After having Pier, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. That may come as a surprise to some of you, and it definitely was a surprise to me, but now that I am on the other side of the fog I can understand just how bad off I really was. It's weird -- how your heart could explode from happiness and love for your baby, and yet, still be so miserable living with a very real condition that is slowly suffocating you.
My anxiety and depression was so intense that I was beginning to resent my child. Most days I couldn't hold Pier without crying. Every time he would cry, so would I. I couldn't function. Everyday tasks like putting away groceries, or putting Pier in his carseat would feel like the hardest thing I've ever had to do. There were multiple times a day that I just was overwhelmed by even the smallest of things and my body shut down. I was so scared. At one point I just looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself. I reached my low point over the summer and realized that I needed to talk to a doctor. Long story short, I got the help I needed and it has been a night and day difference from where I was a few months ago. Praise God in His goodness for the gift of friends, family, and medical professionals that have helped me through those difficult days! Maybe one day I'll go into more detail about how dark that time was...but for today, I wanted to give you some tips on how to handle those days when your anxiety feels like it's in control and you are not.
relaxation tips + tricks
- Chamomile Tea - I've found that caffeine is a trigger for me, so after an initial cup of coffee in the morning, I try to lay off of it the rest of the day. I started making a pot of chamomile tea and drinking it all day as a way to keep me relaxed. The warmth and benefits of chamomile keeps me calm.
- Establish a Calm Environment: For me, this consists of playing calming music, listening to a thought-provoking podcast, diffusing lavender essential oils, and lighting a candle on my kitchen counter.
- Find a passion - This blog started as a way to keep my family updated on my life, and still does. However, it has turned into so much more for me. Writing, styling, photographing things that I find beautiful have been so therapeutic for me. It has given me an outlet to grow in creativity and to really process the beauty in my life. It saved me on those dark days where I had to dig really deep to find something worthwhile. I've also recently learned calligraphy and how to crochet which have also been a huge form of relaxation to me. My point is, find a passion and make time for it. Learn something new and you might surprise yourself!
- Keep it Clean - Before having Pier, I hated cleaning. It was the last thing I ever wanted to do. But I realized another trigger for my anxiety is mess. It really stresses me out when the house isn't clean...so I started cleaning in 10 minute increments whenever I could. And you know what? I felt calmer! And I actually enjoyed cleaning...it was actually therapeutic for me? Weird right. PS. here's tip about cleaning with young children-- the less stuff you have the less mess you have. SO as a mom, I try to keep toys at a minimum and then we don't have an explosion of toys all over the place all the time. It really helps me stay sane.
- In the words of the Great Faith Hill, Juuuust Breatheeeee - When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I put myself in timeout. What does that look like exactly? Well, basically I do a short 10 minute pilates exercise. This one is my favorite because of all the breathing.
- Get outside! - Do it. Even if it's for 10 minutes. It just helps. And if it's a pretty day, open your windows! That instantly fixes my mood and helps me feel more relaxed.
- Say no to Social Media - Although wonderful, social media causes me anxiety at times. When I feel like I need a break, I turn my phone on airplane mode or leave it in my bedroom for a few hours (or days!). It's so nice to be free of the notifications, and comparison, and NOISE. I think it's helped me balance my social media use as well...that way I can be more present to the people in my life and serve them better without having a need to see what everyone else is doing.
- Pray - When you make less time for scrolling on social media, you need to make more time for prayer. Prayer was the thing that helped me most of all. Even when I didn't "feel" like praying, I did. I knew I couldn't rely on my own strength to get me through this and so I made the time whenever I could. Just knowing that He was walking beside me during this time was comforting to me.
Why am I writing all this? Well, first off, if you're going through something similar, I want you to know you're not alone. Most importantly that I want you to know that God is with you in this mess, and He loves you. I could not have made it this past year without the peace and joy I've found in Christ. Lastly, if any of this feels familiar to you, I'd invite you to read this blog post that was so beautifully done. I read it yesterday with tears in my eyes and thought, "YES. this is what I felt for a whole year and thought it was completely normal." Guys it is not normal.
Even with medication I still have a few days out of the month where my anxiety comes back (although not NEAR as bad!). So, all that being said, I just wanted to give you a few tips that I've learned have helped me on the days that my anxiety has reared its ugly head in hopes that you benefit from what I've learned.
Do you have anything that helps you stay relaxed? I've learned not to diminish the importance of self care, especially when dealing with an anxiety disorder, because it really makes a difference in how I love those around me. I hope these tips have helped you when life gets you feeling overwhelmed!