How I’m Managing My Debilitating Anxiety and Depression

Volume 105 - seven minute read

October 19th, 2018

Feels good to say that publicly. The past few weeks have been pretty tough for me on a personal level and I’m not someone to bring up personal issues often. But, doing almost anything right now it really tough for me and as I was looking for ways to cope with my anxiety, I thought I should share where I am at and what has and hasn’t been helping me.

I wake up in the middle of the night sweating with a high heart rate and getting out of bed is one of the hardest tasks I’ll face. Some days are better than others, some days I want to be completely alone and other days I fear the thought of being alone. Some days I feel I’m starting to get better, then the next day I fall back into a state of overwhelming fear or depression.

I’ve had anxiety and bits of depression in the past, but it’s never manifested itself this way to this extent. I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with this in the past and never fully grasped the feeling or concept of debilitation on an emotional level until it started for me a few weeks ago. It’s awful. I truly would not wish these emotions on anyone.

Doing things that once brought me so much joy have become difficult and leave me feeling defeated. Even just getting the courage to try them again has been hard for me and it’s come to the point where I need to force myself to do them at an attempt to pull myself from this ditch of emotion. I constantly need to be self-aware and doing what I can to help set myself up for success during the day by finding triggers, times of day, activities that help, even specific music and my diet has become top of mind to try and help.

I’ve struggled and have felt embarrassed to talk about it because, truth be told, I have a great life overall. I have my dream job, I make a good living doing what I love, I have an awesome apartment, I have time to go to the gym every morning, I have plenty of supportive friends, I have a significant other that cares about me, my family is supportive and healthy, so why the hell do I feel this way?

To be honest, I have no clue. One day it feels like the source is from one place, the next day it feels like it’s something completely different. I’ve accepted that fact and know that I can just do my best to take the steps forward to help myself live with the anxiety instead of focusing on completely ridding it from my life.

I hope you’ll accept and maybe find comfort in my vulnerability above. While I’m still very much struggling with anxiety and depression, I would like to share some pointers and things that have helped me little by little and lead to having more good than bad days.

Meditation

Meditation has been a huge help for me when it comes to handling my thoughts and feelings and being able to accept and overcome them on hard days. I love meditating because it gives me a couple minutes of soothing and resetting my inner peace and outlook on life.

Meditation has become the first thing I have to do in the morning because that’s when my anxiety is the absolute worst. My anxiety resets in the morning for some reason and gradually gets better as the day progresses (typically) so starting my day with anxiety helps me get myself out of bed (literally, because you need to be sitting to meditate).

Headspace is a really great option for this day and age of apps, and makes it super easy by providing beginner courses to help you learn to meditate. Then, they have a vast amount of specific courses depending on where you need to focus (anxiety, guilt, cravings, etc.) that tailor the guidance for that subject.

I can’t recommend meditation enough as an easy first step for managing your feelings and thoughts.

No Caffeine

I haven’t had coffee in almost a month at the time of writing this. If you know of me and my feelings towards the culture of coffee, this probably sounds fake. But, with my resting heart rate from anxiety already being higher that it should be, caffeine just isn’t an option for me.

Ironically, I have to drink 2–3 Chamomile teas throughout the day, which does the exact opposite of caffeine (meant to help you fall asleep). But it helps me manage anxiety and the potential of panic attacks while giving me something to drink that’s nice and hot and replicates the routine of making coffee in the morning for me.

You don’t have to get rid of it cold turkey like I did, but I recommend cutting back little by little until you have none. I think it’s helped keep my heart rate in check and keeps my mind clearer on the motivations I have to help my anxiety and depression.

Distractions

If I’m distracted by doing something I enjoy, the anxiety and fear seem to fall off and go away little by little and completely stay away for the time that I am distracted. It’s once I’m not doing anything that I typically get caught in my head and dwelling on my feelings and the negativity grows.

I’ve found that getting out of my head and focusing on what’s in front of me is a game changer. For me, this is why I mentioned above that I force myself to partake in activities that typically bring me joy even if I have no motivation to do them. Working on my music, playing video games, going to eat places, seeing friends, being with my significant other, walking my dogs, and trying new hobbies have been my go-to’s. Like I said, it’s difficult to get myself to do them, but once I get started it’s very helpful to keep me from dwelling on the negatives in life.

Routines

I find a trigger for my anxiety and depression comes from having too much time to be in my head and dwelling on my thoughts. Routines help me have a constant direction in life and gives my mind less time to overthink and stay stagnant on something that is bothering me.

I personally have a rough timeline in my head for how my days go and when I should be doing what. I do give myself some leeway especially now if there is something I want to do since I want to help myself be happy. Overall though, I have a morning a routine, a routine before work, during work, and even after work that I can rely on to give me a sense of purpose and direction when I feel lost.

Talking About it with Others

These feelings have pushed me to be more open about when I’m struggling and need a helping hand from my friends and family. I’ve always tried to show others that things in life “are good” and that I’m always happy and positive and nice to others. While these are true and what I strive for, they are definitely not always.

I feel like absolute garbage some days, especially lately as I mentioned, and I finally accepted that I needed to open up to my friends, family, and others about it. I was definitely nervous going into it about how others would react and thought it wasn’t normal to feel this way. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. But, I decided to give it a try not only to those in my personal life, but also talking to team members at work to give them full transparency on something that was bleeding into my work life.

To my pleasant surprise, almost every person I brought these feelings and my situation up to was immensely supportive and empathetic towards my feelings. My friends offered support, my family started calling me more often, and my coworkers helped me with next steps I can take while being a support system in the work place. We (at MetaLab) even started a channel on our Slack recently (cleverly called #mentalab by the one and only Noah), I was one of the first to open up about my situation and it’s been so inspiring and humbling to see so many others come forth with their own stories.

Not only were people kind enough to be supportive, but just getting the feelings I was having off of my chest made a world of difference. Talking through feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, and depression and what struggles come with them felt like a huge weight being lifted from my conscience.

Limiting Social Media

I’ve never been one to compare myself to others on social media, but as anxiety and depression creep in, the pressure to post and maintain a certain image started to become overwhelming for me personally. Rather than just pushing through and using social media normally, I decided it was time to take a step back from it.

Sure, I’ll loose some followers and I worry about how I’ll promote things like my projects and my music, but it’s for the best right now. I wanted to be more present in life when I do anything no matter how small or big. I don’t want to feel the need to check my phone to keep my mind from racing and decided to face those feelings head on or distracting myself in a more productive way.

I still use social media here and there on specific outlets (like Twitter for news mainly) but I use social media about 1/10th the amount that I was using it before. It’s been much better for me and my sanity towards my outlook on life I think.

Therapy

While this could have been the first opening recommendations, this isn’t something I have actually done just yet. I have my first appointment setup for next week, but I didn’t want to push this recommendation too strongly as someone has hasn’t experienced it for myself. However, I hear from many people I have spoken to that this is a very helpful action to take to help cope with anxiety, depression, and related issues so I do want to put this on your radar as a serious option if you have thought about it.

Dennis Cortés
Designer that also codes, illustrates, writes weekly articles, and produces music. Hispanic. Pokémon Master.
www.cortes.us