6 Things that will Actually Help when we find ourselves in the Spiral of Anxiety & Depression.

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The bravest choice is to get out of bed.

I repeat this a few times from under a thin canopy of bedsheets.

My chest rises and falls as I peak out over the cream-colored comforter into our small Japanese hotel room.

Sitting up completely, I repeat the same statement out loud: “The bravest choice is just to get out of bed.” So I lift the weight of my entire body out of bed, one leg at a time, and shuffle across the carpet.

It doesn’t seem like much, but getting out of bed when I am depressed really is the bravest choice available to me.

So why do all of my favorite things seem pointless all of a sudden? Why does everything seem overwhelming?

Anxiety and depression happen suddenly and without warning. They catch us off guard. So it’s always a game of memory. It’s about recognizing that we’ve been here before. From here, we can pull ourselves together with the tools that have helped us over and over again in the past.

Sometimes I remember I have tools after 24 hours of melting into my mattress.

But the one sign of improvement is that it no longer feels good to stay curled in my bed. After years of living with depression and anxiety, I can finally say that I know it doesn’t get better by staying tightly wound up in my pain.

So a plan of action is the best route to take.

Here are a few tools that help me sail through the depression and anxiety cycle:

1. Changing our self-talk.
This one is tough. My negative self-talk starts early in the morning when I put on yoga pants or even jeans. It starts with an expanding feeling in my body. It starts when I continue to stare at 500 words with a dumbfounded look on my face. Or when I see the differences between me and everyone I know while scrolling through Instagram.

If I take a deep breath, pause, and ask: What’s real in this moment? Why am I so hard on myself? Why do I have to be perfect to be lovable? It brings me back to reality. And then I can treat myself like a good friend who needs a little more love some days than others.

And that helps me tune into what others might need later.

2. We are not alone.
Being accountable to ourselves is hard, but realizing others need us too can be a blessing—not a burden. Especially when we’re battling negative self-talk.

We see that we are important.

I meet with a few women every week who help ground me. I know I can count on them. And they count on me. We connect and trust each other.

Depression says to isolate ourselves, but community will save us. It saved me. I can share my experience, strength, and hope with others who understand.

It is impossible to be alone. We must share our pain and our joy. We all count. We are all important. So we are never alone in our pain. We can’t be.

3. No one is perfect.
I went home to the United States to see family in Georgia and Florida for the holidays. I saw more family members and friends than I have in over 12 years. And for whatever reason, I saw them completely. I didn’t see the perfect versions that I’d always imagined of them. I saw their pain and their joy.

And I realized that there is no pressure on me to be perfect anymore. It clicked somehow.

No one wants a perfect version of us. And we shouldn’t want a perfect version of anyone else either. Once we break down these walls, we can feel the love for ourselves and for other people.

It ended up being the most real experience around all of my loved ones.

Stop it with the perfectionism. Let’s get real.

4. Worthiness is not earned.
Hold your head high. You are worthy. We are always worthy.

Even if I can’t believe it sometimes, I know it has to be true. Because it’s one of those nonnegotiable birthrights that we aren’t allowed to take away from anyone, including ourselves.

I’ve learned that we don’t need to be good to begin. We can start loving ourselves at any time. We don’t have to wait until we are shinier, brighter, or something else to start loving ourselves. So no matter what anxiety and depression have to say about it, we are always worthy.

5. Try something new.
Take a bath. Take a breath and read something new. Go out of the house. Go to a new vegan restaurant for lunch. Take your laptop to the park. Go to the natural history museum to admire the colossal ammonite fossils alongside a field trip of tiny humans. Get outside, even if it is standing on the other side of the front door in your house slippers.

Sometimes doing something new can reset our outlook. When I feel like it’s impossible to leave my bed and get out of the house, I take it step by step. Minute by minute. I take it slow and easy with one thing at a time, from getting out of bed to brushing my teeth and getting dressed. One foot in front of the other until I am out of the house.

6. Breathe and find a way in.
When I find a place where I can stare down my depression, I can accept that it is the “otherly presence” in my life. But it’s not in charge of me. It might be there. But I am not beneath it. I am still me. I can filter this out with deep inhales and exhales on my meditation pillow. Even 10 minutes is a good start.

As wonderful as it is to carry on with my day, I know my depression is still there waiting for me. And eventually I have to confront it.

Sometimes it takes weeks to feel lighter. But it does get better.
~

The depression learning curve is sharp, and I always feel far behind. But slowing down and finding out what works when it comes to meeting that unidentifiable burden face-to-face seems to help.

So I try to breathe into it. I slow down to call it out by its name. I see you, depression.

So, what is the first thing in front of me? Maybe I will get out of bed. Then, I will brush my teeth. Maybe then I will hold my husband’s hand as we walk along the beach in our new home in Fukuoka, Japan.

There is no telling what will happen. Anything is possible. And possibility is the one thing depression never told me about.

