5 More Life Hacks for Shifting Anxiety and Depression
A continuation from last week’s blog, Living a More Joyful Life, here are 5 further ‘Life Hacks’ to make micro-changes in your life to get out from under the destruction of persistent anxiety and depression.
You don’t need to do all of them, in fact, please don’t. See life hack #1, ‘Aim Low, Go Slow’. Apply one or two that appeal to you. Keep all 15 as a crisis list to add a new practice to your own repertoire when you find yourself immobilised by doubt and fear. Or try a few out as preventative care to build your daily resilience.
Anxiety is a shutdown signal from a system that is overwhelmed and exhausted by stress. So listen. Get cozy, set your phone timer, and nap for no longer than 20 minutes. If you nap longer you’ll mess up your night-time sleep cycles which may already be suffering. Using an app or a youtube clip with specially designed relaxation music and voice script can enhance your experience. Pull up that fuzzy blanket, get comfy and zzzz.
7. No hurry. No worry.
Try focusing on one thing at a time. This is the principle of mindfulness, focusing in the here and now on just one thing, and experiencing the sensations. This requires we slow down to experience washing the dishes, waiting at the crosswalk, taking a calming breath. Just. One. Thing. Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic small book, Peace in Every Step is a wonderful guide to practice.
You thought hot water bottles were for old ladies or igloos? Hot water bottles or heatpacks aren’t only for cold feet. One on your lap, or draped over your shoulders, or over your heart is deeply soothing to the parasympathetic nervous system. The dilated blood vessels signal the body-mind that it’s relaxation time.
Get out for a walk, swim, cycle, yoga, or basketball. Start with a commitment to one thing this week. Only one. Try a walk and promise you can stop in five minutes. If you want to begin jogging, commit to jog one minute, walk one minute for just five minutes initially. Set yourself up to win. When the endorphins kick in, and they will because our bodies are wired to move, you will experience less resistance, and more freedom. So make it easy to start. Including a buddy is the best way to lift your spirits and to commit to the program.
Counting on your right hand make a list of your Council of Allies. These are the people you truly trust, those who have your back, hold you in mutual warm regard, and support you in a crisis. Perhaps a sister, a parent, a counsellor, a teacher or friend. On your left hand count your Council of Strength. These are five figures from history, from contemporary media, authors, comic book heroes, any figures you choose that have qualities you aspire to. A badass Catwoman made my list – this is a fluid list that can change over time and trials. You might like to literally draw this list into reality by tracing your hands in your journal or on paper and then using words, collage images, or symbols to represent your Council of Solidarity, your 10 mighty mentors. Be reminded that you are worthy of care, and even on those days when life is overwhelming and the bullies get us down, we are backed by a Council of wisdom and love. In times of trouble, you can channel your Council in your journal or your heart for wise advice. You can also take your vulnerability in your hands and let someone from your Council know you are doing it tough, set a date to walk or talk. We all need allies.
Some Useful Resources:
- Vikki Reynolds on Solidarity http://dulwichcentre.com.au/narrative-therapy-ezine/from-burnout-to-solidarity-the-work-of-vikki-reynolds/ Using these ideas in our work and activism
- Exercise is good therapy: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression and also https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
- From Black Dog Institute a terrific summary of the benefits and research behind exercise and alleviating anxiety and depression https://blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/exercise_depression.pdf
- A magnificent Brene Brown Ted Talk on reaching out to others and daring to be vulnerable; https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability