When you suffer the symptoms of anxiety or depression nothing seems quite right. It is like the picture on the wall is slightly crooked, and your perceptions of everything are slightly skewed. Thoughts and feelings can feel muted. It may have been a very long time since you remember feeling good or being happy. To get back to that happy place requires a bit of discipline.
When I ask my clients with anxiety or depression what they do to take care of themselves, inevitably they answer "nothing." The first step to building a quality of life despite anxiety or depression is radical self care. Taking time to do the things that make you feel pampered is so important to helping you feel better. Some clients like a bubble bath and a candle with some lovely music playing in the background, eating at the table on good china with cloth napkins, or some may prefer a massage or going for a run. Each person experiences the feeling of nurture differently, so it is important that you choose activities that speak self love to you.
Gratitude is a quick way to tune in to life and to turn around negative feelings. Studies show that focusing on gratitude develops new neural pathways in the brain. Develop gratitude for finding a parking space, or for soft tissues to blow your nose on or for a fluffy comforter on a cool evening. Be grateful for the little things and be vocal about them. I personally note three things that I am grateful for every day on Facebook. It keeps me accountable for noticing the blessings in my life. Since I started the discipline I have many friends that share in the practice. Develop a community of gratitude and it will be difficult to dwell on negativity.
People suffering with anxiety and depression may have lost touch with a sense of joy. Actively searching for things that make your soul sing is a wonderful step towards creating that life you want. I am not talking big things, but little ones, like noticing cloud shapes or the color of the changing leaves or the feel of the fall breeze on your skin. Put a hard candy in your mouth and be carried away by the taste and the sensation on your tongue. If you are constantly scanning your environment for things that bring you joy you will eventually find quality of life strung together like beads on a thread.
Using these simple interventions I have seen clients literally turn their lives around. People who came into my office only a few weeks before looking morose are almost unrecognizable after instituting these practices. Sometimes it is almost difficult to convince people to try them, but the dramatic impact that I see after a few short weeks is well worth the effort.
Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in the treatment of anxiety. For more information please visit www.carolyntuckertherapist.com