiety 7 Depression above - part II is below
Depression and anxiety are fueled by complex and interrelated factors: genetic, biochemical, environmental - we often overlook: our own habits. Unwittingly we get good at depression and anxiety. We learn how to hide it, and how to work around it. We may even achieve great things, but with constant struggle rather than satisfaction.
Here are some quick and easy to find resources when you need help for anxiety and depression. Become familiar with these tools before you need them.
Quick fixes or first aid is an essential step towards promoting mental health. It is important to understand that these quick fixes or first aids cannot replace the long-term professional help and can provide temporary relief, until professional help becomes available. Practice and incorporate these in your daily routine, so they become easier to use.
Slow deep breathing for five minutes has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate in people who practice it regularly. Two common forms are 4-6 breathing and box breathing. Check this article out for more details
Loving Kindness Meditation
People who are in a depressed or anxious state often have trouble with conventional meditation and repeating of a calming mantra helps reduce depression or anxiety symptoms. Some of my students have found it helpful to write or read these sentences
May I be happy and peaceful
May I be free from fear and suffering
May I live with love and compassion
May I fully awaken and be free
Focus on quality of sleep rather than length of your sleep. As you improve the quality of your sleep, your body and mind will adjust and provide you the restful sleep you need. Check out this blog article for some easy to follow practices
Healing Chronic Pain
Many people with anxiety and depression also experience chronic pain. Check out the tips and practices to help you cope
Evidence Based Information on Anxiety and Depression
Wonderful science based resources for people suffering from anxiety and depression
Part II of Embracing Anxiety & Depression
I sometimes use food to soothe myself and we all know that is not a sensible strategy! Many years ago, I found this book by Susan Albers "50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food". It transformed me on how I look at food and at my own stress levels.
Common reasons for uncontrolled eating include bio-chemical changes in the body, boredom and habit. Yep! The ancient part of our brain craves for fat, sugar and salt – important part of our survival.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - do I need to say more? Ice cream is loaded with sugar and fat; it gives you a boost of energy and it feels great too. Chocolate increases some mood enhancing chemicals in our brain. Yes! Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream is my kryptonite! Of course, we all pay a price for this binging within a few hours and few days!
Here are some of the methods I use based on her book. I find that if I can distract myself for 3-5 minutes, the urge to eat ice-cream is gone
(1) Meditation and mindfulness - using breathing and other self-focus techniques to relax without the need for food. Check out this fun meditation - https://www.meditation-magic.com/blog/let-go-your-stress-in-5-minutes-or-less-the-balloon-meditation
(2) Focus on your thoughts and change them - Writing in your journal can help you examine your thoughts and focus on positive and self-affirming thoughts. Daydreaming and observing your worries without judgement may also guide your mind and thoughts from food.
(3) Relax your body with exercise, yoga or a massage - While a massage from a professional can be expensive, consider bribing your spouse or significant other to give you a neck or shoulder rub. I also use self-massagers!
(4) Use distractions - Watching a funny movie, work on your favorite crafts or listening to relaxing music - all help you distract from eating.
(5) Connect with your family and friends - A great way to relax is to go for a walk with your spouse or best friend. A phone call or chat with someone by Facebook or zoom also can help you de-stress rapidly.
(6) Drink a glass of water and go for a walk around the block - physical activity!
(7) Listen to music - Indian classical is my favorite and so are Big Band Jazz and 80s songs!
(8) Read a book
(9) Take a nap - Rest does wonders to your moods and your appetite
(10) Positive affirmations - Repeat them as you see yourself in the mirror -
- Eating won't resolve this problem.
- I can do this. It just takes time.
- I can wait. My hunger will pass with a little patience.
Yes - if I am still craving the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, I will take one scoop of ice-cream, put in a dash of whey protein powder and some frozen berries and enjoy it mindfully and acknowledge it is a healthy snack!
Try one of these techniques out the next time you are stressed and let me know how it worked for you.
What are some of your favorite methods to destress?
Albers, Susan (2009) - 50 ways to soothe yourself without food
Schaumburg Public Library – Central, 2nd Floor 616.8526 ALBERS, S + Hoopla eBook
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.