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Everyone feels backed up every now and again.
It’s frustrating to feel like you can’t get anything out, especially when you’re feeling full. The pain often aches deeply into our stomachs. Sometimes pain can even keep us stuck in bed, missing out on our day-to-day activities. This is when I start to ask myself if I’m causing my own physical discomfort by allowing my emotions to manifest in my body.
Early this summer, I went through one of the most difficult breakups of my life. I’ve been in bad relationships before, but none had left me physically sick to my stomach like this one. Losing the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with broke me—emotionally and physically.
The physical ache I felt in my chest when he left made me understand why it’s called heartbreak. I couldn’t keep down food for several days, and even water was risky. I found myself in and out of the emergency room and urgent care since I was certain a larger problem was at hand.
But all of my scans and tests came up clean; I was in perfect physical health. At urgent care, I was prescribed an extra-strength laxative. I set up a comfortable set of pillows and Netflix to pass the time waiting on my bathroom floor when I began to wonder if all these problems were just a severe emotional manifestation taking hold of my physical health.
Gastrointestinal issues are common physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. People don’t refer to it as an anxious stomach for nothing. I can’t count the number of times that anxiety has made me physically ill during stressful times like traveling, college finals, or even a breakup. It is a common symptom that should not be ignored. Listening to our body’s whispers is crucial in preventing long-term illness and disease.
But how do we make it stop?
How do we take it upon ourselves to undo these physical symptoms? Awareness of repressing our emotions is not enough to stop the pain. I have a strict routine for taking care of my mental health.
These are a few ways that I manage my chronic depression and anxiety:
>> Spend time on self-care, even in the little ways.
It’s often difficult for us to find ways to manage burnout in a high-stress working environment. The tasks of our daily life are abundant and highly demanding of our energy. Managing burnout is difficult in the face of bustling life.
I find it most helpful to take little moments for myself, like an hour or two at the gym in the evenings, a short walk around the neighborhood, or a quiet evening alone with my journal and a good book.
>> Allow yourself to feel.
Many people recommend that the best treatment for depression or anxiety is a distraction. It’s easy to repress feelings when there are other people around constantly vying for our energy and attention. However, focusing our attention on others when we are struggling is actually something that depletes us.
Emotions are healthy and natural, even negative ones. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is a healthy way of expressing them, just don’t allow yourself to sink too deeply into dark states of mind.
>> Let that sh*t go.
When we cannot release the things bottled up inside of us, they find their own ways to come out; often explosively. Letting our emotions manifest inside of us for too long can have devastating consequences. Finding healthy ways to release is incredibly important in maintaining holistic health and wellbeing.
The current state of our world is incredibly emotionally taxing. Many of us who tend to feel more empathetic are experiencing high rates of stress and anxiety. There are ways to help ourselves, even in these difficult times. I hope that my tips and tricks for managing mental health can help you keep yourself light and cleaned out.