A lot of people are in a dark and twisty place right now. Which is valid I mean Jesus we’re literally locked in our houses with the looming fear of a virus you can’t see or control knocking on our door. People are out of jobs, suffering, fearing for their health and life, worried about loved ones they can’t even see in person. I mean this is wild and there is no avoiding the fact that these are some trying times.
I find myself extra worried about several groups of people, one of them being the people I know who struggle with anxiety and depression like I do. This may be a difficult time. BUT. With fewer external logistic distractions (social obligations, people at work, family commitments, etc), this could be an opportune time for an internal shift.
If you find yourself spiraling into a negative place, I wanted to share some tips that have helped me personally and that I’ve seen help others. I’m a realist and I’m not throwing an “it’s going to be fine, cheer up” at you, so please hear me out.
Know the difference between you and your mind
Our minds can try and convince us of some pretty crazy shit. It’s important to create distance between you and your thoughts because you are not your thoughts. You don’t need to latch on to your thoughts and merge them with who you are. Again, you are separate from your mind and the thoughts it creates.
Can you create distance from the next negative thought that comes into your mind? When we have that separation from our thoughts, it’s easier to decide if you want to keep a thought or ditch it. It’s not you. It’s simply a thought.
Change this thought: I’m a failure.
To this thought: I’m noticing that...my mind is saying...I’m a failure.
I’m a visual person, so I like to give my mind an identity of it’s own - like the brain in Lil Dicky’s “Pillow Talking” video. How cute is that little guy? I picture my mind like one of these little cartoon brains living life with me side by side.
The cool thing about creating this mind/self separation is you have more agency over which thoughts you keep and which thoughts you acknowledge then release.
When my mind comes up with a thought that sucks, I can say ‘bitch you are out of line, bye!’ And if she comes up with something helpful or cool, I high five her and go on with my day. It works, I’m tellin’ ya. Don’t knock it til you try it.
Think of each of your thoughts as a box on a conveyor belt going by. You don’t have to pick it up, unpack it and hang on to it. You can notice it and watch it roll right on by. Then wait for the next box to show up.
Sit with what is
In the unique circumstances we’re finding ourselves in, it’s understandable that you are going to have bouts of dark times. My therapist told me the other day on our Zoom session, “it’s our resistance of what is that causes the suffering.” SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK! She is the best. And she is right!
When we resist what IS, we suffer. That said, how can you learn to sit with what is? It’s a matter of acceptance vs rejection. Even when ‘what is’ is really shitty, like it currently is in several ways, how can you sit with it? Accepting it does not mean that you agree with it or are taking sides with it. It’s simply meaning you accept that it is there and you’re not willing to use your energy to fight it.
If you are having a day where you feel emotional, can you sit with it and allow yourself to just be and meet yourself wherever you are? Until your ‘what is’ changes to something else...which I’m confident it will. It’s important to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. Because when we resist what is showing up, we suffer. You don’t have to make sense of it, you don’t have to justify it to yourself or anyone else - simply sit with what is, whatever way you need to. Until you’re ready to move on, which will come when the time is right.
I’ll give you an example of this. I was reading an extremely sad article about the happenings in Italy and I couldn’t help but start to cry.
Fighting ‘what is’ would look like this:
Why am I reading another article, I need to stop. Why am I crying! I am fine. Everything is fine. *Keep scrolling*
Sitting with ‘what is’ looked like this:
*Cries. A lot* I accept that I need to feel this right now. I am sad and I need to fully feel it. *I actually put my phone away after that article, interestingly enough*
After I sat with my ‘what is’ at the time, I was eventually able to move on and put that fully embraced experience of sadness behind me. Allowing myself to feel what I needed to feel felt like I was giving myself the compassion and empathy I needed at the time. If I would’ve fought it, I would basically be telling myself to shut up and go away. Rude.
Take accountability for your own wellbeing
There is nothing anyone else can say or do that will get you out of your darkest places. Maybe for a short period of time, but not in a way that will impact you in the long run. Only you have the power to lastingly get yourself to a better place. The sooner you understand and accept this, the sooner you will be able to use the power you already have to your advantage.
There is no therapist, friend or partner that will “fix you” (you’re not broken, by the way).
There is no quote you’ll scroll by online that will get to your core and build you up.
There is no exercise or activity that will distract you into a healthy mind that lasts.
I think our society has wired us to think that the answer or solution to our anxiety and depression is in other people, places and things. If you are seeking lasting mental sanctuary in anyone or anything else outside of yourself, you are not going to find it. You may find words, people, activities, foods or things that temporarily lift you up. But if you are done with the darkness runaround and ready for lasting mental clarity, you have to decide if you are willing and ready to accept full responsibility. You must be ready to surrender to that idea. Are you willing to accept responsibility to keep yourself out of the darkness? Are you also ready to see that you can do this. And you deserve to do this. Loaded questions, I know.
Being accountable doesn’t mean you are at this alone and has nothing to do with blame. This in not the place for blame or shame. Being accountable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek the support of a therapist or friend. Or that you shouldn’t keep your days filled with activities and things that lift you up. What being accountable means is adding all of that on TOP of the commitment to yourself to get things to a brighter place. Not in replace of.
Be kind to yourself
The globe is going through turmoil right now.
Your country is going through turmoil.
Your state is going through turmoil.
Your loved ones.
Turmoil is defined as a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty. So among the turmoil, how can you be kind to wherever you are right now? Wherever you are, be all there.
And move. Literally shake your body to remind yourself that you are here and you are alive.