Anxiety and depression arise for everyone at some point and to a hugely varied degree. For some, these emotions manifest in response to clear external experiences and situations for a relatively short amount of time, while for others they are a constant struggle that effect every aspect of their life and are not managed easily.
While occasional emotional challenge is something that just comes along with the experience of existing as a human being, when it becomes a constant battle, you can be sure that it is an indicator of imbalance within the overall health.
It’s easy to be tempted into quick “fixes”, like medications with intense side effects, or habits, like substance abuse and addiction to foods, social media, or other temporary joy-inducing activities that cover up the feelings and distract from their existence. But that anxiety, sadness, and depression is still there, under the band-aid, screaming out very important messages that need attention if we ever hope to FULLY heal.
We can begin to attempt accepting that these feelings arrive as opportunities to discover another piece of our personal healing journeys as we search out the root cause of the arising emotions. We may even begin to approach challenges in life with gratitude!
To support us through the process of coping with these difficult mental and emotional experiences, and getting to the root of them, there are nearly endless practices, contemplations, and methods of healing inquiry that we can begin to adopt and integrate into our lives.
Here, I provide 6 profound and practical ways that we can implement in the attempt to release judgment, face the feelings, and gently allow some healing and acceptance of ourselves and our emotional experiences.
1. Normalize your experience! It is NORMAL to have emotional reactions and concerns in response to the state of the world today. We are currently living through a time of immense transformation in which huge pressures are put on us to succeed, progress, and lead productive lives with very little to no support or information about how to support ourselves and each other. I strongly believe that we should give up on the tendency to pathologize anxiety and sadness as reactions to the imposed stressors of the system today. This is, from my perspective, a sick society which is not conducive to thriving life! Anxiety and depression are healthy ways of relating to a world and life that do not make sense, they are messages from deep within that something definitely needs to change. On an individual level, mental illness needs to be addressed before it manifests as physical disease if it hasn’t already (hello insomnia, low appetite, emotional eating, indigestion, chronic pain…!). Perhaps avoid self-judgment for feeling the way you feel, because it’s actually a gift!
2. Make space for light! Through what Dr. Claudia Welch refers to as “the medicine of subtraction” we begin to remove any aspects of our lives that no longer support thriving. This may be substance use (caffeine, sugar, processed foods, alcohol…), a job that is not fulfilling or is completely out of alignment with how you wish to spend the precious hours of your life, toxic and unsupportive relationships, or an infinite list of other potential negative influences. In this space you’ve created for yourself by removing the unsupportive factor, begin to replace coping mechanisms like phone/screen/social media time with real socialization or meaningful activities that promote health and inspire passion (nature walks, singing, self-love meditations, call friends/family, organize and release clutter in home/space, develop interests and skills). Remember that sometimes sacrifice is necessary to thrive, live healthfully, and create the life you desire. Drastic changes catalyze drastic shifts!
3. Develop emotional, mental, and physical self-care practices that actually feel good. Nourishing yourself on a regular basis can be habit forming and if you’re truly committed, before you know it, you’ll be filling your time with healing activities that get you closer to balance every day! Consume some kind of delicious FAT for the brain, eliminate processed foods, and outline an individualized diet with foods that taste good to YOU, supported by herbal teas and remedies. Do abhyanga as many days of the week as you can. Learn a technique of breath work that really feels good and uplifting to you. Create personally inspiring rituals and activities. Spend any amount of time in nature. Take a nap and suspend any and all guilt for doing so! Or do absolutely nothing and celebrate the deep rest you’re allowing yourself for once! DO AT LEAST ONE INSPIRING SELF CARE PRACTICE EVERYDAY.
4. Cultivate COMMUNITY and relationships that are ACTUALLY conducive to your lifestyle changes. Reassess your current connections and build new ones based upon how you spend your time and energy. Perhaps those you feel judgement from or those with whom you cannot fully express yourself sincerely, need some space or a real conversation. Again, subtracting unsupportive influences only makes space for supportive ones.
5. Clarify your life intentions, goals, and dreams! Being clear on what it is you desire from the depths of your heart is the starting place for creating your ideal reality. From this place of clarity, begin to initiate this dream path by implementing small, or large, steps that reveal insights and images of your desires. This can be simple and free while maintaining a constant thread of connection to that passion. Take a class or course that develops your skills or knowledge about these intentions and goals. Go to the library and read everything you can on the subject(s). Volunteer or apprentice with someone you respect to gain experience in this realm you dream of being in.
6. Look for or learn something new and magical every day! This one has endless possibilities. Get to know the medicinal values or habitats of specific plants. Research interesting anatomical/physiological processes happening in your own body right now! Go on nature walks and hug a tree you’ve never hugged. Try a new recipe. Listen to a new song. Write a creative journal entry or story. Read a poem. Try a craft. Make something! (These things can easily relate to your newly clarified intentions, goals, and dreams!) There is so much to learn about this world. Learning new things keeps the fire of curiosity and wonder alive. Who knows what new passion or discovery will be ignited in the process of doing something you’ve never done before?!
I sincerely hope that any of these recommendations are supportive or inspiring for you in your journey through uncovering the root and learning from anxiety and depression. Some of the ideas may sound silly or simple, but profound changes in health and life begin with small shifts in how we spend the moments of our days, and ultimately, our lives.
Happy healing to you!
***As a bonus we can always call upon our herbal allies in times of weariness. In general, the following herbs can safely be integrated into daily rituals in the forms of tinctures, teas, body oils, or baths. These nervines and adaptogens will synergistically work with the above lifestyle modifications and meditations to support your journey to balanced mental health.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Hops (Humulus lupulus)
- Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
- Tagar (Valeriana wallichii)
- Brahmi (Centella asiatica)
- Shankapushpi (Evolulus alsinoides)
- Bringaraj (Eclipta alba)
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)