I am so glad I got out of bed today.

author: Jacqueline Levin

Image: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Image: Ecofolks on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

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Jacqueline Hathaway Levin

Jacqueline Hathaway Levin is an artist. Writing, yoga, and creative recovery are her guiding lights for sharing her story with others. Her personal blog dives into the sober life and her travels around the world. You can follow her journey on Instagram to see life through her eyes.

She hopes to inspire others with her words and her journey to finding a more meaningful life. Jacqueline is from Atlanta, Georgia, where she choreographed and taught contemporary dance for years. She now lives in Japan, traveling the world with her husband, who is in Cirque Du Soleil.

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Michael Levin Feb 13, 2019 2:44pm

Wonderfully written! ✍?

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 16, 2019 12:08am

    Thanks for reading. <3

Jenny Darlington Feb 9, 2019 9:29am

Wow, YES. (a few more Yes’s!!!!) This is real and honest and TRUE to the struggle of depression. So proud of you for getting out of bed 🙂 You certainly reminded me why I keep getting out of bed every single day.

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 10, 2019 6:54pm

    Jenny, thank you so much for reading. I think honesty is the best way out. The buddhist way is to recognize and move through the emotion. It’s not that we’re always zen, but we’re always working with what we know. We are running along that parallel. Thank you for taking time to comment and read my words. <3

artisttreestudio Feb 7, 2019 10:45am

I was brave today, I not only got out of bed but I showered too. Sitting here with eyes filled with tears waiting to flow down my face I found this and you. Thank you for the honesty. I will share this article with my husband so that he too has another tool for understanding this process. He is always open to information about anxiety and depression but I do not always share it with fear he will judge me. He never does, but i reflect that on him. Thank you again!! Peace, Love and Art.

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 7, 2019 6:52pm

    Wow. This is beautiful. I find that when I open my heart to it, everything I need is right there for me. It starts with the opening though, doesn’t it? I’ve had multiple experiences like yours where I read the right thing at exactly the right moment. I don’t know what you believe, but someone I used to know called those “god winks”. I’m so glad these words found you. My husband doesn’t always understand either, but he’s always open to learning. I’m so proud of you.

Mary Wilson Feb 7, 2019 8:01am

Very poignant reflection; I think many of us recognize it in ourselves after reading! I know I did and the piece I will definitely hold on to is “I see you depression.” The picture of lying in bed not wanting to face anyone or anything is vivid. And loving being alone to avoid others “stuff” is my safety net. My bed is my safe spot and putting my feet on the floor is braving the uncharted territory of the day and risky to my happiness. But doing it is empowering and when I’m ready, it makes for a day of remarkability because I was braver than my fear and actually saw through the hologram of depression. I’m not depressed though easily agitated by cruel, mindless people with harsh words. So thank you for this article as it helped me plant my feet more deeply into the sands of FL.

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 7, 2019 6:46pm

    Mary, I’m so glad this resonates with you. It helps to start with the small stuff. I have family in the Florida sands, and I know you’re better for stepping out into them. So brave. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. <3

Tim Lang Feb 6, 2019 2:14pm

I enjoyed your article very much! Thanks for being vulnerable and honest Depression thrives in the darkness, but when we expose it to the light, it immediately loses some of its power, although it may be the smallest amount! I struggle with it as well, and I truly relate to the idea that some days, simply getting out of bed is a heroic effort! You are brave and please continue you writing, I enjoy reading it!

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 6, 2019 4:53pm

    You’re so right. When we expose it to the light, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I love that. It means so much that you read my article and then took time to comment. I think writing about depression is one of our most valuable tools. So yes, I think I’ll keep writing about it. Thank you again.

leewins Feb 5, 2019 9:27am

So glad you got out of bed, me Too! The sun is shining and it is warm today.

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 5, 2019 3:29pm

    Thank you. Sometimes we need those baby steps out of our minds, you know? Thanks for taking time to read my article. <3

Christine Day Feb 5, 2019 4:53am

This is one of the best pieces I’ve read on depression in a really long time. It’s filled with helpful advice! Thank you!

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 5, 2019 5:30am

    I’m so happy to hear! Thanks for reading. I know when I’m depressed it feels like I’m the only one who has ever experienced the whole thing. But we know that’s not true. And whenever I feel like I’ve written too many pieces on depression, I remember we all need to remind each other that we’re not alone. Thanks again for taking time to comment. <3

a_thomas Feb 4, 2019 6:34pm

So much yes!!! I love this list ❤️ So well written. I especially love the part about “perfect versions”, it’s so easy to fall into that sometimes!

    Jacqueline Hathaway Levin Feb 4, 2019 7:44pm

    Absolutely! Sometimes I don’t even realize how much pressure I put on myself to be perfect. It’s unnecessary because we’re already there. This is it. Aww. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment on my article. <3